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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A pragmatic arguement for Nuclear Energy

I've been saying for some time now that the environmentalists need to seriously come to terms with Nuclear energy. If we want to stop global warming then we must stop building dirty burning coal plants. Since we do not have enough solar, wind, or hydroelectric capacity to meet our growing electricity demands our only option at this time is Nuclear energy.

Those of us who are realists and are against global warming recognize two key things in regards to Nuclear energy. First and foremost, we must address the issue of nuclear waste storage. Shipping spent fuel across the country to a mountain facility in Nevada is a disaster waiting to happen. Secondly, Nuclear power is safer than coal fired power plants. More people have died over time from the emissions of coal plants than they have from nuclear plants. This is documented going all the way back to the 19th century. To this very day, people in China are dying from black soot because of the poor regulations in the rural areas of that nation.

Famed cleantech investor, Carnegie Mellon Alum, and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla agrees with me, and made my case for me in an interview he did with Earth2Tech a few weeks back. Here is an excerpt related to the Nuclear debate:

Earth2Tech: You’re well known for having big macro views as to how these things have to change. What do you think is the single biggest failure of American environmental policy that we could actually do something about?

Vinod Khosla: For every nuclear plant that environmentalists avoided, they ended up causing two coal plants to be built. That’s the history of the last 20 years. Most new power plants in this country are coal, because the environmentalists opposed nuclear. When you ask someone like the NRDC, ‘Do you prefer nuclear or coal?’ They’ll say ‘We prefer nuclear to coal, but we don’t want either.’ It doesn’t work that way; we need power.

They’d like to see wind and solar photovoltaics. Well, it doesn’t work if it’s 40 cents a kilowatt hour, and it doesn’t work if you have to tell PG&E’s customers: ‘We’ll ship you power when the wind’s blowing and the sun’s shining, but otherwise, you gotta miss your favorite soap opera or NFL game.’ That’s just the reality, so you have to be pragmatic about this. What is the most cost-effective way to do it?


FeButterfly said...

Thanks for your comment at my site today. I responded to you over there and then realized I could just come by here.

I understand the arguments supporting nuclear power and they are compelling. However, I don't believe that it is safe enough nor do I believe that it can be accomplished in a cost effective manner. If we moved to a distributed generation model and had solar, wind or other renewable sources at every home and office I think we could solve a lot of the electricity problems. The reason I feel this way is that our distribution infrastructure needs massive upgrading in North America. If we combine the cost of that with expensive new generating capacity the cost is too high.
Love your site and look forward to exchanging comments with you again.

Schultz said...


Regarding Nuclear, I agree with everything you said except the safety issue. From what I have seen and from what is happening right here in Western Pennsylvania, coal power plants are more dangerous and have taken many more times the number of lives than Nuclear has.

Nuclear is definitely costly, but right now we do not have other options. You mentioned our transmission infrastructure - a lot of the large scale wind and solar projects have to be put on hold because there aren't enough high capacity power lines in the areas where wind and solar capacity is highest. This is a problem with our grid - it is terrible, and we need to do something about that and I believe the next President of the United States has to seriously invest in upgrading or electricity infrastructure.

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