This morning I found a couple of interesting – if ill-informed – posts by Dave Roberts on Gristmill, a blog hosted by Grist Magazine, which is a environmentally focused publication whose views I often share.
His entry titled Nuclear: no alternatives? aims to make the case that nuclear power should be our last option; that we should explore all other alternatives and ways to conserve before investing any more money into nuclear power. Here is my response to his post:
Not holding my nose
I have to take serious issue with your characterization of nuclear energy as the least worst option that requires holding one’s nose as if it really stinks.
The oil, coal, and gas interests love the fact that people like you feel that way about the only alternative energy source that can actually replace their products rather than simply slow the growth in their use.
I will grant you that it might take 10 years before new nuclear power plants begin making more dents into the market share of those fossil fuels, but consider what history has shown can happen.
It took about ten years to move from the prototype reactor built for the USS Nautilus to the point where the commercial nuclear power plant industry in the US began in earnest. Ten years after that, enough projects had been started to eventually result in the power plants that are now operating and supplying more than 780 Gigawatt-hours of emission free electricity every year.
If there had not been some serious and well funded opposition, plus some fears of “overcapacity” the industry would have simply continued building and learning hard lessons, pushing the coal industry into the margins by now. Three Mile Island did not stop the orders – it is not possible for an event that occurred in 1979 to cause orders to stop in 1976 – which is when the last nuclear plant order occurred in the First Atomic Age in the United States.
People can also point to experiences in France, Sweden, and South Korea to see just how quickly fossil fuel can be pushed out of the electricity supply market if there is a consistent effort. You can also look at the US submarine force and aircraft carrier fleet for other examples of nuclear power completely eliminating a large market for fossil fuels.
Sure nuclear plants require investments, but they also provide power that replaces the need to burn fossil fuel. They are the only power source that I know of that is a way to eliminate, rather than manage a fossil fuel addiction.
Of course, there are many individual addictions to fossil fuel that cannot be eliminated all at once, but it is never too early to start the process.
Editor, Atomic Insights
Co-Host of The Atomic Show Podcast
by Atomicrod at 4:43 AM on 17 Apr 2006
The other comment that caught my attention and elicited a comment was titled Nuclear energy and power devolution. The main thrust of that article was that nuclear energy was just one more huge industry with close political ties that wanted to take power from the people. As you might expect, I had something to say on that topic as well.
Nuclear Power for the Rest of Us
Though I have been a uniformed public servant for nearly 29 years with the last 5 of them being in the sausage factory known as Washington, I find myself in strange agreement with the gist of your post.
I am convinced that many politicians and bureaucrats love big industry and particularly love the coal, oil, gas and traditional nuclear industry. The flow of money is pretty incredible.
However, my professional experience let me into a rather silent world that provides a beacon of technical hope that is not apparent to most people.
I spent about 7 years of my career in training and serving as an engineering officer on board nuclear submarines. That experience made me realize that it is an historical accident that makes people believe that nuclear power plants have to be enormous and controlled by huge corporations.
You see, our plant was rather tiny – I could do a detailed tour in less than an hour and I knew almost every component by name and operating history. I also had the opportunity to meet some Army nuclear plant operators that had operated even smaller plants in places like Greenland, Antarctica, the Panama Canal Zone, and Alaska.
I have invested a good portion of my free time in the last 15 years working on designing small atomic engines that can be sized to supply power to ships, villages, islands, factories, commercial buildings, college campuses, shopping malls, and even neighborhoods. We are making good progress toward a project to build our first prototype.
Someday, we might even learn enough about the engineering – though experience – to make them small enough for individual homes.
Of course, our progress has been a little slow. There are plenty of people that have made a career out of telling you that only certain countries and certain companies should be trusted to safely operate atomic power plants. However, a man with a questioning attitude might wonder just what motivates those people to be so opposed to a reliable, inexpensive, emissions free, NON FOSSIL FUEL alternative that is safe enough to enclose inside a submarine full of people.
I have found bits of evidence during our struggle to emerge as an alternative power supplier that many of the financial supporters of the anti-nuclear industry obtain funding from fossil fuel energy interests.
President and CEO, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
by Atomicrod at 4:23 AM on 17 Apr 2006
As I have said many times on this blog, there is going to be a serious struggle ahead between the people that recognize the value and need for atomic energy and those that do not like it for one reason or another. If you get this far in the post, you are obviously someone with the persistence necessary to make an impact in the debate. I encourage you to go out and “talk” with people that feel the way that Dave does about nuclear energy and try to let them know that there is a lot left to learn that might help them to alter their way of thinking.