But as some in the respondents section point out, the Times ignores nuclear power’s own greenhouse impacts, especially in the mining, milling, transport and enrichment of radioactive fuel. Not to mention the heat emissions into the air and water from regular operations and periodic melt-downs and blow-ups. Or those involved with the as-yet unsolved management of radioactive wastes, both at exploded sites and where thousands of tons of spent fuel rods and other hot detritus still sit.

The Times does concede that “The world must do what it can to increase energy efficiency and harness sun, wind, ocean currents and other renewable sources to meet our ever-expanding needs for energy.” But the vision of a green-powered Earth is no longer the property of a Solartopian movement. As the Times and other major publications have long reported, Wall Street has thoroughly rejected atomic energy and is pouring billions into renewables, especially photovoltaics (PV) which convert solar energy to electricity.

A technological, financial and ecological revolution is well underway. Maybe the Times Editorial Board should consult its financial section.

The edit then cites a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report as a reason to keep nuclear energy as “part of the mix.”

But the IPCC report emphasizes atomic power’s negatives, most critically safety, economics, waste and timing. It posits no parallel burdens on the transition to renewables, which it says is both affordable and do-able within the time frame necessary to save the planet.

Even if public opposition somehow dissolved, the technical and economic prospects for small modular or other “fourth generation” nukes have crumbled. With the industry’s history of gargantuan cost overruns and endless delays, this editorial doesn’t bother to argue for them.

For nuclear to “play a role” in fighting climate change, the industry must keep its old, increasing decayed reactors on line. But many of the planet’s 400 commercial nukes are older than that crumbling sarcophagus at Chernobyl.

Japan’s Abe regime wants to re-open all 48 reactors idled since Fukushima. But as Reuters and others have reported, 30 or more can’t meet current safety standards or face too many technical barriers to safely or economically re-open.

With twice as many licensed reactors in the U.S., could the number of below-spec nukes here be more like 60?

Four of these decrepit nukes shut last year, with at least one more—Vermont Yankee—scheduled to close in 2014. For health, safety, economic and ecological reasons, many more of these dangerously decayed nukes are poised to go down.

But it’s precisely these the Times edit defends:

The reasons for the shutdowns vary. In some cases, competition from cheap natural gas and from nearby wind farms has forced reactors to operate at a loss. In other cases, a marginal plant’s economic viability has been jeopardized by the cost of replacing steam generators to extend the life of a plant or by the cost of upgrading safety systems to meet new requirements imposed after the disaster in Fukushima.

As it begs for “prudence” before shutting more reactors, we must ask:

Does the Times Editorial Board really want us to ignore the need to replace unsafe steam generators (as at California’s San Onofre) and just operate them as is?

Should we really ignore “new requirements imposed after the disaster at Fukushima?”

Should we also forget that the Union of Concerned Scientists and others report that many of those old nukes that can’t meet basic fire protection standards.

How about the U.S. reactors still dangerously vulnerable to earthquake damage … including the two at Indian Point, just north of the Times newsroom.

And those downriver from large dams whose failure could release floods parallel to the tsunami that swamped Fukushima.

Is all this okay with the Times Editors? Will the Grey Lady now provide the radioactive disaster insurance missing since 1957?

The edit does spare us more hype about the “nuclear renaissance.” After a decade of being pushed to buy a whole new fleet, we’re now begged to be “prudent” about shutting the old tugboats.

Above all, we’re not to be “spooked” into mistrusting an industry that for decades said reactors could not explode, but has now blown up five and melted five.

For the finale of this landmark edit, we hear that “the great shield over Chernobyl should also entomb unfounded fears of using nuclear power in the future.”

Fair enough.

A decade behind schedule, millions over budget, technologically unproven, threatened by political instability, surrounded by the dead and dying, that canopy’s sole purpose is to somehow contain future damage from a failed reactor that has already irradiated the planet, the people downwind, the ecological and economic future of the region.

If the New York Times wants to anoint Chernobyl’s unfinished second shroud as the prime symbol of today’s atomic industry, then this editorial is indeed a fitting epitaph.

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