A much-needed nuclear power renaissance is sweeping the world

  • Follow Opinion columns

There is no doubt that a renaissance of nuclear power is under way in the United States and around the world.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses and regulates commercial nuclear activities, has received expressions of interest for building 32 new reactors. They have received four license applications for combined construction and operation, and several utilities have submitted Early Site Permits, including Southern Nuclear (Georgia Power) and Duke Power. Many countries are building new reactors or plan to, including Canada, Brazil, England, France, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Finland, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and others.

THE REASON IS clear. People have become aware that for several decades, nuclear power has had an incredibly good record of safety, environmental protection and low costs, and everyone wants a way to produce electricity that does not pollute. A wise person once said, "Facts are stubborn things." Here are some pertinent facts:

- Safety. No one has died from the radiation from power reactors, spent fuel or radioactive waste except in the Chernobyl accident, which could not happen anywhere else -- yet the only competitors of nuclear power, coal and natural gas, each cause several thousand deaths each year, worldwide, from coal-mining accidents, gas explosions and fires. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 30,000 people die prematurely each year in the United States from the emissions of coal-powered plants. Nuclear is safer by a huge margin, and the next generation of nuclear plants, already being built, will be even safer.

- Environment. The outstanding environmental record of nuclear power plants is becoming legendary. They have no emissions that make acid rain, smog, global warming, ozone depletion or heavy-metal pollution. Many professional environmentalists and ecologists support nuclear power. A partial list includes: Dr. Patrick Moore, founder and past president of Greenpeace; Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue; James Lovelock, considered the founder of the environmental movement; Anglican Bishop Hugh Montefiore; Friends of the Earth; and Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute.

Global warming is indeed occurring, and the principal human contributor is carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the burning of trees, coal, oil, and gas. Fortunately, we can do something about that without reducing our standard of living by going to nuclear production of electricity and using hydrogen for transportation. It is likely that the cheapest way to make hydrogen will be in nuclear plants.

- Cost. The operating cost for making electricity in nuclear plants is lower than any of its competitors. In 2006, nuclear plant operating cost in the United States averaged 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour, coal 2.37, natural gas 6.75 and oil 9.63. Since then, the cost advantage of nuclear over coal has grown in part because coal plants are spending money to reduce their emissions. If construction costs are included, nuclear is already competitive, and is expected to gain an advantage as the price of new nuclear plants comes down, and the cost and time to get licenses is reduced.

- Public support. Americans have become aware of these advantages, and are supportive of nuclear power. Several national polls show that 68 to 70 percent of adult Americans support building more to meet our growing need for electricity. Support among people living near existing nuclear plants is 87 percent, and among college graduates with a technical degree is 85 percent.

IN SPITE OF this, a small minority of anti-nuclear zealots are mobilized to oppose all things nuclear. They claim that even a tiny amount of radiation is dangerous. If that were true, we would all be dead from the 370 millirem annual "background" radiation that we all receive, without harm, from natural sources plus medical and dental x-rays. There is no evidence that our background radiation is harmful.

The anti-nuclear community also exaggerates the problem of used nuclear fuel. When nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it is stored in cooling ponds at the reactor site until its radioactivity had decayed enough to be stored dry at the site in large shielded casks on concrete pads. These operations are quite safe, and well protected from terrorist attack.

Ultimately, used fuel will be recycled. That will do several important things -- recover the remaining 95 percent of the energy value that is still there, greatly reduce the radioactivity in the final waste, and allow all of the waste for the next 100 years, or longer, to be disposed of in Yucca Mountain.

Anti-nukes incorrectly claim, based on a couple of epidemiological studies, that people living near nuclear plants have an increased risk of developing leukemia. The incidence of leukemia varies widely with location. When a location with high incidence happens to be near a nuclear plant the anti-nukes say "Aha! The nuclear plant did it!" This ignores the hundred of independent and scholarly studies that have concluded the opposite.

The nuclear renaissance is real. It already is occurring. And folks who want cheap electricity and a clean environment are happy about that.

(The writers are, respectively, the chairwoman of the board of directors for Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken, S.C.; and the executive director emeritus and a consultant for CNTA.)

