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[cdn-nucl-l] Iowa Democratic Rep. calls for Dems to "take another look atnuclear energy"
Title: Iowa Democratic Rep. calls for Dems to "take another look at nuclear energy"
The following article is by Representative Phil Wise (D-IA). There are comments that can be viewed by linking to the original web page at the Des Moines Register (with free registration), also with reports on the politicking of the Iowa caucuses. :-)
Regards, Jim Muckerheide
Times demand Democrats take another look at nuclear energyBy PHIL WISE
SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER
July 6, 2007
Democratic control of the U.S. Congress will have an impact on the nation's energy policy. The new leadership's proclivity toward alternative energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind is evident.
What about nuclear power? A look at the last 30 years would suggest a skeptical attitude toward nuclear energy among Democrats. Yet today the nuclear-policy contour among Democrats is less definitive. A recent headline touts, "[Speaker of the House] Pelosi Reconsiders Nuclear Power." And an October 2006 policy paper issued by the Progressive Policy Institute - a Democratic-oriented think tank - states that "Nuclear power holds great potential to be an integral part of a diversified energy portfolio for America."
Is nuclear power under "reconsideration" by the Democrats? Or is nuclear power still a "third rail" of environmental politics? Things are different in five keys ways from years past.
1. Those who oppose nuclear energy have a new challenge. In 2005, Congress passed a major energy bill that provides loan guarantee authority, production tax credits and insurance protection against licensing delays and litigation. All of that has motivated generating companies to apply for 33 new nuclear reactors, or about 40,000 megawatts of additional capacity. The legislation passed with substantial bipartisan margins in both legislative bodies. Construction of nuclear power plants is back on the energy agenda.
2. In 2007, the Democrats took control of the House and Senate by winning seats with moderate candidates whose positions on nuclear power are substantially different from the more liberal wing of the Democratic Caucus. Many newly elected Democrats have joined the Blue Dog Caucus or the New Democratic Network - organizations with moderate views.
3. Core Democratic constituencies have stepped forward to champion nuclear energy as a cornerstone of economic growth. A number of major labor organizations, such as the Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the Operating Engineers, the IBEW, Sheetmetal Workers and hundreds of local labor chapters, have adopted policy positions supporting the expansion of nuclear energy. That includes some in our state, such as the Hawkeye Labor Council, the Southeast Iowa Building and Construction Trades and the Quad City Federation of Labor.
Even the environmental community is no longer monolithic in its opposition to nuclear energy. Key leaders within the environmental movement - such as Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore - publicly support the expansion of nuclear power. Similarly, a number of influential university scholars have endorsed nuclear energy. Carolyn Heising, a professor of industrial, mechanical and nuclear engineering at Iowa State University, agreed in a Register opinion essay last year: "For its part, nuclear power is the only emissions-free source of affordable, large-scale electricity that can be counted on to generate power 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This capability is crucial. Our high-tech economy, based heavily on computers and other electronics, requires total reliability in its electric power."
4. Today there is a new imperative: the country's need to take action to combat global warming. Nuclear power is now seen as an integral element of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases because nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollutants. Climate change has reinvigorated nuclear as a viable and sustainable energy source.
5. Finally, public opinion toward nuclear is undergoing change, propelled in part by the cost of electricity, in part by the need for global-warming solutions, and in part by advances in nuclear safety technology. A recent survey shows that eight out of 10 Americans believe that nuclear energy will help meet future electricity needs; six out of 10 support building new nuclear plants; and seven out of 10 would support having a new reactor added to a nearby nuclear plant site.
For Democrats and nuclear energy, the landscape has changed rather significantly. This brings with it the possibility of a fresh, bipartisan consensus around nuclear power. Why? Because nuclear power works. It is safe. It is environmentally benign. And because the "times they have changed."
Rep. PHIL WISE is a Democrat from Keokuk.