Time To Consider Nuclear Energy
Wednesday - March 26, 2008
In October of 1957, the then-Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit around the Earth - the shot heard around the universe.
The space frontier had been breached, and we Americans were shocked - not only that it hadn’t been done by us, but that it had been done by the Russians, our major cold war adversary.
Four years later, on May 25, 1961, in a historic speech to Congress, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed a “time for a new American enterprise.” He said, “We possess all the resources and talent necessary, but we have never made a national decision nor marshaled the national resources required for such an endeavor ... We have never specified long-range goals nor an urgent time schedule nor managed our resources and our time so as to ensure fulfillment ... (and we will) achieve our objective before this decade is out.”
Kennedy went on, “This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technological manpower, material and facilities ... (it will mean) the highest degree of dedication, organization and discipline ... (it will mean) we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material, or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or high turnover of key personnel.”
The president concluded, “... every scientist, every engineer, every service man, every technician, contractor and civil servant must give his personal pledge that this nation will move forward with the speed of freedom in this exciting adventure of space.”
Apollo Eleven landed on the moon July 20, 1969, and astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first “giant leap for mankind” more than five months before Kennedy’s deadline. And as I write this column, the finishing touches are being added to the International Space Station, in orbit now for years and sustained by a fleet of spaceships founded upon much of the technology of that early space program.
I quoted many of Kennedy’s exact words as he laid out the challenge because they are precisely the same words Americans need to hear today in our quest for energy independence.
In the February issue of IMPRIMUS, published by Hillsdale College, veteran journalist and alternative energy expert William Tucker expanded upon the premise of his forthcoming book, Terrestrial (nuclear) Energy: How a Nuclear-Solar Alliance Can Rescue the Planet. This article should be required reading for anyone who cares a whit about the future of America because that future, for better or worse - economically, militarily, environmentally - is tied to our energy independence.
Tucker discusses the pros and cons of the most common alternatives of wind and solar (Hawaii has fewer “cons” and even more alternatives), but focuses on the overwhelming advantages of nuclear as the most rational source of energy and of significantly reducing global warming. “France, Russia, China, Finland and Japan all perceive the enormous opportunities that nuclear energy (once regarded as an American technology) promises. Yet in America we remain trapped in a Three Mile Island mentality. It is time to step back and question whether this prejudice makes sense.”
Tucker also addresses the most common argument against nuclear power: the challenge of storing nuclear waste. “A spent fuel rod is 95 percent U-238, about as dangerous as a shovel full of dirt from the back yard. Of the remaining 5 percent, most can be recycled for positive uses, though small amounts should be placed in the Yucca Mountain repository. France has derived 80 percent of its power from nuclear for the past 20 years, and stores all of its high level ‘nuclear waste’ in a single room in Le Havre.”
Indeed, if our national security ever depended upon a Kennedy-esque call to action, it is now. We must move forward “with the speed of freedom” in our pursuit of energy independence.
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