Progressive Senators On Climate: ‘We Accept Nuclear Power As Part Of The Solution’

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

The progressive Senators tasked with guiding a climate change bill through the back-logged Senate say they’re ready to grease the legislative wheels with nuclear power. Speaking at the Progressive Media Summit this afternoon, Senators said it was time to embrace the atom as the key to comprehensive climate change legislation this year.

“I happen to be one of the Senators who’s concerned about waste,” Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said. “But most progressives in the Senate believe nuclear power is part of the solution at this time.”

Boxer was joined on the dais by Senators Bingaman (NM), Ben Cardin (MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (NH).Boxer has struggled to pass a climate change bill this year against mounting resistance from conservatives who are still debating whether climate change actually exists. As chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, Boxer has faced down one of the Senate’s most striden climate change critics, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), as she has tried to lead efforts to pass a bill this year.

Boxer said that she’s still hoping a bill will pass, and she praised President Obama’s efforts to bring one to a vote. Climate change was a signature issue of Obama’s 2008 campaign, though critics have said it’s one of those to fall by the wayside as health care reform has eaten up most of his first year in office.

“Is he doing enough to get Republican votes on a climate change bill?” Boxer said, in response to a question from the audience. “I’ll say he’s working very hard behind the scenes.”

Obama’s environmental proposals include the construction of new nuclear power plants for the first time in decades, which Obama and nuclear proponents say are the best short-term way to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel-burning power generation.

Conservatives have long been in favor of new nuclear plants. Now it seems that the Senate’s left wing — once the home to the strongest critics of nuclear power — is on board with Obama’s plan.

“If we don’t expand nuclear power, there are going to be more coal plants and more oil plants,” Cardin said. “Nuclear power has been accepted as part of the solution [to climate change] among progressives.”