By Robert Hargraves
Democratic president Franklin D Roosevelt proclaimed at his 1933 inauguration, “…the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
In years past Republican presidents were conservative stewards of the environment. Theodore Roosevelt started National Parks. Nixon created the EPA. George H.W. Bush moved to stem acid rain.
Who now dares to conserve our planet, while advancing all its people’s prosperity, with ample new nuclear power?
During the CNN climate town hall the leading Democratic presidential candidates opposed nuclear energy. The two fearless supporters trail in polled public support.
The candidates’ Green New Deal illustrates the political maxim “never let a crisis go to waste”. Reducing CO2 emissions is buried under trillion dollar promises to guarantee jobs, health care, housing, healthy food, improved infrastructure, and reduced industrial pollution.
Our climate-energy crisis is not national; it’s global, so the Green New Deal can’t solve it. Even the UN IPCC Paris agreement can’t reduce emissions enough; it falls short by a factor of ten.
Rich nations won’t stop their emissions while letting developing countries advance by burning ever more coal. Coal burning is the most rapidly expanding power source on the planet, because it’s reliable and cheap. But fearless developing nations would use nuclear energy sources if we make them cheap enough and accessible enough.
Greens had hoped to power us with wind and solar, but these intermittent energy sources require supplemental power. That assistance normally comes from burning natural gas that emits about half the CO2 of coal. Batteries that might store intermittent electricity are too expensive by a factor of ten, particularly for week-long energy supplies.
The Fearless Green Deal relies on cheap new nuclear power. The million-to-one energy density advantage of fissioning uranium makes it intrinsically cheaper than burning coal.
New North American ventures are now combining proven technologies like liquid fuels, metal alloy fuels or coated particle fuels to allow higher temperatures and passive safety. They’re taking advantage of advanced manufacturing technology to drive nuclear energy costs below those of fossil fuels.
Technology developers can build cost effective, full-time power plants emitting no CO2. If permitted to, they could export them to developing nations, improving their energy-hungry economies. As the newly energized, fearless countries prosper and compete internationally, all nations will seek the economics of new nuclear power.
Clean, cheap, reliable power will encourage electrification of transportation, industry, and commerce. Fuel burning, CO2 emissions, and global warming will be checked. Why not?
Many citizens have been taught to fear nuclear power, though it’s proven safer than all other energy sources. The UN reported no one was harmed by it at Fukushima. Cancer rates did not rise in the years after Chernobyl. No one has been harmed by used fuel.
Yucca Mountain, Holtec cask storage, and Deep Isolation boreholes are all adequate nuclear waste solutions. Why is radiation so feared and nuclear power so expensive?
The media headlines trivial radiation releases. Greenpeace, NRDC, and other environmental organizations publish scare stories to attract donations from fearful people. These nonprofits also accept money from the oil and gas industry, a competitor to future nuclear. There are plenty of monetary motives for spreading fear.
Regulatory bodies such as EPA and NRC have accepted public fears and seek to prove their merit by continually lowering limits. They claim they are protecting the public, but decades worth of studies have shown that modest radiation exposures are not harmful.
Requirements designed to reduce already safe exposures raise costs for nuclear power.
Modest radiation is not to be feared. We live in a background of natural radiation from cosmic rays, granite, radon, and even potassium in our bodies. Life evolved at much higher radiation levels. Moderate radiation has the same ionizing effect within our cells as breathing oxygen. Biology evolved all creatures to adapt to such insults. Radiation exposures forty times background reveal no harmful health effects.
Medical practitioners have known for centuries that it’s the dose that makes the poison, yet EPA policy is that radiation is proportionately harmful, no matter how low the dose. The policy conflicts with science; over a thousand published papers document the safety of low dose radiation and explain biology’s adaptive response.
By policy, not science, EPA and NRC require all radiation exposures to be ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable), well below low, mandated limits. Regulations have doubled and redoubled the cost of nuclear power. ALARA philosophy cements fear of all radiation in the minds of the public.
The EPA is taking an important step to counter global warming, reviewing “the dose response data and models” of radiation effects in its Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science effort.
EPA recently appointed Dr. Brant Ulsh to chair its radiation advisory committee. Ulsh is an experienced health physicist whose careful studies led him to question EPA’s radiation policy and no-safe-threshold model of harm. Other scientists have petitioned NRC to replace all regulations dependent on the disproven EPA policy.
The Fearless Green Deal is a cost effective strategy for reducing emissions and promoting widely distributed prosperity.
- EPA completes review of existing science of health effects of radiation and then sets safe radiation limits based on science and observation. These replace the uninformed, elementary assumption that all radiation permanently harms people.
- NRC complies with EPA limits, ends ALARA, and revises all regulations accordingly.
- Energy subsidies and preferences are phased out.
A globally competitive new nuclear industry will then rapidly emerge to compete with coal and other fossil fuel energy.
The Fearless Green Deal harnesses economic self-interest to check CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, reduce energy costs, increase US exports, and help developing nations prosper.
The Fearless Green Deal uses private capital to greatly amplify public investments in fundamental technology. Half the public already supports nuclear. Who would dare to oppose the Fearless Green Deal?