It continues to frustrate me that mainstream environmental groups cannot bring themselves to change their political alignment to include acceptance that nuclear fission power is a real alternative to fossil fuel combustion. I feel like I have so much in common with most members of the Sierra Club – I love the mountains, spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors, want to protect our national parks and forests, desire clean air, fight for clean water, and enjoy hobbies like backpacking, cycling, and kayaking. I have met and spoken with a number of rank and file members of the organization who have a more open attitude about fission power – for the most part they have been curious and interested as I shared many of the reasons why I am such a passionate atomic advocate.
Unfortunately the official position and all produced literature from the Sierra Club either opposes or completely ignores nuclear fission as means of producing electrical, heat or motive power. In the above video, I agree with nearly all of the message – except when the guy lists the options for replacing coal without even a word about nuclear fission.
Marcel Williams over at New Papyrus published a post last Sunday pointing to a great article comparing two power plants located about 20 miles apart and producing roughly the same amount of electricity. One is the Kingston coal plant that was the source of a 5 billion gallon flood of coal ash sludge in December 2008, the other is the Watts Bar nuclear plant that has been the recipient of many years worth of protests by groups claiming to be concerned about the environment. The author does a great job of comparing the millions of tons of deadly waste products released to the environment every year from the Kingston plant against “waste” that has caused such a large amount of concern at Watts Bar over the past couple of decades:
In 2007, the Watts Bar nuclear reactor produced 26 tons of waste, with a total volume of 3.5 cubic yards. This is in the form of dense metal-oxide pellets, stored (for now) in long metal tubes or “fuel rods,” that are mounted in metal racks and immersed in water.
In a well-guarded building, somewhere on the 5-square-mile grounds of the Watts Bar plant, there is a concrete-lined pool smaller in area than an Olympic-sized swimming pool that holds all the used fuel rods from the plant’s history of providing electricity to 650,000 Tennessee homes, with enough room to keep future spent fuel for at least another decade.
If I total up the waste production listed for Kingston, I get 11,578,271 tons per year. Even a math challenged liberal arts major should be able to get the idea that 26 tons is just a bit smaller.