Last week, Jeff Young of Living on Earth spoke to one of the top dogs at the Nuclear Energy Institute, Alex Flint. Read the following exchange and see if it fills you with confidence:

FLINT: No, the Fermi plant operates very safely.

YOUNG: That’s Alex Flint, the Nuclear Institute’s senior vice president for government affairs.

FLINT: The entire nuclear renaissance is based on the fact that the 104 plants operating today have an extraordinary safety and environmental record. And it is that, it’s the safety and environmental record of the existing plants that makes it possible for us to contemplate this renaissance in nuclear power.

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YOUNG: But what happened at Fermi in 1966?

FLINT: Uh that was three years before I was born, I’ll have to go off and ask somebody.

YOUNG: I think they had meltdown.

FLINT: No. no.

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YOUNG: Flint called a colleague who confirmed Fermi’s meltdown history.

FLINT: (on phone) Okay, that’s what I needed. Thanks. (Hangs up) Well, you asked me a question I never heard before.

YOUNG: It was an awkward moment. And it reflects a larger awkward phase for the nuclear industry. The presidential campaign puts it in the limelight as a potential energy source for the future. But that also brings into focus nagging problems from the past questions about safety, waste, and tremendous cost.

Flint could have avoided the embarrassment if he’d just read Grist.

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