At a campaign stop in Iowa today, presidential candidate John McCain touched on the importance of expanding nuclear power operations in the US. In his speech, McCain seemed to appeal to his party's base when he drew laughs and cheers after saying the following:
"You know the other night in the debate with Senator Obama, I said his eloquence is admirable, but pay attention to his words—we talked about offshore drilling and he said he would quote 'consider' offshore drilling. We talked about nuclear power. Well, it has to be safe, environment, blah, blah, blah. And the fact is—"
This is where the crowd erupts in cheers, effectively cutting him off for a moment. He continues:
"Ask any navy veterans here, by the way, by the way, some of the greatest sailors come farthest away from the ocean, I found that to be true. Ask some of our navy veterans here, they'll tell you, we've been sailing navy ships around the world for 50 years with nuclear power plants on them. I have news for Senator Obama: Nuclear power is safe. We ought to do it now."
The logic, as I best understand it is as follows: Nuclear power is safe because some US navy ships carry nuclear reactors and have been sailing around for 50 years.
A critical assessment of that claim yields, at best, a severe lack of concern over nuclear power safety issues. Even though the statement was made at a campaign rally, where claims are notoriously bereft of hard policy, it demonstrates a few disconcerting aspects of John McCain's philosophy towards nuclear power. Depending on how it's interpreted, it displays either
1. A lack of a well considered plan of dealing with perhaps the most hazardous energy byproducts created by man, or,
2. A willingness to gloss over important details when rallying support for a plan, and appealing to an emotional element over a factual analysis when doing so.
Either one is alarming. And either could shed light on McCain's potential conduct at the helm of an administration. Nuclear energy has long been a focal point of McCain's campaign. On McCain's website, he states that "nuclear power is a proven, zero-emission source of energy, and it is time we recommit to advancing our use of nuclear power." But when he displays such nonchalance regarding the safe disposal of nuclear waste, it's difficult to view his energy strategy as being as adequately nuanced as it should be—nuclear power is perhaps the most serious, complicated energy source there is. Reducing the difficulties harnessing it presents to such slogan-esque "Drill, Baby, Drill" rhetoric is simply inappropriate, and potentially dangerous.
More on John McCain's Nuclear Power Plans:
The Nuclear Option: McCain V. Obama on Nuclear Power
John McCain Reveals He's a Nuclear Power NIMBY