Stark Choices On 21st Century Power Generation. Nuclear / Renewable ?
As the terrifying situation in Japan unfolds regarding the potential meltdown of one of their nuclear reactors we might do well to think about how we want to proceed. The Obama administration wants to start building more nuclear power plants. Not much a surprise here as this president hasn’t met a big business he won’t sell out to yet. But is this really the path we want to follow? Let us take a look at a couple of stories I’ve come across this week.
First from Ralph Nader writing on CommonDreams.org we have these six things to ponder;
“Now the industry is coming back “on your back” claiming it will help reduce global warming from fossil fuel emitted greenhouse gases.
Pushed aggressively by President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu, who refuses to meet with longtime nuclear industry critics, here is what “on your back” means:
1. Wall Street will not finance new nuclear plants without a 100% taxpayer loan guarantee. Too risky. That’s a lot of guarantee given that new nukes cost $12 billion each, assuming no mishaps. Obama and the Congress are OK with that arrangement.
2. Nuclear power is uninsurable in the private insurance market—too risky. Under the Price-Anderson Act, taxpayers pay the greatest cost of a meltdown’s devastation.
3. Nuclear power plants and transports of radioactive wastes are a national security nightmare for the Department of Homeland Security. Imagine the target that thousands of vulnerable spent fuel rods present for sabotage.
4. Guess who pays for whatever final waste repositories are licensed? You the taxpayer and your descendants as far as your gene line persists. Huge decommissioning costs, at the end of a nuclear plant’s existence come from the ratepayers’ pockets.
5. Nuclear plant disasters present impossible evacuation burdens for those living anywhere near a plant, especially if time is short.
Imagine evacuating the long-troubled Indian Point plants 26 miles north of New York City. Workers in that region have a hard enough time evacuating their places of employment during 5 pm rush hour. That’s one reason Secretary of State Clinton (in her time as Senator of New York) and Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the shutdown of Indian Point.
6. Nuclear power is both uneconomical and unnecessary. It can’t compete against energy conservation, including cogeneration, windpower and ever more efficient, quicker, safer, renewable forms of providing electricity. Amory Lovins argues this point convincingly (see RMI.org). Physicist Lovins asserts that nuclear power “will reduce and retard climate protection.” His reasoning: shifting the tens of billions invested in nuclear power to efficiency and renewables reduce far more carbon per dollar (http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/whynewnukesareriskyfcts.pdf). The country should move deliberately to shutdown nuclear plants, starting with the aging and seismically threatened reactors. Peter Bradford, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner has also made a compelling case against nuclear power on economic and safety grounds (http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/whynewnukesareriskyfcts.pdf).”
To read the entire story and find out what you can do click here.
But what are we going to do to help stop global warming you might be asking. A large segment of the corporate media will tell you that nuclear is the only way to go. Well that’s not what a lot of scientists and researchers think. As an example here is an article from Scientific American that presents a plan by two professors to generate 100% renewable energy in twenty years.
“A year ago former vice president Al Gore threw down a gauntlet: to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years. As the two of us started to evaluate the feasibility of such a change, we took on an even larger challenge: to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030. Our plan is presented here.
Scientists have been building to this moment for at least a decade, analyzing various pieces of the challenge. Most recently, a 2009 Stanford University study ranked energy systems according to their impacts on global warming, pollution, water supply, land use, wildlife and other concerns. The very best options were wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and hydroelectric power—all of which are driven by wind, water or sunlight (referred to as WWS). Nuclear power, coal with carbon capture, and ethanol were all poorer options, as were oil and natural gas. The study also found that battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles recharged by WWS options would largely eliminate pollution from the transportation sector.”
“ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Mark Z. Jacobson is professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program there. He develops computer models to study the effects of energy technologies and their emissions on climate and air pollution. Mark A. Delucchi is a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. He focuses on energy, environmental and economic analyses of advanced, sustainable transportation fuels, vehicles and systems.”
To read the whole article click here.
And lets take a look at what’s going now in Japan (3/19/11)