Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nuclear Power - The Correct Response




The United States has long held its flag as the leader of the free world, and proponent of progress. In the face of a climate crisis and turbulent oil prices, several of the nation’s prominent figures have made calls for the United States to take the lead in the effort to lower carbon footprints and find renewable sources of energy.

The result of those voices, and the efforts of environmental groups across America, are clearly shown in the recently passed stimulus package. Indeed, a healthy 79 billion dollars have been allocated to the development and propagation of wind and solar power.

Incidentally, 50 billion dollars in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants was cut from the bill shortly before it was signed by President Obama. This ostensibly appears to be the result of a political inability to distinguish between nuclear weapons, and the productive, even humanitarian uses of nuclear technology, such as renewable power and plant made isotopes for the treatment of cancer.

Across the ocean, especially in the Scandinavian region of Europe, countries are embracing nuclear power as an environmentally friendly answer to the climate crisis and oil dependency. Sweden, Finland, and Poland are all in the process of moving towards the creation of new nuclear power plants.

This is in addition to the French nuclear powerhouse, and the substantial nuclear industry in Germany, Spain, and Britain. The irony is sharpest in the fact that these countries see nuclear power plants as an answer to global warming and minimizing carbon footprints, while the United States is still laboring under the outdated and stunningly inaccurate stereotype of “old-fashioned dirty” nuclear plants.

In fact, nearly 75 percent of all of the clean power in the United States comes from nuclear power plants. While the idea of solar and wind power is honorable, the implementation is costly and inefficient.



Power grids must be extended to reach the wind farms, often putting multiple environmental goals in competition; energy and preservation come readily to mind. Solar power has potential, but studies have shown it to require several technological breakthroughs to be effective. Are these two ideas worth funding? Arguably, yes. But at the sake of a safe, and efficient technology?

Critics of nuclear power have several valid points that must be discussed with objectivity. Safety is always a concern, with the fear of radiation often presiding over the discussion in a position of dominance. When one looks objectively, that fear diminishes when it is revealed that in the 12,018 deaths around the world from harvesting energy since 1977, only 56 have been a result of nuclear power (a paltry .46 percent).

Furthermore, they all stem from one incident in Russia. No American has died from nuclear power. Three Mile Island, the focal point of many nuclear critics, was a clear success story that has been sold to generations as a cautionary tale of nuclear destruction. The nuclear industry lost the public relations war when the first atomic bomb was dropped, but one can only live with that flawed overall perception for so long.

The fact is that despite being a nuclear plant built well before substantial safety regulations, there was only partial contamination and no deaths. With the advent of the modern nuclear plant, any remaining arguments about safety become mostly moot.



What of terrorist attacks? The Department of Energy has found that nuclear plants are robust enough to protect nuclear fuel from passenger planes. In comparison with the vast majority of other high value targets, the nuclear power plant amounts to a fortress.

In justification for removing the nuclear funding from the stimulus, environmentally conscious politicians cited the immense start-up cost and lack of profit from nuclear plants. They decried it as a failed technology, while airily stating that the main purpose of the stimulus was to create jobs.

The innate hypocrisy in that statement is almost blinding, as solar and wind power depends heavily on government subsidies in order to create profitable revenue and attract investors. Apparently, more inefficient methods of procuring energy are more worthy (politically) of funding than other, more efficient and proven methods.



Furthermore, the onerous red tape that restrains the nuclear industry (far beyond necessary safety regulation) was instituted by the very environmentalists that now disparage their economic efficiency. Lastly, why would nuclear power be a failed technology, barring mindless regulation, only in the United States?

The crux of the matter is that the rest of the modernized world sees the innate potential of nuclear energy, while America, in her presumptive ignorance, is held hostage by an irrational fear. Where others see a solution to a global climate crisis, we see only radiation and death – an image that has almost never been a reality.

If we are to take active and productive steps towards oil-independence and climate progress, nuclear power must be a dominant element of any energy plan. Wind and solar power are both avenues that should be explored, but ignoring a clear solution merely for political means is irresponsible.

William O’Hara is a Naval Academy graduate, law student at George Washington University, and founder of The PULSE Review, a public policy, law, and national security weblog.

7 comments:

T. LaDuke said...

This is a very interesting article but I have to disagree with it's premise. Nuclear power while it is a low carbon footprint producer of energy is by no means SAFE.

The rods & other materials that are part of the reactor core must be stored in vaults for a minimum of 1000 yrs or longer when they are no longer needed. The transporting of these materials is a hazard and a danger that the public does not fully realize.

In addition the possibility of a attack or a natural disaster occurring to a nuke power plant is something that can not be overlooked by saying that the plant is a fortress. Three mile Island happened by human error we have no idea what will happen if a attack or some sort of natural event such as an earthquake would happen.

I feel these risks alone with the wide impact a breach would have on any given area is enough to start to move away from the nuclear option and towards other sources of energy including wind, solar water and hydrogen

William O'Hara said...

