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U.S. Senator John McCain gestures during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich U.S. Senator John McCain gestures during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich  

McCain: no global warming action until the left supports nuclear power

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said that while he believes global warming is an issue, he won’t make any legislative moves until the left agrees on “certain fundamentals,” including support for nuclear power.

“But I try to get involved in issues were I see a legislative result,” McCain told Time magazine in a wide-ranging interview. “But there’s going to be no movement in the Congress of the United States certainly this year and probably next year.”

“So I just leave the issue alone because I don’t see a way through it, and there are certain fundamentals, for example nuke power, that people on the left will never agree with me on,” McCain said. “So why should I waste my time when I know the people on the left are going to reject nuclear power?”

Nuclear power has been a sensitive issue for Democrats, many of whom want to address global warming but also have concerns about nuclear waste. But nuclear plants offer a source of abundant electricity with little to no carbon dioxide emissions.

“I don’t believe that you can really succeed in reducing greenhouse gases unless you have a lot of nuclear power plants,” he added. “They’re against them. Well, okay, I move on to other issues.”

Many Democrats have long been opposed to nuclear plants because of the issue of storing nuclear waste. The Obama administration blocked efforts to store nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain in 2010. One year later, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stopped reviewing the Energy Department’s license application for the Yucca Mountain project.

When Democrats controlled the House in 2010, they blocked a bipartisan amendment aimed at keeping Yucca Mountain as the nation’s high-level nuclear waste repository.

“This was a bipartisan amendment aimed at ensuring that defense nuclear wastes are not stranded in our states indefinitely and are instead safely stored in the scientifically-proven national repository at Yucca Mountain,” said Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings, who co-authored the amendment. “House Democrats refusal to even allow a vote on our amendment has resulted in a lost opportunity to keep Yucca Mountain moving forward.”

Environmentalists have also staunchly opposed nuclear power. But recent realizations of nuclear power’s alleged climate benefits have made some environmentalists and even climate scientists push for more of the fuel source.

Last year, prominent scientists released an open letter to world leaders, urging the expansion of nuclear power use.

“Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires,” wrote several prominent scientists, including former NASA scientist and climate activist James Hansen.

“While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power,” the scientists wrote.

The documentary “Pandora’s Promise” further delved into the nuclear power issue, concluding that nukes were the only way to cheaply generate the massive amounts of electricity needed to sustain modern life in a climate-friendly way. The documentary blames the anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. on baseless fears from disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

But prominent environmental groups have rejected the nuclear power solution to global warming, arguing that it’s a low-carbon fuel that comes with high risks and potential environmental costs.

“I don’t think it’s very significant that a few people have changed their minds about nuclear power,” Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council told CNN, adding that the documentary “attempts to establish the proposition that mainstream environmentalists are pouring into nuclear advocacy today. They aren’t. I’ve been in the NRDC since 1979. I have a pretty good idea of where the mainstream environmental groups are and have been. I’ve seen no movement.”

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