CBS News aired a short piece titled US heat wave causes new look at nuclear energy that is worth a look. Though it includes the obligatory appearance of a professional antinuclear activist – in this case, Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists – the story provides some encouraging clips of the massive quantities of dirt being moved by thousands of workers who are making preparations for Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in eastern Georgia.
The story also reminds people why some of us are so interested in building new nuclear power plants – we know how vital reliable electricity is. That knowledge is reinforced when power grids are stressed and when people die due to complications associated with heat exposure. We know that nuclear plants have a far better chance of being available when needed than the wind turbines that were AWOL during the heat wave because, darn it, when the heat domes hover, the air is still and muggy. If there was a reliable breeze we would not be so dependent on our air conditioners!
Here is a comment that I provided to CBS regarding their story:
Nuclear power plants have proven that they are safe neighbors. In more than 50 years of commercial operation, the total number of deaths from exposure to radiation from nuclear power plants around the entire world is less than 100. In contrast, thousands of people die every year from exposure to the hazardous waste products that fossil fuel plants dump into our atmosphere as a routine part of their operation.
I like having the ability to use electricity on demand. I like having clean air. I like the idea that building new nuclear plants that can operate reliably for 60-80 years is resulting in new jobs for thousands of American mechanics, electricians, construction workers, engineers and procedure writers. (Disclosure: I fall into that last category and am currently part of a large team that is designing another version of a reactor that can keep itself under control for at least three days without any sources of electricity.)
Dr. Lyman is a professional antinuclear activist who has never actually operated a plant. He has a PhD in nuclear physics, but that does not mean that he ever studied anything about engineering or operations. It might not even mean that he studied anything about nuclear fuel.
As a former nuclear submarine engineer officer with several years of direct operating experience, I am quite comfortable with the defense-in-depth engineering that makes nuclear fission power the safest and cleanest source of reliable electricity available today. I want one in my backyard; I enjoyed the experience of sharing a small ship with a reliable, emission free power source.
To paraphrase a popular political statement – Build baby build.
Publisher, Atomic Insights