Comments (14) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
DrGunby68
1
Points
DrGunby68 03/23/08 - 02:54 am
0
0
One problem...what is the

One problem...what is the cost per KWH when the recycling and storage costs are embedded. I'm for nuclear, but tell us the whole story.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 03/23/08 - 07:46 am
0
0
Nuclear power is the only

Nuclear power is the only viable solution for the immediate future. Yucca Mt. opens in 2020 for storage of wastes. Plus, techniques to recylce are being developed which may make things cheaper.

SCEagle Eye
959
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/23/08 - 08:28 am
0
0
This is the other part of the

This is the other part of the economics story, left our of the op-ed. The per reactor costs for an AP1000 unit are now between $6 billion and $9 billion each, according to information filed by Florida Power & Light in a Florida case. With these costs skyrocketing, Wall Street won't touch funding for new reactors and there is no demonstration that private loans are forthcoming. The feds have put up only $18.5 billion in loan guarantees in its socialist contribution, sufficient for only two units and with so many strings attached that they are essentially useless. As for reprocessing of spent fuel, this is another program in which private industry has no interest to fund. The program (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) is 100% funded by big-government programs and won't survive long once DOE changes. Why should the public fund this socialist program when reprocessing only magnifies the volume of nuclear waste and separates materials for which there is no use (no fast reactors and the separated uranium is contaminated and essentially unusable)? GNEP shall come crashing down and there will be a heck of a fight if GNEP-backers want to dump spent fuel at the two proposed GNEP sites.

garyfromvermont
0
Points
garyfromvermont 03/23/08 - 12:16 pm
0
0
The only reason the NRC has

The only reason the NRC has received 4 groups wanting to build new nukes is due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which says our tax $ will cover up to 80% of the first 6k megawatts of new nuke energy. No one knows what to do with the waste. Nukes are legally allowed to do the illegal- spew radiation to the environment. Regard the BEIR-7 report of the Nat'l Acad of Science. Start up costs mentioned by a previous comment and are a valid concern. Take away the immense subsidies and nukes fall flat in the market... no insurance available, propped up by subsidies, now they are propped up by PR campaigns. But economically they fail. I prefer my tax money pay for sustainable energy. Nuclear is not the answer to the climate change issue. Nuclear does pollute - just ask your neighbors in Barnstable SC. To enrich uranium for use in power reactors US enrichment corp. uses 2 -1000 Mw coal fired power sources. cfc 114 a far greater heat trapper ozone destroyer is released in the enrichment. Storing and protecting waste the requisite 100,000 years will consume fossil fuels. The industry "externalizes" what they do not want the public to see. Speak truth to power loudly and frequently.

fredinaiken
0
Points
fredinaiken 03/23/08 - 12:26 pm
0
0
Unless we reprocess nuclear

Unless we reprocess nuclear fuels and burn the extracted plutonium in power reactors the world will be cursed with over a thousand TONS of this devilish stuff spread all over this troubled globe essentially for ever. (Half life of pu-239 is some 25,000 YEARS!) It takes only several pounds of plutonium to make a city-burning nuclear explosive. Either reprocess and eliminate plutonium by 'burning' it into massive amounts of clean, low-cost, safe energy or countless numbers of terrorists will butcher millions with nuclear 'truck bombs'. Pray demand that anti nukes tell what they would do with plutonium before allowing then to strangle reprocessing and new reactor construction.

dwalters
0
Points
dwalters 03/23/08 - 02:26 pm
0
0
garyfromvermont, you are

garyfromvermont, you are wrong. The reason there are only "4 groups" is because these make up all the current nuclear operators in the US. There are over 32 notices to the NCR for new plants. 32 new, generation III reactors. That is not enough but it's a lot more than "only 4".

Secondly, any one involved in nuclear energy knows EXACTLY what to do with the waste. Anti-nuclear activists don't want to hear it but the "issue" of the "waste", which is only waste if you throw it away, is that it CAN be recycled, which is why this is only an issue in the US where as the rest of the world recycles it.

