Republicans and conservative news media outlets like Fox News keep repeating the error made by newly-elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, when he mistakenly called the Senate process of reconciliation "the nuclear option." The term the "nuclear option" was coined in 2005 by then-Majority Leader Trent Lott, when Democrats used the filibuster to block the appointment of appeals court judges nominated by George W. Bush. This prompted Republicans to threaten to change the Senate rules so they could cut off debate on judicial nominees using a simple 51-vote majority instead of the required 60-vote majority needed to end a filibuster. The momentousness of this change -- effectively blocking the stalling technique known as the filibuster -- moved some Democrats to dub the Republicans' threat the "nuclear option." Thus, the phrase "nuclear option" refers to a major change in the rules of the Senate, not passing a bill using reconciliation. Passing a bill -- even a large and important bill -- through reconciliation is fairly standard procedure, and has been used many times before to approve major health care reform initiatives.
It's getting clearer that conservatives would rather sling around a scary, loaded old term and hope to elicit some emotional effect than come up with a new term -- or use the right words -- to communicate what they mean.