It is standard mythology among many people that support the development of nuclear fission power that one of the reasons that it has seen limited application in the U. S. is that it came under attack from the “liberal” media. It is also an often repeated verse in the dogma of certain “conservative” publications that the New York Times is a bastion of that enterprise.
I happen to disagree with both of those assertions. People who are truly liberal in their thinking and concerns for others in this world do not dismiss potentially valuable tools for improvement of prosperity and the environment; nuclear fission is one of the most powerful tools that humans have devised to produce more freedom from want and from pollution associated with other forms of reliable energy production. The New York Times publishes articles and opinions that require thought, but I have never felt that its pushed one side of a story.
It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I read an op-ed column by Roger Cohen dated January 24, 2008 titled America Needs France’s Atomic Anne. (For Mr. Cohen, Anne Lauvergeon is a heroic figure who illustrates a major difference in atomic leadership between France and the United States.)
In just a few paragraphs, Mr. Cohen lays out a number of reasons why the U. S. should take another hard look at the expanded use of nuclear fission. He acknowledges that there has been some recent evidence of that taking place with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but he also points out that the current presidential election cycle poses some risk because of the variations in positions that the candidates are taking.
Here is a sample quote to whet your appetite for reading the column:
But the lesson of the post-9/11 world is that we have to get over our fears, especially irrational ones.
Nuclear power has proved safe in both France and America — not one radiation-related death has occurred in the history of U.S. commercial nuclear power. It constitutes a vital alternative to the greenhouse-gas spewing coal-power plants that account for over 50 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Thousands of people die annually breathing the noxious particles of coal-fire installations.
Of course, wind and solar power should be developed, but even by mid-century they will satisfy only a fraction of U.S. energy needs, however much those needs are cut. Hundreds of square miles of eyesore wind farms barely produce the electricity you get from a nuclear plant on less than a square mile.
“Nuclear power is the most efficient energy source we have,” said Gwyneth Cravens, author of “Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Power.” “Uranium is energy-dense. If you got all your electricity from nuclear for your lifetime, your share of the waste would fit in a soda can.”
Someday it will be possible for someone to publish a clearly written piece supporting the development of atomic power without a mandatory bow towards the sun and wind, but I like the way that Roger Cohen described the future that we would accept by creating a greater reliance on diffuse, weather dependent power sources.