04/04/2011 11:04 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Double Deja Vu

If you live long enough you often see events seem to recur. In 1979, as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory subcommittee of the Senate Environment Committee, I conducted the Senate's investigation of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, including flying in a military helicopter over the plant when, we found out later, the reactor was critical.

The subsequent investigation and hearings led to major reforms in operations and oversight of the nation's existing reactors. But it all came back with the Fukushima nuclear crisis the last few days.

Even before Fukushima, and despite the emerging consensus favoring renewed attention to nuclear power as a partial solution to global warming, no new reactor construction applications have been submitted. The problem with nuclear power is not simply one of safety. It is one more of economics. So long as we depend on OPEC oil supplies, OPEC can drop its prices and make multi-billion dollar plant investments uneconomic overnight.

In the spring of 1991, I was invited by the Libyan government in secret to negotiate an arrangement with the first Bush administration whereby the Pan Am bombers would be turned over to us in exchange for the opening of negotiations leading toward normalization of diplomatic relations. There were days of serious discussions in Geneva and then in Tripoli. It came to nothing because the Bush administration turned down the offer and we had to wait several years to finally get the bombers.

While in Tripoli for three days I spent a good deal of time with an English-speaking young minister. A high official in the Italian government told me thereafter that he was "the most dangerous man in the world." It turned out to be Moussa Koussa, Libya's current foreign minister, who just defected to the West.

It makes one wonder what further recycling of history may occur.

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