The Election and Nuclear Power – Good, Bad and Ugly

by Michael Mariotte

By now you’re probably as sick of election news, results and analysis as we are, but since we haven’t seen anything useful specifically on the election’s impact on nuclear power, we hope you’ll bear with us. We’ll keep it short!

The Good

The leader in the Vermont legislature to permanently close Vermont Yankee, Peter Shumlin, will be the new governor of Vermont! Was it coincidence that the day after the election Entergy put the reactor up for sale? We think not. While the battle isn’t over until Vermont Yankee is shut down and the key thrown away, its days are numbered.

Whatever else you may think of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), his defeat would have brought new life to the scientifically-indefensible Yucca Mountain waste dump. With Reid re-elected, Yucca Mountain’s most powerful foe remains in place, and the focus will be on the battle over a new radioactive waste policy for the U.S. That’s a battle we can win.

The Bad

Of particular note were the defeat of allies Rep. John Hall (D-NY) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.). They will be missed.

The Ugly

The ugly is what comes after an election like this. Already the nuclear industry is salivating over

the prospect of more taxpayer money to line its pockets. Here is an article from Bloomberg News

yesterday that starts out, “Electricity producers such as NRG Energy Inc. and Southern Co. will

benefit as Republicans who won control of the U.S. House yesterday promote nuclear power as part of clean-energy


And here is an article that says two of only five areas Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

sees for cooperation over the next two years are nuclear power and “clean” coal.

And President Obama said at his press conference last week,”There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and

reducing greenhouse gases.  Is that an area where we can move forward?”

In short, we’re going to have our work cut out for

us for the next two years, beginning with the lame duck session that starts November 15.

Start now by telling Congress not to mis-interpret the election results as support for nuclear power.

Indeed, a recent public opinion poll found that

only 23% of the American people support loan

guarantees for new reactors!

Truth is, we’ve faced bigger odds before. It wasn’t that long ago that

the most ardently pro-nuclear administration in history–the Bush-Cheney administration–was avidly promoting nuclear

power, and they controlled both Houses of Congress at the time.

Yet, with your help, we still won most of our battles back then.

And we’re much better positioned now. With your help and outreach, our membership and supporters have more than quadrupled since Bush left office. And since we’ve been around for more than 30 years, we weren’t exactly starting out from scratch…and we’re still growing!

So let’s get to work. Tell Congress now: the election results don’t mean more money for nuclear power, they mean: END taxpayer subsidies for new reactors! Φ

Michael Mariotte is Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service  You can reach him at

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