RFK Jr. , Elon Musk talk nuclear energy

June 22, 2023, 9:37AMANS Nuclear Cafe


Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the 69-year-old son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, has launched a campaign for the 2024 Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and he has been voicing his views on a wide range of issues in numerous interviews and podcasts.

Kennedy spoke with tech mogul Elon Musk in one recent online discussion, a roughly two-hour livestreamed event hosted by Musk on the Twitter Spaces platform on June 5 (and later posted on YouTube). Titled “Reclaiming Democracy,” the event, which was moderated by tech investor and Musk’s friend David Sacks, garnered 2.6 million listeners, according to the tally on the recording posted on Kennedy’s Twitter page.

Nuclear talk: The exchange between Kennedy and Musk on nuclear (beginning at about the 1:18:30 time stamp in the YouTube video) began with Musk saying, “Let me ask, on the energy subject, what are your views on nuclear power?”

Kennedy responded with skepticism: “What I’ve always said . . . is I’m all for nuclear power if you can make it safe and if you can make it economical, and right now . . . it’s not me saying it’s unsafe, [but] the insurance industry regards this nuclear power as so unsafe that they will not give them an insurance policy.” Kennedy brought up the Price-Anderson Act, which, according to him, “absolves [the nuclear industry] from liability,” and he bemoaned the tritiated water storage at Fukushima before briefly mentioning Chernobyl.

Kennedy also commented on some rough numbers about the cost per gigawatt of energy, stating that solar and wind were far cheaper and that “no utility in the world will build a nuclear power plant unless it’s fully subsidized by the public.” He called himself a “free-market absolutist” and stated, “I believe that we should take the cheapest form of energy, that we should have no subsidies, no externalities, and all the companies should internalize their costs in the way that they internalize their profits. And that means the cost of pollution."

Defense from Elon: After Kennedy concluded his remarks, Musk responded by affirming his support for solar and wind and decrying coal, but he didn’t end the segment without getting in his two cents on nuclear, as well: “I do want to voice my opinion that, in my opinion, actually nuclear is very safe. If you look at the actual deaths from nuclear power, they’re miniscule compared to certainly any fossil fuel power generation. They’re miniscule. The fear of nuclear is very high. I think the concern . . . it’s not clear to me why the insurance companies charge so much. But I think that modern nuclear plants are extremely safe, and I would actually, although this does go against a lot of people’s views, I’m actually a believer in nuclear fission. So, I just wanted to state that for the record, and we can move on to something else.”

Open to persuasion? Kennedy has often said that he is open to changing any of his views if someone shows him where he is wrong. That sounds like it might be a challenge and an opportunity for nuclear energy advocates.

Related Articles