Could the nuclear generation of electricity be making a comeback in America? There's room for wondering in light of recent events.
First was the recent round of warnings that a "greenhouse effect" is increasing the Earth's temperature, a situation that could seriously affect living conditions throughout the world. One of the causes is the burning of fossil fuels - coal, wood, oil, and gas.Then there was a referendum in Massachusetts on Nov. 8 in which voters soundly rejected a proposal to shut down two nuclear power plants in that state. This outpouring of popular opinion was contrary to the anti-nuclear views of Gov. Michael Dukakis, who has used his office to forestall operation of a new nuclear generator - the $5 billion Seabrook plant - in neighboring New Hampshire.
On the same day, Nebraska voters defeated a measure that would have made that state the first to withdraw from an interstate nuclear waste disposal compact.
Finally, the Reagan White House joined the controversy over whether local and state officials have the right to block operation of nuclear plants, as happened with Seabrook and the $5 billion Shoreham plant on Long Island, N.Y.
Licensing of these two plants has been held up by the refusal of Dukakis and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to cooperate in devising an evacuation plan for use in case of a major accident at the plants. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires such emergency plans before granting full-power licenses.
President Reagan issued an executive order on Nov. 18 providing that evacuation plans may be drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency when state and local officials refuse to cooperate.
Though Reagan's intervention may be too late to save Seabrook and Shoreham, the executive order is certainly welcome.
If it is not overturned by the courts or Congress, it would help assure utility companies that future large investments in nuclear plants would be more secure from anti-nuclear officialdom at local and state levels.
The public would benefit, too, if the executive order results in greater use of nuclear power. The outcome of the referendums in Massachusetts and Nebraska indicate the hysteria fanned by the anti-nuclear crowd is abating and that the people are ready to accept more use of this clean fuel.