Today’s nuclear troubles in Japan seem to me like yet another reminder of how fundamentally odd American conservatives’ love for this particular modality of electricity generation is. The underlying presumption of the idea of safely operating nuclear plants, after all, is that the United States Government is capable of effectively designing and enforcing appropriate regulations and appropriately designing and implementing appropriate emergency response capacity. And yet in most contexts, conservatives insist that any public sector undertaking is necessarily going to end up as poorly run as the worst DMV line in America.
What’s even odder, is that civilian nuclear power isn’t the only exception conservatives make to their “the government can’t do anything right.” They also tend to think that government bureaucracies can very successful manage stockpiles of nuclear weapons and invasions of medium-sized foreign countries. To me this sort of “if it goes wrong, tons of people die” scenario would seem like a good time to be unusually concerned about the possibility that the government’s not up to the job. But conventional thinking on the right is that that’s backwards.