June 19, 2011

The Rush to Judgment Against Nuclear Power

We get 20% of our electricity from Nuclear, 45% from coal (DOE).

From 1995 to 2005, 10,000 U.S. coal miners died from black lung and 400 died from accidents (CDC).

Each year about 443,000 people die from tobacco related illnesses (CDC), more than 44,000 from "medical misadventure"(Hearst Media) and over 37,000 in roadway crashes (NHTSA-2008). Yet, we accept the risks and still use tobacco products, visit doctors, drive cars, and mine coal. So why the irrational negativity concerning nuclear power?

We have had more than 80 ships and submarines and over 100 nuclear power plants operating for decades with no serious injuries associated with the nuclear energy source, and that includes the Three Mile Island plant accident.

I served at a nuclear power plant in Antarctica in the 1960's. Antarctica covers 5.4 million square miles and has over 90% of the ice and snow on our planet. The nuclear reactor was roughly the size of a 55 gallon drum and lasted over 3 years. In 1972 the plant was replaced by diesel generators that, in each subsequent 3-year period, burned about 3.9 million gallons of diesel fuel and produced about 15,000 cubic feet of carbon dioxide, along with massive amounts of toxic soot and particulate matter.

That is enough to dirty many miles of pristine snow every year! Fresh snow reflects sunlight almost 5 times more than dirty glacier ice. That suggests that heat absorption from sunlight has caused massive amounts of snow and ice to melt. With nuclear, this would not be happening.

America's nuclear power is clean, safe, and cost-effective. It costs ~1.6X coal, however wind costs 2.3X, and solar 5.6 to 11.7X (DOE). Nuclear costs include storage costs of radioactive material though the "how" is still being debated.

So if you're looking for a cause, we can actually save lives by cleaning up coal mining operations and the coal-combustion process. And, then start focusing on tobacco, medical-practitioner competence and automobile transportation safety.

In the meantime, more nuclear power capacity is in the best interests of our country.

Rex A. Hoover