And about that spent fuel...no, "Nukes are legally allowed to do the illegal- spew radiation to the environment." would be funny for a someone so ignorant of the facts but it's serious when lies like these are spread. Unlike the solar and wind industry, unlike the coal industry, EVERY BIT of waste in the nucelar fuel cycle, from mining to processing to reprocessign and disposal is accounted for. Every bit. It is illegal NOT to account for it and it's illegal to "spew" it. Only the coal industry can do that.

David Walters

dwalters
0
Points
dwalters 03/23/08 - 02:31 pm
0
0
Lastly, nuclear has a BETTER

Lastly, nuclear has a BETTER record on safety and health than ANY energy industry, including wind and solar (which use 4 times the amount of material than nuclear does per KW). That's right, it therefore produced more waste than nuclear, albeit it is generally safer.
The FPL filing on cost is unexplained. No details. Nada. Zip. The TVA on the other hand has the SAME reactors coming in at 3 billion dollars. They are NOW building the same reactors in China, 6 of them. We will see the actual costs as time goes by.
Nuclear is the only way to end coal. Coal kills, and kills now. It produces CO2 and particulate and puts more uranium and other heavy metals into the enviroment than nuclear ever did, including chernobyl and thee mile island. We need to build about 300 new reactors and shutdown ever coal plant in the US.

Ony nuclear can do this since only nuclear is capable of reliable base load power. Wind and solar can't measure up in this regard.
David Walters

energytruth
0
Points
energytruth 03/23/08 - 02:54 pm
0
0
Nuclear power plants are so

Nuclear power plants are so expensive in the U.S. because Green fascists thwart their construction via countless baseless lawsuits and other maneuevers. As for nuclear residues, we should recylcle them and thus remove their most lasting and effective isotopes.

US leaders of the greens, but not most of their followers are overwhelmingly nothing more than recycled socialsits who hate the US and are doing their worst to destroy us. What better way to do this than to cripple our energy supply?

WE can build 2 gigawatt safe nuclear power plants at $2.20 per installed watt, with a capacity factor of 91% versus 19% for solar electric plants even in our deserts, and 28% in the windiest parts offhsore or within our land, but greens sabotage cause the tripling of the price of nuke plants. Unless they are stopped, the US will be destroyed.

Even countries, such as Saudi Arabia, embarked on programs to build nuke power plants, so they can energize their countries with nuke power and thus be able to sell increasing amounts of their oil at ever rising prices to the US and other nations , thus enabling them to directly or indirectly fund terrorism.

jack
11
Points
jack 03/23/08 - 06:06 pm
0
0
gary, show us the source that

gary, show us the source that says nuclear power plants are allowed to legally spew radiation into the atmosphere. I believe it is the other way around and enforced.

jack
11
Points
jack 03/23/08 - 06:07 pm
0
0
If yiou don't want nuclear

If yiou don't want nuclear power, quit whining about the cost of oil or the coal fired electric plants.

jack
11
Points
jack 03/23/08 - 06:08 pm
0
0
gary, show us the source that

gary, show us the source that says nuclear power plants are allowed to legally spew radiation into the atmosphere. I believe it is the other way around and enforced.

NotyourDadsBuick
1
Points
NotyourDadsBuick 03/23/08 - 10:10 pm
0
0
so?

so?

Da Voice Inside Your Head
7
Points
Da Voice Inside Your Head 03/24/08 - 08:27 am
0
0
Be t the anti nuke folks that

Be t the anti nuke folks that wrote above (gary from vermont) ain't from round here. When did they change the name of Barnwell to Barnstable? Looks like the same old talking points. If your going to debate the issue at least have your facts right!

SCEagle Eye
959
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/27/08 - 07:25 am
0
0
No major environmental group

No major environmental group in the US, including Friends of the Earth, has changed its position against nuclear power. Please present evidence to the contrary if you can. I'm missing the possible logic of one commenter about the risks of plutonium. So, separating weapons-usable plutonium and handling it in various facilities and then putting it in commerce, closer to the hands of the bad guys, is safer than leaving the plutonium in spent fuel protected by a radiation barrier and under secure storage?! If you want to pursue this risky path please present your plan for private funding, or will this program also depend on a big government handout? We'll be attentively listening for the private funding proposal of plutonium-use backers. So far, the only funding of which I'm aware is via the government. Please advise if the situation is otherwise.

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs