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With Pandora's Promise in Hand, CNN Shining Light on Politics of Yucca Mountain

I'm a Washington policy professional but also a Washington native, and so over the better part of four decades I've developed a distinct appreciation for how policy in this city is covered by the fourth estate. To cut to the chase: I'm pretty much underwhelmed/infuriated by a wide swath of the Washington press corps on pretty much a daily basis. But not today.

For the better part of the past month I've worked closely and in most rewarding fashion with the producer-reporter tandem of David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin of CNN. Tonight of course that outlet is airing the magnificent documentary 'Pandora's Promise.' In support of the documentary CNN has devoted extraordinary resources this fall to informing the public about nuclear energy. In sprawling digital and broadcast news and commentary this week, CNN has covered nuclear's voices pro and con, academic and activist, political and wonkish. Nuclear power in the United States has known both triumph and struggle in recent years, and it's all well detailed in CNN's reporting this week. As a result, the American public knows more about our technology and about our nation's energy policy.

A number of CNN reporters have weighed in on nuclear energy this week, but David and Drew especially have traveled the country to visit our sites, talk to our engineers and executives, and richly record the workings of our industry. They even ventured into places far more frightening and dangerous than any nuclear plant: the offices of Washington lawmakers. It's been good old fashioned gumshoe journalism emanating out of Atlanta, and for me it's been a powerful reminder of what journalism once was and seldom is any more.  

Within CNN's extraordinary coverage breadth this week there have been treatments I've positively cheered, while in other instances I've frowned and sighed as the outlet gave air time and bandwidth to tired and outdated anti-nuclear sentiments. In other words, they've struck a pretty fair balance in their coverage of a contentious topic. I don't often get to make such a claim about the reportage my media manager colleagues and I try and help shape.

I'm most particularly struck by CNN's report on Yucca Mountain. Instead of the usual ping pong-partisan back and forth we see all too often in policy coverage, CNN's reporting on the failed Nevada project focuses, in fair and unsparing fashion, on the dogged obstructionist efforts of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his former henchman at the NRC, Greg Jaczko. Of the former NRC chairman CNN said, "You might call him Yucca Mountain's hired killer." [Emphasis mine] Watch it below ...

The American public, I submit, has a right to know who specifically ought to be held accountable for the waste of $10 billion in taxpayer dollars associated with the termination of the repository project. In this report we get straight-talk to that.      



Anonymous said…
Why does NRC get the blame for stopping power plants from disposing its waste in Yucca Mountain - - when it is the Department of Energy who stopped the process and announced they are abandoning the site? The NRC is not responsible for disposing the waste?
Joffan said…
@Anonymous: The NRC under Greg Jaczko halted the safety review of the site. This would have shown that Yucca Mountain was a safe and reliable repository, which is something that would have cut the legs off a lot of anti-nuclear arguments even if that particular site was never used.
jim said…
Excellent piece!

Now the bigger issue is how do you follow up and MAINTAIN the kind of public nuclear education exposure and inroads that Pandora's forged, or will it be just another flash in the pan already being shrugged off and peed on by most the major media, even CNN's backstabbing Op-Ed? Where are pop personalities hawking Pandora and nuclear? Cheerleading from closets doesn't help the cause squat!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

James Greenidge
Queens NY

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