Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Nuclear Debate

Sometimes I have been accused of being overly negative.

I don't believe that is true. I think I am a realist — and a political centrist. I am not strongly committed to either the right or the left — which tends to annoy some people because they are so devoted to either side — but I feel it is a rational position to take. I try to find the merits in both arguments and, when possible, bring the two sides together.

Many times, that is a tall order.

But there are times when I am hopeful that it can be achieved — maybe because the stakes are so high that a compromise is the only way to break the stalemate.

And, perhaps implausibly, I am feeling hopeful about the complex issue of energy in the 21st century — while we wait to see if the situation with the nuclear reactors in Japan will be the greatest nuclear catastrophe in this planet's history.

Once and for all, let's have a discussion about energy that is calm and reasonable and supported by documented evidence. Let's avoid calling each other names. Let's rise above smears, emotional appeals and other unseemly tactics.

Let's work together.

It is true, as Real Clear Science editor Alex Berezow writes, that there has never been, is not now and will never be an ideal energy source.

Berezow, who (according to Real Clear Science) holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, emphatically underlines his point about every other form of energy currently known to man with that conclusion: "All sources of energy pose some sort of risk or cost. Risk–free, cost–free energy is a complete myth and simply does not, and will not, exist."

Granted. But that isn't really the issue.

He also says that those who fail to "propose realistic solutions" cannot be taken seriously.

Also granted — to a degree — along with his assessment that this is "the most serious of problems."

It is precisely because it is so serious that a truly serious dialogue must begin, and both sides must listen to each other.

The anti–nuclear faction isn't going to sway the pro–nuclear faction, even if Japan starts to glow in the dark, and the pro–nukes aren't going to win over the anti–nukes under just about any circumstances.

The only way to break this impasse is to find some common ground.

Right now, Berezow is right when he argues that there are no "realistic solutions" being proposed. The anti–nukes are frightened by what they have been seeing in Japan. It is a legitimate fear.

When it subsides a bit, that side may be able to make some rational suggestions. Then, perhaps, a discussion about alternative energy sources can begin.

But, for now, the pro–nukes must resist the urge to belittle the other side.

They must be understanding when Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes that nuclear power looks like a "bargain with the devil."

That's certainly the way it's looking to some people today. Perhaps events that are still to come will change their minds. Perhaps not.

Let's see what happens.

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