This wide impact of a breach that you are so fearful of would still be far less than the detrimental impact that current energy providers subject on the population every day, not limited to thousands of deaths due to long term health issues and on the job hazards, as well as costly involvement in the middle east. And you're concerned about storage in Yucca Mountain, which is being designed to the most ludicrous and improbably occurrences, even though human risk from contamination there is negligible.

Furthermore, you do realize that there is IMMENSE documentation and research put in to the formulation of these plants. They are not on fault lines, they are built to withstand trees being picked up by tornadoes and launched into them at hundreds of miles and hour, and the are robust enough to withstand planes flown by terrorists. If you're still scared... I fear that the "irrational fear" that I mention in my post might be influencing you.

As for transferring these materials, "if this doesn't reassure you, nothing will":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY446h4pZdc

The statistics speak for themselves. No deaths. No carbon. IT WORKS RIGHT NOW, not in some mythical time in the future, and it can free us from the Middle East.

To me, the case is closed.

William O'Hara said...

"And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it's based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance peace opportunity for all people."
-Barack Obama, just last week - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/05/obama-prague-speech-on-nu_n_183219.html?gclid=CLvtgPur8ZkCFQNaFQod0yFMSQ

Anonymous said...

Given the melt down of our financial system, which in part was due to the unraveling and total disregard to policies put in place to protect the American public, it is difficult to imagine nuclear power. We have developed mutli-national conglomerates who have shown little concern for the welfare of the people amongst who they do business.

Until such time as morality returns to our corporate structure aided by stringent regulations with significant legal teeth, nuclear power has little future in our society.

Peace.
Rick Beagle

american girl in italy said...

I sent you an email, I wanted to give you a heads up on this:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/4/14/719961/-Planning-Fun-with-Teabaggers

T. LaDuke said...

While I have not studied the issue as much as I'm sure you have I'm basing my opinion on many things I have read over the years including the book " We almost lost Detroit" about the Fermi 1 near catastrophe we had in the 60's here in Detroit area and through the prism of a post 9-11 world and national security view.

While I wholeheartedly agree we would be able to reduce and or eliminate our need on foreign oil I still have questions on the issue of security that you might be able to answer.


You first state
"
This wide impact of a breach that you are so fearful of would still be far less than the detrimental impact that current energy providers subject on the population every day, not limited to thousands of deaths due to long term health issues and on the job hazards, as well as costly involvement in the middle east."

I'm assuming you are speaking of coal and oil workers which I believe we need to power electricity plants. If this is the case where would I be able to find data to compare these statistics against those that are working in nuclear plants?

I think I would find it useful also to compare these to the stats that have been compiled in the 23 years since Chernobyl also. While that may not be a apples to apples comparison it is the only guide we have to what would happen in the eventuality of a breach and of the number of health related problem we would have here.

Here is your second point.........


"And you're concerned about storage in Yucca Mountain, which is being designed to the most ludicrous and improbably occurrences, even though human risk from contamination there is negligible."

This I'm sure is true, the standards are very high to keep contamination from occurring. Which is one of my problems with it, the residual of nuclear power is the not so clean after material . Although having been to Nevada recently and going again next week I'm sure the locals are still up in arms about the project and are fighting it's completion . Never bring up Yucca to someone in Nevada unless your against it.


While currently I am not in favor of any more nuclear plants being built I do pride myself on having a open mind. If there are any materials or references you can direct me too that could possibly answer my questions I would greatly appreciate it.


T. LaDuke





Subject: [Smart Girl Politics] New comment on Nuclear Power - The Correct Response.
To: dukeoveramerica@gmail.com
Date: Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 5:32 PM

William O'Hara has left a new comment on the post "Nuclear Power - The Correct Response":

This wide impact of a breach that you are so fearful of would still be far less than the detrimental impact that current energy providers subject on the population every day, not limited to thousands of deaths due to long term health issues and on the job hazards, as well as costly involvement in the middle east. And you're concerned about storage in Yucca Mountain, which is being designed to the most ludicrous and improbably occurrences, even though human risk from contamination there is negligible.

Furthermore, you do realize that there is IMMENSE documentation and research put in to the formulation of these plants. They are not on fault lines, they are built to withstand trees being picked up by tornadoes and launched into them at hundreds of miles and hour, and the are robust enough to withstand planes flown by terrorists. If you're still scared... I fear that the "irrational fear" that I mention in my post might be influencing you.

As for transferring these materials, "if this doesn't reassure you, nothing will":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY446h4pZdc

The statistics speak for themselves. No deaths. No carbon. IT WORKS RIGHT NOW, not in some mythical time in the future, and it can free us from the Middle East.

To me, the case is closed.

Post a comment.

Unsubscribe to comments on this post.

Posted by William O'Hara to Smart Girl Politics at April 14, 2009 5:32 PM

Anonymous said...

Nuclear power? Who are you trying to convince? Those in the know see right through this charade of deceit. Wake up and smell the coffee. Thank God the deceptive conservative viewpoint is a vanishing concept from our political landscape.

Smart Girl Politics ©Template Blogger Green by Dicas Blogger.

TOPO