September 6, 2022

Who Supported Nuclear, Again?

American environmentalists have long opposed nuclear power, but some of them want to change that.

It’s refreshing when people who have been on the wrong side of an issue change their minds and pull in for the big win. But it’s another thing when that same group of people tries to rewrite history and claim they supported the issue all along.

A recent NPR story provides the perfect example, praising the work of environmentalists in pushing for more access to nuclear power. Framed around a renewed effort to keep California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open, the story claims that environmentalists are due some of the credit for renewed interest in nuclear energy.

Diablo Canyon is California’s last remaining nuclear power plant, and it was slated to be decommissioned in 2029. But now the Golden State is suffering historic power problems because of its attempt to go green on energy. It’s plagued with rolling blackouts and reverting to the fossil fuel bogeymen coal and oil to keep the lights on. Governor Gavin Newsom was a longtime opponent of nuclear. But there is simply no way he will realize his pie-in-the-sky goal of converting every vehicle in the state to electric by 2035 with California’s current power grid. And his all-but-certain future presidential bid won’t get very far if he’s known as the governor of a state that lives in the dark ages.

Newsom has reversed course and wants to keep Diablo Canyon open. His leftist friends remain convinced that wind and solar will meet the state’s — and the country’s — energy demand. They are prepared to block the effort with legislation, draconian regulations, and biased and incorrect safety reports. This is what the Left has always done to stop the building of new nuclear plants and shut down existing ones that have operated with clean records.

The NPR story explains that environmentalists around the world have had a change of heart about nuclear power. Climate change, outdated electrical grids, the Russia-Ukraine war, and national security have all had a hand in making former anti-nuclear activists revisit their views on the subject.

Again, this is refreshing news, but the NPR piece conveys a tone that would have us believe that facts about the safety and reliability of nuclear power are recent discoveries.

We are also supposed to be shocked at the treatment newfound supporters of nuclear are facing from their fellow environmentalists. Influential environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, cofounder of the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968, told NPR, “We were basically excluded from polite conversation for even talking about keeping [Diablo Canyon] open.”

You don’t say.

Added Kristin Zaitz, a self-professed eco-friendly liberal and cofounder of Mothers for Nuclear, “We had people wishing that we would die, wishing we would get cancer.”

Imagine that.

This vitriol, long an obstacle to having an honest, mature debate about nuclear power, goes back decades. Protests, blocking construction projects, sabotaging construction equipment, spreading disinformation, and intimidation were all tools leftists used to end the nuclear debate on their own terms. That’s why there are too few nuclear power stations in the U.S.

The Left’s irrational fear of nuclear power was strong enough to reduce its ability to address our energy needs and threaten the country’s energy security. That irrational fear and the desire to remove nuclear as an option is still with us, despite what NPR says. But we’ll accept with open arms those who have opened their eyes to the facts.

(Correction: The article previously misstated the number of nuclear plants in the U.S.)

Image of Diablo Canyon courtesy of Tracey Adams, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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