Nuclear Plants Become a Factor in Elections: Democrats Soften Their Stances on Traditionally GOP-backed Solution

Source: Dallas Morning News (01/27/08)

Posted on: 01/28/2008

Barack Obama says nuclear power should be explored as an energy option. Hillary Rodham says she's "agnostic" on whether more nuclear plants should be built. As climate change rises to the top of voters' minds, many Democrats are reconsidering their anti-nuclear stance.

The party front-runners' refusal to rule it out may indicate a big shift in U.S.
environmental politics, coming at a time when Texas power companies want
to build up to six new reactors.

Nuclear power plants can generate massive amounts of cheap electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases. Republicans have long advocated nuclear power, in contrast to many Democrats. "They've gone from 'no' to 'yes, but,' and some even describe themselves as agnostics, and that's a big improvement," said Derrick Freeman, senior director of legislative programs for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which supports the nuclear industry.

Still, Freeman is nervous about a Democratic president delaying or halting the building of plants. "It's 'yes,' and the smile comes on their face with a 'but,' " he said. Until last year, no one had filed plans for a new nuclear plant in the U.S. since a 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania . Now the industry is poised for what many are calling a renaissance.

Power companies have proposed around 30 new reactors across the country, taking advantage of new building technology as America power needs continue to increase. "We should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix," Obama says, adding that nuclear plants can cut greenhouse gas emissions, he says. Clinton doesn't state explicitly whether she supports building new plants.