An editorial in the 6 November 2005 issue Morning Sentinel online (a publication “serving Maine’s Northern Kennebec Valley”) discusses how the famous independence and self-reliance of New Englanders has been threatened by their thirst for energy fuels imports into the area. The authors encourage the region to think about its strengths and to apply those strengths to developing new energy supply systems that reduce the area’s dependence on imported coal, oil and gas.
It is interesting to note how one real and proven option is “damned with faint praise”. As recently as the early 1990s, nuclear power plants provided 50% of New England’s electricity; continued plant construction could certainly have increased that portion. If the momentum of the 1970s and 1980s had been continued by now, New England could have been exporting power to its neighbors like the power hungry state of New York.
Instead, the regions decision makers have shut down nuclear plants in the face of rising demand and increasing prices for natural gas; the region’s electricity rates average 36% higher than the rest of the country and nuclear power supplies about 25% of the electrical power. Surprisingly enough, there are still many forces pressing for even more nuclear plants to be retired and the editorial authors claim that “politically, the issue is so radioactive that periodic relicensing of existing facilities may be challenge enough”.
I hope it is a mild winter – if there is a stretch of severe cold, the prices for heating oil, natural gas and electricity – which is increasingly produced by burning gas – are going to skyrocket.
There are plenty of excellent nuclear plant sites in New England and there is a large contingent of nuclear trained workers from both the commercial industry and from US Navy programs in Groton, CT and in Portsmouth, NH. These assets should be part of the solution to New England’s growing energy woes.