Monday, September 14, 2009

Nuke or not?

It seems almost impossible that we are still having this discussion. The last Nuclear plant constructed in the US was started in 1977! That little mishap at Three Mile island? 1979. Coincidence? Not hardly. We decided, rightly or wrongly that coal was less dangerous than Nukes. (Tell that to a Virginia coal miner).

But now, with carbon reduction on the agenda, are Nukes a renewable clean energy resource? The simple answer is yes. No carbon, no soot, no mercury, no sulfur dioxide. All you get out of them is warm water discharge, steam and some nasty leftover radioactive material that lasts forever. What's not to love?

Over the years we have spent serious R&D money on Nuclear research, mostly on Nuclear fusion which is different than today's fission reactors. The difference between fission and fusion is that one is available, and the other isn't. (A few thousand nuclear scientists and researchers might disagree that it's that simple, but it is for me.)

It's worth noting that those old fission reactors provide 20% of US electricity today. We have 64 plants operating 104 reactors, all carbon and air pollution free and they haven't killed anyone yet... We are by far the largest world user with France and Japan having around 50 each. There are 436 reactors around the world currently operating. (This number does not include Nuclear ships and subs). China and India have the most under construction.

So what's the point of all the statistics? Well, Nuclear works, works well and is widespread and safe if one judges it on actual performance, not on "what ifs". But the "what ifs" are big ones.

So what if a terrorist bombs one, what if one goes rogue and melts down ala Chernobyl, what if we never find a way to safely deal with the radioactive waste?

There are 295 reactors proposed around the world with the US having 19 of those. Vietnam has 9! China has 90! So are we falling behind? Are we going to find ourselves with less cheap energy to run our economy? Can we afford the let Nuclear fall by the wayside here in the US while the world continues it's expansion? Did you know American companies Westinghouse and GE are major players in the global reactor business?

Bottom Line - After having posed all these question I only have one thought. We either should or shouldn't. This fence sitting and arguing is a ridiculous waste of time for our country. We can't accomplish much of anything meaningful if we are constantly at war with ourselves.

So let's have the largest Nuclear reactor expansion of all time to help save the earth from climate calamity. Or, let's stop all efforts and focus our energy on


  1. As someone trained in physics, I say go for it with nuclear reactors, if they are built safely. The problem is, some of the stories I've heard about shoddy construction...

  2. KA,

    Interesting...I wondered what you thought about nukes.

    I heard that some nukes went off line this year because the water they were taking from the local rivers was too warm to actually do the cooling job required.

    In today's warming climate, that has to be a longer term concern too...