A lot of people seem to have gotten it into their heads that nuclear power is a cost-effective, carbon-free method of generating electricity being foiled by nefarious environmentalists. But as Cato’s Jerry Taylor explains, it’s just not true:
The reason we hear politicians like John McCain talk so much about the need for the federal government to promote nuclear power is because investors in the private sector take one look at the economics and run screaming for the hills. Investment banks tell utilities who want to borrow money to build these things that not one red cent will be coming their way unless and until the federal taxpayer guarrantees that the entire loan will be repaid in case of default. If nuclear power were such a good economic bet, those taxpayer guarantees would not be necessary.
McCain and other big nuke-heads are talking about large subsidies for nuclear power, not about getting green tape out of the way. Personally, I don’t really think we should be subsidizing any form of power generation — a cap on carbon emissions (or a tax) would be a large de facto subsidy to everything that’s not fossil fuels. But insofar as we are going to subsidize electricity it makes more sense to subsidize genuinely clean power.