THE RISE AND FALL AND FALL OF NUCLEAR ENERGY
Nuclear energy is generally considered an important part of any future energy mix. Yet, it is a Cinderella of American public policy: neoconservatives like it because it is “manly,”—unlike the “effeminate” renewables—and because it annoys environmentalists and has its origins in nuclear weapons research. Yet many do not believe in global warming, and are generally extremely supportive of the oil and gas lobby. Legislators from Utah, one of the most conservative states in the nation, keep the objects of civilian nuclear infrastructure out of the state with the assiduousness of the most determined treehuggers.
Tea Partisans dislike federal subsidies in general, and nuclear energy specifically, as it has heavily relied on federally funded research and development. Environmentalists, who tend to be politically liberal, like neither the nuclear industry and its wastes, nor the generous federal support nuclear energy has historically received at the expense of renewables. Finally, nuclear energy is one of the greatest sufferers of the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude typical of the American taxpayer. Only a few, poorly organized legislators representing nuclear industry–heavy states (Tennessee, New Mexico) tend to be supportive of nukes independently of their party colors. The net result of this conundrum is that no new reactors have been opened in the US over the past 30 years. This relegates the US utilities to older, less safe reactor designs, which show their physical wear.