Big Nuclear: From Leftwing Scourge to Woke Investment Darling

Craig Shirley | December 7, 2023
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In the late 1970s, the elites on the Left had the American people scared to death about nuclear power.  Rock and roll performers formed Musicians for Safe Energy (MUSE). They put on a huge concert at Madison Square Garden for one of the left’s favorite activities: “building awareness.”

Following the disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant and the nearly contemporaneous release of the film “The China Syndrome,” there was a perfect storm to paint the nuclear industry as a meltdown in the making with fatal consequences. 

In the long-running animated series, “The Simpsons,” family patriarch and all-around doofus, Homer Simpson is the safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, another cultural jab at the safety and reliability of nuclear energy.

Joe Biden was serving in the U.S. Senate when all of these events occurred. As president, Joe Biden’s administration has embraced nuclear energy as a reliable, carbon-neutral energy source. Nuclear companies are also being touted as wise investments.

Some “clean energy” advocates argue that rising oil prices and supply chain disruptions now make nuclear energy a viable and environmentally friendly option.  They also say that current coal plants could easily be converted to nuclear plants.

In addition, liberals hype investing in nuclear energy because the industry adheres to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles. The Nuclear Innovation Alliance released a report in 2022 explaining how the nuclear industry meshes with ESG principles.

The report states that nuclear power plants use less land and fewer materials than other energy plants. 

The report also addresses the issue of safety in nuclear plants. While Americans lived in fear in the 1970s, the Left has done an about-face to embrace nuclear energy. The report states “Despite two high-profile failures leading to core compromises at early-generation nuclear reactors (Fukushima in Japan and Three Mile Island), nuclear energy remains among the safest energy technologies on the basis of fatalities per unit of energy produced.”

For decades, the Left has complained that nuclear energy was unsafe, inefficient and harmful to the environment. Today, those who recommend investments are falling over themselves to push “woke investments,” and nuclear energy has been placed in that category.

In 2021, Illinois legislators approved $694 million in subsidies to keep low-performing nuclear power plants open. It is unthinkable that politicians want to subsidize underperforming forms of energy that simply cannot compete in the marketplace. When government picks winners and losers, we are all losers - from consumers to producers to taxpayers.  Big Nuclear simply cannot stand on its own. 

All the in-vogue investment terms and government subsidies will not improve the energy market. It is time for politicians to let the market work and let the consumers choose the form energy with which they are most comfortable. 

Fossil fuels have proven to be dependable, the industry provides well-paying jobs, and stocks in fossil fuel companies have provided financial security to families for generations. The efforts to attract woke investors and the move to prop up failing companies proves that consumers have revealed flaws in the energy system and it is now time to stop interfering and damaging the fossil fuel energy for a woke energy source.

Craig Shirley is chairman of Citizens for the Republic.  He is a bestselling author and presidential historian.