John McCain mocking the idea of nuclear safety seems about on a par with his air quotes around women’s health, but the fact that the whole audience shares his scorn for the idea that nuclear plants should be safe is odd:
The policy argument that our ability to use nuclear power on naval vessels indicates its safety is curious. For one thing, active duty military personnel are, as a matter of course, asked to undergo risks to their personal safety that we don’t routinely ask of civilians. Fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan isn’t safe, but the Army does it anyway — that’s their job. In the specific context of sea-based military operations, nuclear power has some unique advantages — you can’t make a solar powered submarine. But to conclude that because nuclear power works well in that context it’s obviously a good idea to provide large subsidies for civilian nuclear power is pretty odd. Meanwhile, they’re not storing nuclear waste for the long-term on naval vessels and it’s finding a safe way to store the waste that’s the big logistical challenge for large-scale civilian nuclear power.