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I just read a magazine article at lunch (it’s online here). I had to rush back to the office to record my anger.

The authors have an enthusiastic outlook for the power of nuclear energy to fix all of our pollution and global-warming issues. Yet they conveniently ignore several points in favor of what I consider to be a quick fix for the problem of energy’s future.

Nuclear energy is clean compared to fossil fuels, says the article. We can no longer allow the bad, bad coal and gas and oil industries to pollute our planet. The dangers of nuclear energy are less dangerous to the earth than us continuing on our current road.

While I’m sure this argument is currently true, considering quantities of scale, it lacks foresight. I imagine people back during the rise of fossil fuels never thought that we’d be using enough carbon-emitting energy sources to change the planet’s climate. So who now is paying attention to what will happen when we shift to using mostly nuclear power? Our options for storing the waste will dwindle, even considering waste recycling. (Recycling the waste merely prolongs the inevitable necessity of its disposal.) The bright, gleaming new nuclear plants will eventually begin to fail when they get old and governments or greedy corporations cease to provide enough capital for their upkeep. And the article’s authors don’t seem to see that, while coal mining will eventually go away when we switch to nuclear energy, uranium mining will pick up substantially.

I have so much more to say about this, but I have no time! As I was reading, I was countering every point, shaking my head while eating my lunch. Why anyone would think it’s okay to proliferate a highly radioactive energy source across the globe is beyond me. Only under the very best of circumstances would nothing go wrong with these plants, or with the shipping of the fuel, or of the handling of the waste.

The article states that it’d be best to implement a vast network of nuclear plants to supplant coal plants, all as an effort to clean up the pollution and eventually get to another zero-emission solution. (Though, really the authors never say that nuclear has pretty frightful emissions of its own.) But who are we kidding here? Once the network is in place, I think we’d get stuck just like we are now. We’ll get used to nuclear, get used to it being fairly cheap, very convenient, and only in the future as we start getting poisoned with radiation instead of CO2 will we scramble yet again to find a new energy source.

Didn’t I say I had no time to say any more? Well, I’m cutting myself off. Read the article if you’d like. I’d love to hear comments. From all 2 of you.


Rodney Expounded Thusly:

I agree, Steve. And what an odd article. It reads like a massive PR campaign. I am very skeptical of how “safe” nuclear power really is. The author tries a little too hard to make his readers believe. Will the oil companies ever really relinquish power? Not without a fight. This really touches on some very hard issues on how we, as a species, live our lives. How much longer can we base our societies on the love of money and power? How much higher can profits go?

I too believe we would eventually be “stuck” – however, we’d have a much more dangerous by-product to deal with. And we all know how dependable corporations are at being responsible and cleaning up their own messes. Not to mention the average worker making $10 an hour is supposed to “care” about safety and proper handling. I DO believe that the average worker in a nuclear power plant would be just as lowly paid as they are now (profits are only for those who deserve them, don’t you know).

Why aren’t we seeking clean, renewable, free energy resources? Because there’s no profit in them. How long can we exist as a species if we continually put money first? I don’t think very long. What’s really tantalizing to me are the magnetic motors being constructed lately…yet…we hear nothing about them in the US press. Why the world would collapse if each how had it’s own magnetic motor generating most, if not all, of its power needs. And i admit I don’t know how advanced these motors are – but at least one Japanese inventor has created one. It could certainly run the average car…

Thursday, February 10th, 2005 • 2:45pm • Permalink

Electric Company Ken Expounded Thusly:

A good read indeed, Steve!

On the surface, I agree with some of the article’s points: less dependence on fossil; don’t stockpile—instead reprocess—nuclear waste; hydrogen could be key to future, and nuclear-reactor-like conditions effectively produce it; and gen III+ reactors are more advanced than gen I, in terms of efficiency and safety.

But there are far too many gaps in logic and questions begged: Yucca Mountain debacle still roiling … where to put waste (nimby)? Why exactly did Carter halt reprocessing in the 70s? Is nuke really THE “one sane, practical alternative”? I mean, cuuuuhmmon! And for Pete’s sake, must we look only at the immediate bottom line when talking about tech costs (“solar is not remotely cost competitive”)? What about the social costs mitigated (and benefits gained) by renewable energy techs: reduced medical costs, advanced research and mind expansion, job creation, tech export opportunities, spillover to unrelated areas, etc.

