Time To Consider Nuclear Power

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - June 25, 2008
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The author camped near this reactor in the Ozarks
The author camped near this reactor in the Ozarks

We have 104 nuclear energy plants in America cranking out about 20 percent of our electricity. We could easily double about that in the next 20 years. Or we can pretend we’re going to be OK if we just screw more of those CF light bulbs into our household lamp sockets.

George Bush is right about one thing (and maybe only one thing): We and Congress keep yelling about oil prices but naysaying nuclear energy. Now Mini-George (aka John McCain) wants us to build 45 new nuclear plants by 2030.

I’m with him on that (and maybe only that.) This irrational fear of nuclear power must be reined in. The Navy has had nuclear reactors on ships since 1955. It now has 150 nuclear ships and 12,000 years reactor years of operations with no significant incidents.

When my camping buddy and I set up our tents on the tail end of the Ozarks last year, we were on the Arkansas River with a view of the Russellville Nuclear One stack. We joked that we’d be fried critters if the plant did a melt-down. Same when my daughter and I camped on a Lake Erie island off Sandusky, Ohio. We were staring at a nuke plant.


The American fear of nuclear power is puzzling. I guess the Three Mile Island mini-accident in Pennsylvania and the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine shaped that, although nobody was hurt at Three Mile Island; that was mostly a case of how quickly a small plant mishap can be contained. Chernobyl was something else. That showed us how bad it can be if the technology is ancient, the safeguards minimal and the training woeful.

Would I accept a nuclear power plant in Hawaii? My answer is a conditional yes. There’s been no harm come to anyone at Mainland plants other than ordinary industrial accidents. But ... and here are a couple of big ones.

I’d need assurance that our plant would not be at great risk from earthquake or hurricane. Neither are strangers here. Would that last Big Island shaker have cracked a plant?

And what about the waste? We can’t just railroad it to Nevada burial sites. Flying it or shipping it creates certain risks. Our Pearl Harbor nuclear Navy has a way to transport reactor waste out of here so it’s not impossible.

Notice I said assurance against great risk. Everything has some risk.

It would be very expensive to start up a nuclear plant here, but so much cheaper for consumers once it went on line. Nearly half the cost of our oil-fired electricity. Is that worth some risk?


But after we’ve gone through geothermal hysteria, the Stryker Brigade angst and the Superferry hassle - plus all that kvetching about rail transit - I can’t see our oh-my-God-it’s-something-new populace giving nuclear energy a fair hearing. That would be so un-Hawaii. We’ve got people apoplectic over genetically-modified papaya and taro.

It’s too bad we are the way we are. We should be envisioning our future by examining everything without at-the-outset doomsaying. We should be looking at the geologic stability and nuclear waste and cost issues rationally and then making decisions about moving forward without those screamers of “We’ll all die!!”

We should measure the risks and match them up against the benefits. Talk it out with no pre-conclusions.

But that’s not our way in Hawaii, is it?

 

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