Monday, August 08, 2005

Myths indicate nuclear power not best choice

Myths indicate nuclear power not best choice - The Clarion-Ledger

By Ruth Pullen
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Four myths about nuclear power:

It's inexpensive. Since the 1950s, the nuclear industry has received billions in federal subsidies and will continue to do so under the new energy bill. Additional billions have been spent for the development of a national nuclear waste repository, which still does not exist.

NuStart Energy Development LLC, a consortium of nuclear companies, will be subsidized by taxpayers for $260 million of a $520 million project that will benefit the industry. Also, the Mississippi Development Authority is preparing to offer incentives for Grand Gulf.
These state incentives should be used to bring safe, high-paying jobs to Mississippi. While energy companies have profits in the billions, taxpayer dollars continue to be thrown away on a technology that after 50 years is still unable to compete in the marketplace without massive government handouts.

Waste stored in state

It's clean and emission-free: While nuclear reactors do not produce the same emissions as coal-burning plants, replacing these plants with nuclear facilities only replaces one category of harmful material with another more deadly and longer lasting one. The issue of primary concern is the fact that Mississippi is now a nuclear waste repository. Twenty years of highly radioactive waste, some of which is deadly for tens of thousands of years, is stored above ground at Grand Gulf.

Some 40,000-50,000 tons of radioactive waste is stored at the 103 reactors in this country and the industry continues to generate these long-lived wastes, making nuclear energy one of the filthiest of energy sources.

It's safe: No other type of electricity generation requires evacuation routes and while Grand Gulf has been in operation for 20 years, the hospital, sheriff's department, and Claiborne County officials continue to be concerned about their ability to handle a nuclear emergency.
Current studies indicate increased cancers and infant mortality in the vicinity of nuclear plants; as nuclear plants continue to age, the danger of accidents increases. The Price Anderson Act limits the liability of the industry in the event of nuclear accidents.

Try renewable sources

It's secure: The majority of the uranium used to fuel nuclear reactors is imported. While nuclear energy does not reduce emissions from automobiles, use of imported uranium positions us for the same problems we now experience with imported oil. Renewable resources such as wind, solar, and biomass are "home-grown."

Two new reactors would make Grand Gulf a more desirable target for al-Qaida, which specifically considered nuclear plants for 9-11 attacks. The new reactor site is less than two miles from the Mississippi River. Ships and barges carry grain and other commodities to and from ports such as New Orleans. Contamination of the river could cripple this vital function, the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, and the tourism industry.

While security has been increased since 9-11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still examining and rewriting procedures and standards for nuclear facility security.
The industry says that nuclear should be part of our energy mix. It is a part — about 20 percent. Now is the time to bring clean, renewable sources of energy up to nuclear's percentage, compare costs and accident risks, and decide if we need more nuclear plants.

Countries such as Germany are phasing out nuclear and turning to wind and solar sources of energy. The United States could and should do likewise.

Ruth Pullen is an ecologist and retired programmer analyst. Her e-mail address is:


Blogger Stewart Peterson said...

Subsidies: the nuclear industry supports 85% of the costs incurred by government regulators, whatever those costs are (it used to be 100%, then 98%, then 95%, and so on). A grant used to pay those fees is not a subsidy; it is the government paying for its own expenses.

Billions have not been spent on a waste repository. Billions have been COLLECTED from nuclear plant operators and put in a fund intended sometime for use to make a nuclear waste repository.

How is nuclear waste longer lasting than coal emissions? It DECAYS, meaning eventually, it's not going to be there an any appreciable quantity. Do coal emissions decay? Some of them actually do. Coal plants emit tons of radioactive substances that have been trapped in the plants from which the coal formed.

Nuclear waste does not have to be stored; it can be recycled into other reactors. France does it, Japan does it, but we don't. We could do it if we wanted to.

Nuclear power does not require evacuation routes any more than any other industry does. In one of its many seeming attempts to strangle the nuclear industry, the NRC instructed all plants to come up with evacuation plans. They were safety-conscious at the risk of fostering conspiracy theories, and succeeded in both. Don't tell me Bhopal shouldn't have had an evacuation plan, or the Texas oil refineries that seem to be blowing up every week or so, or coal mines, just to name a few.

Yes, studies do indicate increased cancer risk in certain areas around nuclear plants. But if you consider every factor that could cause cancer, and correct for latency periods, the increased risk disappears. Usually this is due to statistical cherry-picking--note "certain" in the first sentence above. Notice also how nobody ever said that the nuclear plant CAUSED the cancers.

As the plants continue to age, there is an increased risk of accidents. Of course! That's why we should build new ones!

We import uranium because we don't recycle the 97% of a fuel rod we don't use.

One problem with wind, solar, and biomass: they don't work. We need baseload capacity, unless we truly want to be environmentally-friendly and go back to hunter-gatherer societies.

And why didn't Al-Qaeda attack nuclear plants on 9/11, if it was so easy to do?

Does this person know how a nuclear plant works? Nuclear plants boil water. The water has to come from somewhere. Obviously it's going to be near a major body of water. Plus, the water that goes in and comes out never touches anything radioactive--hot water from the reactor is cycled through the incoming water in a pipe, which boils (the cycled water is at higher pressure so it doesn't boil).

So the NRC is rewriting standards. So what? They do that constantly.

We will never get "renewables" up to nuclear's market share because they simply don't work. Doing so would require a decrease in energy use, which is what they really want.

Oh, and Germany is not phasing out nuclear.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Michael Stuart said...

Ruth seems to believe that unless everything can stand on its own in a competitive market, then it should fail. If we applied this same litmus test to things like telecommunications, interstate construction and national defense, I shudder to think what the implications would be.

No doubt, if these standards were applied to "renewable sources" like wind, solar, and biomass, they would certainly fail. Even with massive government subsidies to the tune of $18 per megawatt hour, these renewable sources cannot compete.

At present, 80 percent of the nation's electricity comes from either fossil fuels or nuclear energy. How can we meet the nation's energy needs while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels without nuclear energy?

Each year, the burning of fossil fuels pours more and more pollution into the atmosphere resulting in thousands of deaths from mining accidents and respiratory distress. According to many scientists this also brings us much closer to the point of no return in global warming.

But, the good news is that we do not have to choose between plentiful, inexpensive energy and global warming. The technology to produce energy in a clean and efficient manner — nuclear energy — has been used and steadily improved over the last 50 years.

The nuclear industry is the only form of electrical generation required to contain its waste. Since a small amount of uranium about the size of the tip of your little finger has the energy equivalent of about 2,000 pounds of coal, the amount of waste it produces is extremely small, and since it remains solid, it is easily contained.

Last year, in Mississippi alone, nuclear energy avoided the emission of 47,800 tons of sulfur dioxide, 16,300 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 9.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

What's more amazing is that used nuclear fuel should not be called "waste," since approximately 95 percent of the energy is still contained in it. It should be reprocessed and recycled as fuel for future energy supplies.

Ruth Pullen is right: It's only "myths" that indicate nuclear power is not the best choice. However, the facts indicate that nuclear power is a far better choice than the alternatives.

Perhaps this is why so many environmentalists including Dr. James Lovelock and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore have publicly voiced their support for nuclear energy.

Michael Stuart
Public information officer
North American Young
Generation in Nuclear
Beaverdam, Va.

9:05 AM  

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