Monsters and Critics has published a UPI wire story titled Nuclear energy rules knocked as outdated. You can probably find the same story elsewhere, but Monsters and Critics has a pretty nice comment feature so this might be a place where a real discussion about the article may occur. The discussion area has already been “seeded”, someone named Christiona Macpherson from www.antinuclear.net made the first comment while I chimed in with the below:
Nuclear power is clean enough to run inside sealed submarines. Not only are there no greenhouse gas emissions, but there are no smog producing nitrogen oxides, no acid rain producing sulfur dioxides, no asthma inducing fly ash, and no poisonous mercury. Skip Bowman, the nuclear industry spokesman quoted in the article knows just how clean nuclear power is – he is a retired submarine officer who has spent several years sealed in small ship underwater with a nuclear power plant within 200 feet of him at all times. I did not spend as much time at sea as ADM Bowman, but I have shared that experience and cannot be dissuaded from my understanding of just how much cleaner nuclear power is than its fossil fuel competition.
When it comes to the residues, I challenge the description given by many antinuclear activists that the nuclear industry leaves a “mess” behind. The used fuel is carefully stored and monitored, it is not discharged into the air and water like the residues of fossil fuel power production. The plant operators are required to put aside money for decommissioning their plants after operation – there have been several in the US that have already achieved near greenfield status after shutdown. That used fuel material is a potentially valuable raw material – it still contains 95-97% of the initial stored energy of the material. We are still in our infancy when it comes to refining our processes for improving the reusability of the material, but we have not thrown away any yet – we are saving it for the future.
If I had the visibility that Skip Bowman has, I would be asking about the NRC fee structure and budgeting rules. As currently designed, applicants must pay the US Treasury dearly and immediately for the service of NRC regulation, but the NRC does not get the money directly. When there is a rapid increase in demand for regulatory services, the NRC has to beg Congress for additional resources and often has to wait several years before those resources (funds) arrive. This delay time between the Treasury receiving the fee payments and the NRC receiving the funds delays the hiring and training of new people and is going to cause a long and expensive line to form for the NRC’s services.
Some activists belittle the contribution that nuclear power can make to averting global climate change, but the need for energy is not a fad. It will not disappear. Long term, sustainable action needs to be taken. Nuclear power could make a more rapid contribution if the regulatory, engineering and industrial support was already in place, but years of antinuclear activism have played a role in reducing the infrastructure. It is going to take time to recover and grow, but the investment is necessary and worth the effort.
Rod Adams – www.atomicinsights.com