HERE'S A figure that may surprise you. Two-thirds of Americans now support building more nuclear power plants. That's an increase of more than 20 percent in the last year and a half.
California is once again a trendsetter for the rest of the nation - the trend, in this case, being an upsurge in approval of nuclear power.
It's a cliche, but it's true: some things are easier said than done. While Americans (including the president) may say that nuclear energy is an important fuel of the future, it's "getting it done" that will be the accomplishment.
Some in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have offered proposals that represent a different way of getting reactors sited. Pending legislation would allow the possibility of using existing Department of Energy sites like the Savannah River Site as locations to demonstrate and operate the next generation of American commercial nuclear power plants.
WE SUPPORT SRS as a commercial nuclear site. If we're serious about nuclear energy, there are some obvious advantages to a location like SRS. Consider:
SRS may be the most characterized site in the country, an enormous existing advantage where licensing is concerned.
Despite the fact that SRS no longer operates reactors, much of the infrastructure to support a nuclear power operation is already in place: environmental monitoring, training facilities, emergency preparedness, physical security, etc. Significantly, skilled craft and technical staff are already here.
The Central Savannah River Area is centrally located amid universities that have nuclear engineering school resources - South Carolina State, North Carolina State, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, and Clemson. These universities would supply the engineering talent necessary to support operation of these reactors.
We're in proximity to the Southeastern power grid. This would help forestall energy supply problems in the Southeast.
Most significantly, using SRS offers the best chance to avoid the common "not in my backyard" syndrome. The Savannah River Site has been in our backyard for 50 years. Communities around the site have actively supported the site's work and missions throughout that period. Sixty percent of the electricity in South Carolina, and about 20 percent in Georgia, comes from nuclear plants.
CERTAINLY, THERE are those in the United States who will continue to oppose anything nuclear, anytime, anywhere. However, in the long term, we cannot run this country without nuclear power if we want to maintain our standard of living.
Unlike other methods of energy, nuclear power contributes virtually nothing to acid rain, smog, heavy metal contamination of our environment, or global warming. And, it releases less radioactivity to the environment than a coal plant of similar size.
THE TIME for nuclear technology is here, and SRS is the right place at the right time.
(Editor's note: The writer is chairman of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.)