Could a move to green nuclear power be the most important change resulting from the big changes in Washington?
President Obama has always been mildly in favor of nuclear power since it is the greenest technology known – zero carbon emissions, relatively tiny amounts of waste, and, unlike every other energy technology, doesn’t have to rely on foreign suppliers.
Of course Obama defeated a very pro-nuclear Republican candidate who had many supporters in Congress.
Unfortunately some very vocal radical “greens”, the ones who aren’t bothered with actual facts and numbers, were among Obama’s coalition supporters so he had to talk about wind power (which we now know requires generators built in China with Chinese rare earths), solar electric panels (again made in China with Chinese resources and the manufacturing process is highly polluting), and conservation which has mainly been focused on CFL lights (again made in and using Chinese rare earths) and hybrid cars (which require Chinese rare earth metals).
All electric cars are a total non starter without nuclear power because today charging an electric car (all of them are built using Chinese technology and magnets) means generating electricity mainly with coal. Electric cars aren’t non-polluting, they just shift the pollution to a power plant and a lot of the power is lost during the generation and transmission process.
Fortunately now that Obama can get congressional action in favor of building nuclear plants from the Republicans such as Michigan Rep. Fred Upton who is strongly pro-nuclear and is expected to become the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The United States’ public, having almost no scientific education thanks to our wonderful educational system, have been scared of safe, clean nuclear power ever since Three Mile Island, the worst civilian nuclear accident in the U.S. – one where there were exactly zero deaths or significant injuries.
China and India are building nuclear power plants as quickly as they can and, although the U.S. was once the world leader in this technology, we sold off most of the companies and today the French are building most power plants – reasonable since more than 90% of the power generated in France is nuclear.
Russia is also building nuclear power plants both at home and elsewhere including Iran.
Even the few nuclear projects permitted in the U.S. have been unable to get funding to start construction.
Furthering the upbeat view of nuclear, in the October 15 issue of Rolling Stone, President Obama said of the need for nuclear power and green technology, “We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation.”
Anyone watching uranium itself or other nuclear stocks recently has seen gigantic moves, even Uranium which was under $10 a decade ago and hit a high of about $130/lb. just before the economic crash, has recently surged 10% and is back around $53/lb.
The Babcock and Wilcox design of a self-contained modular nuclear power plant which can just be loaded onto a truck and moved where needed, promises to be a tremendous development if it ever gets through the approval and licensing process.
The power plant would arrive pre-charged with fuel ready to provide up to 745 Megawatts of electricity for up to 5 years before being refueled. The waste would be stored in the facility for the 60-year expected life of the power plant.
Eventual disposal would be simplest if we just put the waste back in the already radioactive mines the uranium came out of in the first place.
Each of these small, modular B&W reactors would, according to the company, save 57 million metric tons of CO2.
Not only would the reactor be built in the U.S., since they would be standardized and made in a central location quality control is simple.
Other U.S. jobs would be created at the installation site – these would be standard construction jobs since all the critical components arrive pre-assembled.
See the following stories for details about TMI and other nuclear issues:
For those interested in stocks either for investment or as a way of monitoring public sentiment and world demand for nuclear power, check out the uranium mines – if even half the projected number of new reactors are actually built (China plans to build scores) then we are on the verge of a major fuel shortage which could last for up to a decade until older mines are reopened.