Nicholas Kristof's op-ed in Saturday's New York Times was hardly the first expression of renewed interest in nuclear power on environmental grounds, but it is still noteworthy, appearing as it does in the great news organ of the Eastern Liberal Establishment (if such a thing exists.) As Mr. Kristof indicates, a growing group of environmentalists on both sides of the Atlantic is coming to see climate change as a greater environmental threat than nuclear power, despite the risk of radiation release and unresolved waste storage problems. This is a remarkable turnabout.
There's also a recognition here that existing nuclear plants are being operated more efficiently and safely than when the public soured on the idea in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island mishap. The industry has been quietly consolidating over the last decade, with companies like Exelon buying up poorly operated one-off plants and turning them into cash cows.
While nuclear power still represents the ultimate in NIMBY reaction potential, I wouldn't be surprised to see the first new plant in the US proposed within the next year or so, probably adjacent to an existing nuke. That would be a real signal that the tide has turned, both economically and environmentally, and a goad for Congress to get its act together on a long-term waste storage site.