Bernie's Big Nuclear Mistake

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has come forth with his own plan to build upon the efforts of President Barack Obama and strengthen the United State’s climate change policies. While he is to be commended for calling attention to a subject his contemporaries continue to willfully ignore, his climate plans contain their own glaring error - that being, of course, his proposed phaseout of all nuclear plants. In order to reach emissions targets set by both the Clean Power Plan and recent Paris agreement, nuclear’s carbon-free energy is essential.

While Sanders has also been a strong environmental advocate in his home state of Vermont, his ideologies were formed during the counterculture era of 1960’s - a time in which he was very active in the civil rights movement, organizing for both the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Sanders continues to appeal to "grassroots" factions in his current campaign, while linking his beliefs as a democratic socialist to those of Franklin D. Roosevelt - the President responsible for lifting the country out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. His politics have earned him a reputation as an outlier in the United States Senate, largely due to his aversion toward corporate interests and the influence of “big money” in politics.

Bernie’s decision to campaign for the Presidency also comes at a time of significant political upheaval, both at home and abroad. And the latest digital technologies have changed the election game completely - pay TV companies Dish Network and DirecTV, for example, have given “addressable advertising” a broader reach than ever before, helping political parties target ads at an individual household level. The advent of digital campaigning, whether through email, social media, or other Internet-enabled technology, has boosted Sander’s “buzz”, particularly among younger generations of voters.  

Sander’s stance on nuclear is not particularly surprising given the unfamiliarity and outright hostility his younger voter base has for nuclear power, but it is disappointing to say the least. In his 6,500 word plan entitled “Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet”, his (brief) statements regarding nuclear plants and nuclear power are both inconsistent and erroneous. Placing a moratorium on the nation’s aging nuclear plants - and replacing them with an increasing reliance on natural gas - would increase the country’s net emissions by an estimated 2 billion tons. Sanders claims that he will replace nuclear with solar and wind, but this will not displace coal and gas from the grid in such a way that will reduce their total consumption.

Greenpeace, which continues to call nuclear power an “unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity” lauded Sanders’ ideas, many of which do sound like an environmentalist’s dream. Overlooking his dismissal of nuclear, he wants to establish revenue-neutral carbon pricing; to create 10 million clean energy jobs; to insist on 65 miles per gallon fuel economy on vehicles by 2025; to develop a nationwide high-speed rail plan; and to ban offshore oil drilling.

While Sanders correctly notes the country’s need to move to sustainable energy, he mistakenly equates this goal with the refusal to sustain and reinvigorate an aging nuclear system. Yet the facts show that any serious proposal to provide the United States with clean energy will have to contain provisions for nuclear components. Without it, any clean energy program will fall short of providing sustainable and renewable energy for generations to come. If and when Sanders chooses to incorporates nuclear power into his plan, accepting a realistic approach to the problem of climate change, he could come closer to being the President we need.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    " Franklin D. Roosevelt - the President responsible for lifting the country out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s."  Actually there's a lot of evidence that says he prolonged the Great Depression.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    "Climate change" is just a ruse to raise to raise taxes. The Little Ice Age came and went without any help from dirty old power plants or cars. The sun is the elephant in the living room, everything else pales. The cooling periods after major volcano eruptions in the past prove the lie of current climate change dogma.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I can't tell if the last comment was a sarcastic joke or not. Do some sun activity research if not..or maybe google science.

  • Anonymous2's claim that the sun drives everything and historical cooling events disprove the global warming hypothesis are hasty and disingenuous, but it's not a sarcastic joke. There is a climate scam going on, one that willfully disregards the thus-far measurably slight effect of CO2 and tries to alarm the public into believing a series of 'hottest year' announcements that break previous ones well within the error range of the data, and through a series of retroactive adjustments to historical surface data that make the past seem cooler than it might actually have been. While CO2 has risen steadily and satellite data shows no general warming over 18 years. The direct causation is NOT settled, and yet you have to be picking up on the escalating shrillness of the political demands... despite grandiose claims, the reality and extent of this 'risk', and man's actual contribution to it, has not been proven.

    But it's simple really, Sanders is trying to woo the Whole Green Demographic in one swoop and he realizes (unlike many in the nuclear industry, sorry to be blunt) that

    1. the most vociferous proponents of 'clean energy',

    2. those who advocate the most extreme and immediate measures to combat 'climate change', and

    3. those most vehemently anti-nuke,

    --- comprise mainly the same demographic. The same generation. The same people, with few crossovers or exceptions.  Those in the nuclear industry who seem to be convinced that CO2 is an immediate danger are one group exception, but a small one. When such crossovers do happen they are not tolerated by the majority who endorse all three of the listed positions. Witness the general outcry and backlash to the pro-nuclear stance of Stewart Brand and James Hansen. Ben & Jerry, whose corporate clout helped to push Vermont Yankee over the brink, just introduced a Bernie Sanders ice cream flavor.

    I would wish to see the grid become 100% nuclear because anything less is a waste of human potential, a detriment to the survival of modern civilization, and an environmental disaster waiting to happen. I would also wish that the good people who keep our nuke plants running, though they seem a bit more sedate about all this than I, finally realize that battle lines have been drawn, though you did not draw them. Nevertheless it will require serious opposition to the demographic I have described.

    Perhaps you thought that your acceptance of #2 would help endear you to those whose whole focus seemed to be #1. I was hoping that too. Still waiting. Now the gloves are off and you see that among this demographic #3 is actually the deepest emotional issue. So in the end it is not a debate it is a battle for your survival. You will have to fight and it will take every bit of strength you've got.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I love the fact that Bernie Sanders acknowledges the catastrophic risks attached to our aging, decrepit nuclear power plants.  I will not be sad to see any of them close.  

     Bernie Sanders asked a very good question.  When will the nuclear industry finallt be able to stand on its own without being so heavily subsidized?  I do not want my taxes going towards some mysterious fusion technology that nobody even needs.  I have no problem paying taxes to try to clean up this mess the safest way possible, but if you want to create any more radioactive waste, I say do it on your own dime.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Nukes are hot.  They produce terrific heat.  Global warming =global heating... nukes are obsolete. Go Bernie!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Same for subsidizing ethanol with taxpayer money!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Nukes are not subsidized, loans can be guaranteed, but they are paid back. If fact, nukes are heavily taxed!