The Nuclear Option: McCain v. Obama on Nuclear Power


photo: David Katz/Obama for America

Barack Obama on Nuclear Power


Compared to John McCain, the Obama campaign has been less supportive of nuclear energy, though the official campaign literature states that it cannot be ruled out as part of a diversified energy supply:

Nuclear Cannot Be Eliminated

Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our noncarbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation.

Barack Obama introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear power plants. To prevent international nuclear material from falling into terrorist hands abroad, Obama worked closely with Sen. Dick Lugar (R‐IN) to strengthen international efforts to identify and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.

As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti‐terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, Barack Obama and Joe Biden do not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. They will lead federal efforts to look for safe, long‐term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, they will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry‐cask storage technology available. (New Energy for America)


Nuclear Not Optimal Though
Back in December of last year Obama qualified this position on nuclear slightly,
I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. There is no perfect energy source. Everything has some problems right now. We haven’t found it yet. Now I trust in our ingenuity. I have not ruled out nuclear as part of that [$150 billion energy] package, but only so far as its clean and safe. (On the Issues)

In terms of making nuclear energy clean, safe and secure, storage of waste in Yucca Mountain is a position on which Obama and McCain clearly differ. In a Democratic debate in Las Vegas, in January of this year, Obama had this to say about the future of Yucca Mountain,

Yucca Mountain Plans a Mistake

I will end the notion of Yucca Mountain because it has not been based on the sort of sound science that can assure people that they're going to be safe. That was a mistake. You hate to see billions of dollars having already been spent, but I don't want to spend additional billions of dollars and potentially create a situation that is not safe. I've been clear from the start that Yucca was a misconceived project. I want to get the best experts and make a determination on the best science available. (On the Issues)

As with Sarah Palin, though Joe Biden is outspoken on many issues that could influence future policy, his verbosity has taken on other issues with greater frequency. That said, his stated views coincide more or less with those of Obama,

I see a role for nuclear, but first you’ve got to deal with the security as well as the safety concerns. I’d be spending a whole hell of a lot of money trying to figure out how to reconfigure the spent fuel into reusable fuel. I would not invest in [growing our nuclear capacity in its current form], but I would invest in sorting out the storage and waste problems. (Salon)

Nuclear’s on the table, but...

Tags: 2008 Elections | Energy | Nuclear Power | United States

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