Skip to comments.Nukes Are Green (KRISTOF ALERT)
Posted on 04/08/2005 7:59:31 PM PDT by neverdem
If there was one thing that used to be crystal clear to any environmentalist, it was that nuclear energy was the deadliest threat this planet faced. That's why Dick Gregory pledged at a huge anti-nuke demonstration in 1979 that he would eat no solid food until all nuclear plants in the U.S. were shut down.
Mr. Gregory may be getting hungry.
But it's time for the rest of us to drop that hostility to nuclear power. It's increasingly clear that the biggest environmental threat we face is actually global warming, and that leads to a corollary: nuclear energy is green.
Nuclear power, in contrast with other sources, produces no greenhouse gases. So President Bush's overall environmental policy gives me the shivers, but he's right to push ahead for nuclear energy. There haven't been any successful orders for new nuclear plants since 1973, but several proposals for new plants are now moving ahead - and that's good for the world we live in.
Global energy demand will rise 60 percent over the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency, and nuclear power is the cleanest and best bet to fill that gap.
Solar power is a disappointment, still accounting for only about one-fifth of 1 percent of the nation's electricity and costing about five times as much as other sources. Wind is promising, for its costs have fallen 80 percent, but it suffers from one big problem: wind doesn't blow all the time. It's difficult to rely upon a source that comes and goes.
In contrast, nuclear energy already makes up 20 percent of America's power, not to mention 75 percent of France's.
A sensible energy plan must encourage conservation - far more than Mr. Bush's plans do - and promote things like hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells. But for now, nuclear power is the only source that doesn't contribute to global warming and that can quickly become a mainstay of the grid.
Is it safe? No, not entirely. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl demonstrated that, and there are also risks from terrorist attacks.
Then again, the world now has a half-century of experience with nuclear power plants, 440 of them around the world, and they have proved safer so far than the alternatives. America's biggest power source is now coal, which kills about 25,000 people a year through soot in the air.
To put it another way, nuclear energy seems much safer than our dependency on coal, which kills more than 60 people every day.
Moreover, nuclear technology has become far safer over the years. The future may belong to pebble-bed reactors, a new design that promises to be both highly efficient and incapable of a meltdown.
Radioactive wastes are a challenge. But burdening future generations with nuclear wastes in deep shafts is probably more reasonable than burdening them with a warmer world in which Manhattan is submerged under 20 feet of water.
Right now, the only significant source of electricity in the U.S. that does not involve carbon emissions is hydropower. But salmon runs have declined so much that we should be ripping out dams, not adding more.
What killed nuclear power in the past was cold economics. Major studies at M.I.T. and elsewhere show that nuclear power is still a bit more expensive than new coal or natural gas plants, but in the same ballpark if fossil fuel prices rise. And if a $200-per-ton tax was imposed on carbon emissions, nuclear energy would become cheaper than coal from new plants.
So it's time to welcome nuclear energy as green (though not to subsidize it with direct handouts, as the nuclear industry would like). Indeed, some environmentalists are already climbing onboard. For example, the National Commission on Energy Policy, a privately financed effort involving environmentalists, academics and industry representatives, issued a report in December that favors new nuclear plants.
One of the most eloquent advocates of nuclear energy is James Lovelock, the British scientist who created the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that Earth is, in effect, a self-regulating organism.
"I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy," Mr. Lovelock wrote last year, adding: "Every year that we continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendents. ... Only one immediately available source does not cause global warming, and that is nuclear energy."
A lot of folks would think that's a capital idea.
I haven't read the link yet.
I want to see if I can generate some interest in a PBR or MPBR with my groups.
Being the geekiest one of them all, I suppose things that get my blood pumping don't always coincide with everybody else.
(Well, as far as technology is concerned.)
It's an encouraging sign to find this OpEd in the NY Times. Maybe they are finally beginning to smell the coffee.
Bush has said surprisingly little about energy since he was re-elected. He has just kept silent while the price of gas and fuel oil goes up and up and up. I wonder what he is plotting?
What a load of rubbish.
I wish the folks that make claims like that would provide a believable source or link.
yes, I often wonder where the libs get there statistics...they very seldom mention a source.
That's because they make them up.
Coal burning electrical generation in the US releases around 2 billion tons of CO2 per year, producing around 2 trillion kWh of electricity. A $200-per-ton tax on those emissions would be around 400 billion dollars per year, or 20 cents per kWh.
The actual production cost for coal powered electricity is around 2 cents per kWh, so this greenie weenie tax would represent a 1000% markup. Of course this would make nuclear power cheaper by comparison. Even solar power would be cheaper.
I dont know what the numbers are, but coal plants are more hazardous to people's health than nuclear and have contributed to more deaths than nuclear. The thing is with coal is that it releases a lot more radiation in the waste thorium, uranium, and potassium released. Coal actually releases more energy as waste than it produces because of the radioactivity in the waste. Its in small doses but after decades it accumulates to a level where it has a health impact.
I am not sure about the numbers on how much coal kills per year. 25k seems a bit high.
Global warming fanatics may have a use.
The Upper West Side cocktail party crowd is going to go berserk, ranting and raving about how the NYT is selling out to the radical right-wing. Hold on for a second while I double over with laughter ...
There. Now as I was saying, let's see what their position is in a week or so, once they've been deluged with hysterical letters shreiking about how all our body parts will fall off from the radiation, letters from botoxed Manhattan MoveOn morons who tell their grandkids that Tom DeLay is going to convert them to Christianity if they don't behave.
Aha! Now we get to it - there's a new tax to be levied! That explains Kristof's 180.
I suppose you are referring to anthropogenic climate change due to greenhouse gases, and manmade carbon dioxide in particular. It is plausible, but not proven.
If you ever saw the change in absorbance at the wavelength at which carbon dioxide absorbs in an infrared spectrophotometer, you would agree it is plausible.
My own inclination is that for whatever reason the sun has increased its output of radiant energy, and that's why it's getting warmer.
No! No! No! You don't understand! We have to reduce the Earth's population from 6.5 billion to 13 million. The remaining population will be able to sustain themselves with solar energy alone. We should get together the top minds in biology, political science, psychology, and the arts, from University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, Harvard, Brown, etc. These academics will put together a set of criteria for who gets to be in the 13 million. That's the ticket!
Actually, the new, modern fuel cycles essentially eliminate the nuclear wastes too. The spent fuel can be reprocessed using a variant of the PUREX process that has been around since the manhattan project to separate the actinides, uranium, and the fission products. Because the fission products don't emit alpha particles and have short half lives, they can be vitrified and buried. They have decayed and are cold after a couple of hundred years. The actinides can be reburned; indeed, they can be mixed with uranium to make more reactive fuel.
Modern reactor designs, such as the pebble bed, also are actinide burners. They have a hotter neutron spectrum and burn up the actinides. You can keep recycling this stuff forever.
If they would just do away with this silly day-light-savings-time we could stop worrying about global warming.
But no; the liberals want to be tan so we have to put up with another 60 minutes of sunshine every day!
The Green Atom!
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