Rivals Blast Tsongas 'Nuke' Policy Massachusetts Democrat Stands by His Limited Endorsement of Nuclear Power despite Chiding

Article excerpt

EVERY time Paul Tsongas rises in the polls, his Democratic opponents know what to do: They "nuke" him.

It happened in New Hampshire. It happened again in Maine, and then in Colorado. It could happen later in California, the most environmentally sensitive state.

"We do not need to do what Senator Tsongas wants to do and build hundreds of more nuclear plants," chided Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas just hours before the Colorado primary.

Sen. Tom Harkin, before dropping out of the campaign on Monday, had fired his own nuclear salvo at Tsongas. "Paul, ... you are on record as saying that we ought to keep the nuclear option open and build small nuclear power plants," he said in one debate.

The tactic has worked. In Maine the nuclear issue boosted former Gov. Jerry Brown, the most anti-nuclear candidate, to a surprising second-place finish.

In Colorado, which is fiercely pro-environment, Mr. Brown zoomed to first place, and Tsongas slipped to third after leading by a wide margin.

Tsongas, clearly angered by his opponents' attacks, charges that Governor Clinton is distorting his position.

Nuclear power, Tsongas says, was never his first choice for meeting America's energy needs.

Yet Tsongas is clearly being hurt. To voters who are passionately antinuclear, only Brown is "pure."

Brown says flatly: "I want to stop nuclear power now. I want to phase it out. There isn't an answer for {nuclear} waste. That's the immorality.

"That's the short-sightedness. This radioactive waste that is lethal, that is dangerous, that will last for thousands of years, is piling up every minute."

Brown would phase out all production of nuclear power over the next 10 years and replace it with alternatives, such as wind and solar energy.

Tsongas and Clinton both see future roles for nuclear energy. Clinton, for example, favors allowing current nuclear plants to continue operating as long as that can be done safely. But Clinton is sharply critical of Tsongas for suggesting the United States could need additional nuclear plants.

Tsongas argues that, because of the threat of global warming, there must be a nuclear component to America's energy policy.

But it wouldn't be his first choice.

As Tsongas explains his energy policy, he would sharply increase conservation to reduce dependence on imported oil, greatly boost support for benign energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, and increase dependence on natural gas, of which America has an abundance. …

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