“But no one was harmed at Three Mile Island,” argued one delegate. “Yet …” a voice finished from across the room.

So went the debate, for and against nuclear energy, at the National Council of Churches Governing Board meeting last month in San Antonio, Texas. In the end, however, the “anti-nuke” faction won. The NCC’s policy-making body adopted an eleven-page statement, “The Ethical Implications of Energy Production and Use,” which had as its most controversial recommendation a U.S. national energy policy “which will not need to utilize nuclear fission.”

The board’s antinuclear stand was only a small segment of a comprehensive policy that was designed according to “an ethic of ecological justice.” The NCC Committee on Energy Policy, which drafted the policy statement over a three-year period, also called for energy conservation projects, development of new energy technologies that use renewable resources, and international sharing of resources and energy technologies. But the nuclear issue attracted the greatest attention, especially in the wake of the recent nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.

The day before the three-day meeting began the NCC executive committee had voted to waive a first reading of the statement—meaning that board approval of the statement at the spring meeting would establish it as NCC policy. (Ordinarily, policy statements are presented for first and second readings at successive board meetings.) And, in anticipation of the nuclear debate, the board twice changed its agenda to allow more time for the energy policy debate.

The protracted energy debate left many of the 173 registered delegates—nearly half of them newly elected and attending their first biennial Governing Board meeting—either burned out ...

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