April 17, 2006
The Nuclear Option
Posted by scott at April 17, 2006 02:57 PM
Instapundit linked up this op-ed supporting nuclear power from one of the founders of Greenpeace. No, really:
In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Nuclear power has been the only legitimate "green" energy source since its discovery in the 1930s. No other source can deliver anywhere near as much clean and safe (yes, safe... read the article first) power. New plant designs at least claim to be simpler, cheaper, and safer still than anything currently running in the west. It's politics, both the "ooh-scary-it-glows" and "it's-industrialization-that's-the-real-enemy" type, that keep nuclear power from becoming a genuine alternative to fossil fuels.
It's ironic that, by their hysterical resistance to nuclear power, the people who shout the most about climate crisis are effectively responsible for it.
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This guy may be right, but Greenpeace gave him the boot in '84, and he sold out to the energy industry in '91. While it's nice that he's saying these things, his thoughts about Greenpeace are about as relevant as Paul McCartney's opinion of the Beatles.
FYI: Stewart Brand, the founder of The Whole Earth Catalog mentioned in the linked article above, has also endorsed a techno-thriller novel of nuclear power by a longtime industry insider (me). This story serves as a lay person's guide to the good and the bad of this power source. (There's plenty of both). The book is available at no cost to readers at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com - and they seem to like it, judging from their comments on the homepage.
"Well, then YOU need to do RESEARCH and FIND ANOTHER alternative!"
And if the laws of physics don't allow for another alternative?
"Then THOSE laws are ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL, and need to be ELIMINATED!"
It is still not safe. People are still letting other things get in the way of safety at the plants, see Davis Bessie as an example.
We still cannot safely store the waste we have. When we come up with materials able to do so, or actually have a process to make it less dangerous, it could be time to reconsider.
It'd be great, once we prove its safety.
On one hand, France has produced 73% of its electricity with nuclear reactors for twenty years now.
On the other hand, the French have been completely impotent for about as long.
According to the article, the waste problem is political and essentially solved now that its no longer illegal to recycle "waste" rods.
Again, according to the article, existing plants in the west have an exemplary safety record, far better than anything the coal industry has ever been able to create.
Other places I've read about mention new sorts of nuclear reactor designs that are both cheaper and safer than existing ones.
Another point to the safety issue - there are certain types of reactors (fast reactors?) that actually use 95% of the material instead of the 5% that actually gets used now. The waste materials are significantly less dangerous and become harmless in a very feasible amount of time. SciAm did a bit on it a few months ago, but I'm too damn lazy to go look it up right now.
So, to say they aren't safe actually isn't correct - they are much safer than folks think and can be made even safer.