It certainly could help. We are rapidly depleting the world’s supply of fossil fuel. We must find an alternative soon. Nuclear power plants already supply 15 percent of our electricity. It is a clean source of power, and once we figure out how to store the spent fuel (which is toxic for centuries), I see no reason for not increasing the use of nuclear power by at least a factor of 10. There are not many alternatives.
“Nucular energy” (as the president likes to call it) will be reasonable once we exhaust the options of solar, biofuels, wind and conservation. The southwestern United States is prime territory for solar energy with our 300-plus days of sunshine per year, so why is it so underutilized? Why is there no Department of Alternative Energy? When our country has a comprehensive, comprehensible energy strategy, then we can take a look at where nuclear energy fits. Nuclear energy, like oil, is good for corporate well-being, but alternative energies create lots of jobs for lots of people all over. There is no good reason that America is not leading the world in the development of alternative energy. Splitting atoms should be considered a last resort.
There are more than 100 nuclear reactors currently operating in the United States. They are potential targets for catastrophic terrorist attacks and vulnerable to rare, but dreadful, accidents. They are absurdly expensive to build and operate, and produce highly radioactive waste that requires secure storage for thousands of years. I think we need to phase out our nuclear energy program and simultaneously reduce our demand for fossil fuels. This will be difficult for sure, but can be done if we successfully develop renewable energy sources and become more efficient consumers.
I believe the only reasonable way to meet the nation’s energy needs is with renewable alternative energy. If renewable energy were given the same subsidies and protections given to the coal/oil/nuclear industry, it would prove to be extremely cost effective. With no subsidies for anybody, wind power can compete right now with the coal/oil/nuclear industry, and it has no negative health and environmental impacts.
Right now there are proposed loan guarantees for new nuclear plants for $8.5 billion while further subsidies cover the costs of transporting and protecting radioactive waste. This money should be used to fund research and development for wind, photovoltaic and solar power as well as for tax incentives for consumers who change over to renewable alternative energy.
What’s reasonable about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? Yucca Mountain’s transportation routes will bring radioactive waste from this country’s 65 operating reactors, none of which are up-to-date, dangerously close to communities across the nation. And, the NRC announced last week that pieces of highly radioactive fuel rods are missing from a Vermont reactor. Nuclear energy, originally touted as cheap, safe, and nonpolluting, is foolhardy. The reasonable alternatives are to stop wasting time discussing the pros and cons of nukes, use nonrenewable energy sources conservatively, and make renewables more accessible.
I do not presume to possess the knowledge to convincingly discuss either side of this issue. Creating useful, safe energy from uranium, plutonium, breeder reactors and integral fast reactors is far too sophisticated for the lay person to discuss beyond emotional discourse. One thing I am quite certain of, however: It is imperative for the United States to do whatever it takes to lessen our dependency on foreign oil and fossil fuels. Period! We have the technology to maximize the use of renewable energy resources. Let’s create clean, safe energy with the same fervor and ingenuity we have shown in our creation of weapons of mass destruction. That would be a good thing.
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