And there are things that just piss me off about this article: (1) Using the term “granola” to describe someone concerned about humanity and the planet is odious and shows ignorance. Call us what you will, but without us, you’d still be sucking leaded-fuel exhaust from non-catalytic-converted tailpipes. (2) Never-no-never underestimate the power of conservation and energy efficiency in reducing electrical demand. (3) And what do you mean hair gel is “a luxury people can do without”? You try stepping out of the shower with my do, strapping on a business suit, skipping the gel, and then just see who takes you seriously at the 9 a.m. meeting! Bozo would have gotten more respect.

I’m also disgusted at the implication that we ought build hydrogen vehicles so that we can put hydrogen power drives in Hummers! Could we Puhleeeze get off the sick notion that we, as Americans, are somehow entitled to drive personal vehicles the size of busses!? Why not make the goal: to build hydrogen engines for smaller, lighter, safer—did I already say smaller—vehicles? And penalize the crap out of anyone who insists they can’t live without their gas-sucking Hummer … gee, do you think maybe those revenues could be used to offset the “not remotely cost competitive” costs of solar?

Okay, I think I just hit a super-size-me nerve and need to take a deep breath (reaching for paper bag).

Now then … the good news for you, Steve, is you live in California. Regulators, legislators and citizens have consistently fought for environmental issues—and put their money on it, too. If the state were its own country, it would have the 5th-7th (depending on who you ask) largest economy in the world—so if you throw around statistics about what Belgium is doing with their nuclear policies, I aint puttin’ altogether too much stock in it. We’re bigger than they are and we can make better decisions than they do. Then again, they do make damn good chocolate–and diamonds.

California has mandated the three investor-owned electric utilities (PG&E, SCE, SDG&E) to have renewable resources account for 20 percent of their energy portfolio in the next few years. Concerned groups are pushing to have that mandate apply to municipal utilities, as well (LADWP, Sacramento, Anaheim, Pasadena, etc.). Stay tuned for that debate in Sacramento.

Here are some real numbers to think about: SCE, which serves about 5 million customers from Santa Barbara to San Clemente, and Santa Monica to Blythe, has an energy resource portfolio that looks approximately like this: 50% comes from natural gas; 20% eligible renewables (biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, solar and wind); 15% nuclear; 10% coal; 5% large hydroelectric (which is not considered “renewable” because of its larger-scale potential damage to land and fish. Don’t even get me going on this one … but I’ll sum up my frustration: there are immense resources in the Sierra to produce scads of emission-free “large” hydro energy, but efforts to do so have been stalled for decades by interest groups, like white-water rafters … who probably drive to the white water with their white water craft strapped to the roofs of their—you guessed it—11-mpg-gettin’ Hummer SUVs! One paddler per car, thank you very much. (… paper bag … paper bag …) Our northern neighbor PG&E has a slightly different resource mix: 45% gas, 25% nuclear, 15% large hydro, 15% renewable. The rest of the country is heavier into coal than we here in the west, and nukes are scattered all over the place.

In general, more renewables are coming (big federal wind energy incentive expires January 2006, so this year will see a spike in wind turbines—their inherent ability to decimate precious bird species notwithstanding). And the big Mojave coal plant on the Arizona side of the border will likely shut down at the end of the year.

But the bottom line: I highly doubt any “granola”-eatin’ Californian is going to allow any additional nuclear—nor coal for that matter—built in the state any time soon. Moral of the story: keep your feet on Western soil, m’boy, regardless of which thespian du jour is at the helm of the Golden State.

Wishing you well. Vote no rain–toxic nor no how–for the weekend!

Thursday, February 10th, 2005 • 9:32pm • Permalink

Montgomery Burns Expounded Thusly:

Nuclear Energy is perfectly safe. In fact, it is healthy. And sunlight looks beautiful through the haze.

Friday, February 11th, 2005 • 10:28pm • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

Thanks for the insightful comments! If I had any time (other than to sing the praises of Google Maps), I’d add some more. Maybe later this week…

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005 • 1:19pm • Permalink


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