Saturday, September 16, 2006

Some Greens Are Seeing the Nuclear Light

Earlier this year I presented a series on energy that concluded that the USA made a major mistake in foregoing the building of more nuclear energy plants because worldwide experience has shown nuclear power to be the safest, cheapest and cleanest way to produce electricity. Recently, also, the development of the ‘PBR’ reactor even removes any threat of a potential ‘meltdown’ from the equation and produces free hydrogen for a vehicle fuel as a bonus. In 1979, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon produced a frisson of fear with their starring roles in "The China Syndrome," a fictional evocation of nuclear disaster in which a reactor meltdown threatens a city's survival. Less than two weeks after the blockbuster film opened, a reactor core meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sent shivers of very real anguish throughout the country.

What nobody noticed at the time, though, was that Three Mile Island was in fact a success story: The concrete containment structure did just what it was designed to do -- prevent radiation from escaping into the environment. And although the reactor itself was crippled, there was no injury or death among nuclear workers or nearby residents. Three Mile Island was the only serious accident in the history of nuclear energy generation in the United States, but it was enough to scare us away from further developing the technology: There hasn't been a nuclear plant ordered up since then.

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., has changed his mind about the desirability of building nuclear plants in the United States to produce our electric power and simultaneously generate free hydrogen. While our views on the causes of global warming differ, even the founder of Greenpeace now agrees with me on nuclear power. Uniting on this program satisfies the universal desire to reduce emissions significantly while also eliminating our dependence on Arab oil-producing states.


Going Nuclear
A Green Makes the Case
By Patrick Moore

“In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.

Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions -- or nearly 10 percent of global emissions -- of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely….

Here's why: Wind and solar power have their place, but because they are intermittent and unpredictable they simply can't replace big baseload plants such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Natural gas, a fossil fuel, is too expensive already, and its price is too volatile to risk building big baseload plants. Given that hydroelectric resources are built pretty much to capacity, nuclear is, by elimination, the only viable substitute for coal. It's that simple….

The 600-plus coal-fired plants emit nearly 2 billion tons of CO2annually -- the equivalent of the exhaust from about 300 million automobiles. In addition, the Clean Air Council reports that coal plants are responsible for 64 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 26 percent of nitrous oxides and 33 percent of mercury emissions. These pollutants are eroding the health of our environment, producing acid rain, smog, respiratory illness and mercury contamination.

Meanwhile, the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually -- the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.” Patrick Moore

To see the entire article, click here.

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At 9:37 AM, Anonymous steve said...

Although I agree that nuclear is an option we are being forced to (re)explore because of the fossil fuel situation and the global warming...I must comment on your liberty of spin saying that 3 mile was a success. You have become a real spin master.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

Thousands die each year from coal mine explosions, oil field and refinery accidents, lng fires and tanker accidents. If a fire suppression system in a mine or at an oil field successfully saved the lives of hundreds and no-one died, we would call it a success. These deaths do not even take into account the unknown thousands who die each year from the contaminants put into the air from fossil fuels.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous steve said...

point taken and I agree...but there is a difference between a mine or oil field and the potential impact of serious disaster at nuclear. Also, the new pebble beds generate like 100 times the amount of waste and this creates it's own set of problems.

My point was that 3 mile had a major failure...the fact that the containment worked does not change the fact that the failure occurred.


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