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Miller Center Debate Focuses on Energy Policy

Christine Todd Whitman, James Woolsey, John Podesta and Karen Harbert recently debated energy policy and focused on the pros and cons of nuclear energy at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And, finally tonight, a debate over energy policy. That was the topic of a recent debate by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

    The participants were Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush; James Woolsey, director of the CIA in the Clinton administration; John Podesta, head of President Obama's transition team and chief of staff for President Clinton; and Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

    They were asked to discuss the pros and cons of nuclear energy.

    CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R), former governor of New Jersey: We're going to have to look at some things that we haven't wanted to talk about. Nuclear is 20 percent of our energy today. That is a subject that has been taboo for so long, we haven't been willing to think about it, but we're going to have to. We're going to have to look at all these sources, because, unfortunately, much as we'd like to have it, there is no one silver bullet.

    JAMES WOOLSEY, former director of Central Intelligence: Let me say a word about nuclear power. Nuclear power is, in fact, clean to operate and relatively today inexpensive to operate, but it is very expensive to build.

    The reason we haven't built any new nuclear power plants since 1979 is because of the public's concern about Three Mile Island and in the aftermath. The market will not build nuclear power plants.

    The real problem is, if you have a nuclear power plant, under the existing treaties, you can get into the fuel cycle. Whatever country in the world you are you in, you can enrich uranium, reprocess plutonium, and get very, very close to having a nuclear weapon.

    North Korea has shown that. Iran has shown that. We do not want the United States with a pro-nuclear policy, particularly one that it extends to exports, to become the Johnny Appleseed of nuclear proliferation by traveling around the world, putting in light-water reactors, nuclear power plants, selling them, and having people get into the business of nuclear weapons.

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