Yes, Nuclear

Dave Johnson

I believe that global warming is the most serious threat humanity faces. So we need to use every possible technology we can to replace energy sources that put greenhouse gases into the air. This includes nuclear energy.

One big problem with nuclear is figuring out what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. But here’s the thing, when we burn coal and oil we’re just putting the dangerous waste product into the air and it is destroying the planet. So we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good — nuclear waste is not destroying the planet and fossil-fuel waste is. We simply have to replace coal and oil as our energy source.

Climate change is an emergency. We need to do everything we can. This means we need to put up every windmill we can, every solar panel we can, every solar power plant, biofuel and geothermal facility that we can. We need to retrofit every building to be energy efficient, switch to electric cars, stop eating meat that is not grass-fed. We need to do research into finding ways to sequester carbon from coal. And we need to build nuclear power plants. What part of “everything we can” did I miss?

Please, let’s make this a discussion. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this.

Here is what triggered this: Obama ups nuclear investment for climate fight

President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees Tuesday to build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in nearly three decades, a move designed to help advance climate legislation in Congress.

. . . The government backing will go to help Southern Co build two reactors at a plant in the state of Georgia. The reactors, which some experts estimate will cost $8.8 billion, could be in service in 2016 and 2017.

… “To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we’ll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It’s that simple.”

BUT

As we proceed with this, we need to learn some lessons from the past. As we build a new generation of reactors there are some things that need to be clear from the outset.

Make them safe. This means a highly regulated effort, not a free-for-all for profits. Tax dollars are involved, and even if they were not public safety must be the primary focus. Newer reactor designs eliminate Chernobyl-style “meltdown” fears but we need close supervision by government. We need the government “meddling” and “interfering” and “snooping” every step of the way.

Buy American. If we are building nuclear power plants we should regulate that they create American jobs, not offshore in China or anywhere else. There are federal funds guaranteeing loans for these projects and they should specify that we Buy American. Use American –made components, right down to the steel. China’s and other country’s governments are helping their own economies, let’s us help our own economy this time.

There are also safety concerns for Buy American. We need very close inspection of every component and material that is used in these plants. How would we monitor the manufacturing of the components and the quality of the steel if it is done outside the US? Do you remember the faulty welds in the Chinese components that shut down San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last year?

Protect the environment. There is also the environmental impact of making steel in China and then shipping it versus making it here — in our highly productive steel industry. China creates three times the greenhouse emissions when they make steel that our own steel plants create. This is one reason their steel costs less. What is the point of building nuclear to lower greenhouse gas emissions and using greenhouse gas-creating processes?

So I say Yes, Nuclear, and make sure that we use Big Government oversight to keep it safe, create American jobs and mostly to protect the environment.

Comments