In the current American (U.S.) political system, we often distill every idea down to a conflict between two parties. Not necessarily political parties, but two factions or sides of the argument. This has been the case for many, many years, but recently, the intensity has been turned up immensely. In the case of nuclear energy, for example, scientists, who were at the table trying to decide what, if any health, effects should be allowed so that the nuclear industry could reap the benefits and cash flow that would be generated by the new technology. Science and health officials knew and stated explicitly that no exposure to radioactive material should ever be considered "safe". Military officials who were also part of the decision making were adamant that we "needed" the bomb, and whatever it took to develop it, including the creation of nuclear energy production facilities would "have" to be done. As one can plainly see, this is the root of a very deep conflict.
Policy, in the end was set to allow commerce and burden the public with an unknown cost, the health effects created by nuclear fallout, nuclear waste sites and nuclear by-products that have found their way around the planet. Remember that the truth of the matter is that there is no "safe" or "acceptable" level of exposure to this radiation. Our policy has been set based on not having the guts to stand up for what is right, what makes sense or even what would be the safest thing for our planet, her people, or the future. We almost always have set policy with an eye to how much money stands to be made. This never shakes down to the lowest echelons of our culture, but is based on what the uberwealthy have decided is expedient for them.
In rare cases, an issue will rise to the level of a "Vietnam", or the public outcry will be so great that some changes can be affected, but the vast majority of these fights take place under cover of massive disinterest by the media (who are also owned and controlled by billionaires). The outright lies and deceptive tactics that are used to get our policies to be skewed in favor of the wealthy are as plain as the nose on my face, yet the decisions are made the same way they have always been, as a compromise between what is best and what is expedient for the richest interests and in the name of profitability.
We are seeing this play out in so many aspects of our modern life that it calls into question the very tenets of "democracy". When I was growing up they used to frequently say, "One man, one vote", now, with the advent of the Citizens United case that recently went through the Supreme Court, "one dollar one vote" if wealth is speech, then the dollars will always talk the loudest in favor of what the 1% want. Sadly, many do not understand how or why ecological issues are tied up with economic ones. The irony is that when you look closely, they are often the same issue. Policy is informed, set and made by the very people who stand to lose a tiny bit of their wealth if the right thing were to be done. As we can all plainly see, this is certainly not the best way to make policy, yet we continue to do it in spite of the inherent flaws.