Nuclear Power, Getting Perspective - Other Concerns
Some of the anti-nuclear arguments I've heard recently obviously haven't been thought through, the same questions haven't been asked about alternative power sources, or the opponents are deliberately misleading the public.
One big complaint is that nuclear power plants only last a few decades and then must be dismantled.
Do the people who make that complaint mention how long those giant wind turbines will last? Do they (or you) even know what the design life cycle of a wind turbine is?
A major manufacturer Vestas says theirs should last 20-25 years. Offshore installations 20 years.
The next time you see a giant wind turbine farm consider how much of it can be recycled in 20 years when they wear out.
Because of technical advances even the 30-40 year old reactors are running longer than expected and new reactors will run for 60 or more years.
Do you really think solar panels will last 60 years? How about giant mirror solar farms? If they do last that long, how much water will it take to keep them clean enough to work?
Another complaint is that nuclear reactors generate dangerous waste. True, but physically not very much and a lot of that can be recycled into fuel and was until President Carter stopped that program, Gen III reactors produce much less waste, many people have been killed or injured by sludge lakes from coal-fired plants.
Are rechargeable batteries hazardous waste? How about the old technology lead acid battery in your car? Any idea how the total volume of discarded toxic rechargeable batteries compares to the volume of nuclear power plant waste? Sulfuric acid can kill you too. So can lead.
Just when was there a radioactive material spill from the waste at a U.S. nuclear power plant?
Coal fly ash piles litter the landscape in some areas and, as happened at the TVA Kingston power plant on December 22, 2008, these toxic waste lakes sometimes break free and destroy acres of land.
The Kingston TN spill covered 300 acres and flowed into a river. West VA alone has 20 similar coal ash slurry impound lakes.
Another stated concern is that nuclear power plants can only run at full power. Simply false. Actually a modern reactor can run at 25% rated capacity and ramp up to 100% in 30 minutes or less.
Nuclear power plants take too long to construct, 7-10 years. Japanese ABWR reactors were certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission long ago and take 48 months to build.
Renewable power is better. In some cases it probably is but it is very land intensive and you really wouldn't want to live next to a wind farm.
Then there is the law of unintended consequences. We may not even know all the potential downside of relying on too much renewable green energy.
One time people thought hydroelectric power was perfect, but it turned out there are a lot of problems with dams.
Coal was once considered a wonderful fuel IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND.
The fact is that alternative or renewable power today supplies about 5 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. Total solar, thermal, and photovoltaic electric generation hasn't even doubled from 1997 to 2008.
How about radiation dangers from nuclear power? Cell phones emit radiation. Some of them are at the very upper permitted limit. Do you still use one? Have you tested your home for radon? How about X-Ray machines? Ever had an X-Ray? Have any plans to shield your house from cosmic rays?
Yes, nuclear power can be dangerous. So can falling in the bath tub, or driving a car, or crossing the street. In fact, so far ANY of those have been MORE dangerous to both nuclear power plant workers AND those who live near the plants.
The sad fact is that EVERYTHING is dangerous. Too much food, or too little. Too much sun, or too little. Even staying inside and staying in bed all the time will eventually kill you.
Unfortunately, the very latest medical research shows that everyone is going to die although most people (and not just teens) act as if they don't know about that and seldom worry about what is most likely to be dangerous. Despite all the concerns about pollution and even cancer, you are most likely to die of heart failure. Does that make everyone exercise, take aspirin, and eat right?
The basic energy technology choice we have to make in the very near future is whether we follow the example of France and even China by producing clean nuclear energy as fast as we can build power plants; continue to burn coal and natural gas; or hope we can quickly go from getting 4% of our power from wind and solar to 90% or more in a few decades.
When you hear people complaining about nuclear reactors remember that someone is against EVERYTHING, whether it makes sense to others or not. A lot of the time they have hidden agendas and make their arguments by ignoring or seriously injuring simple facts.
Know any Amish? Nice people the ones I know, but they have a LOT of medical problems and many get around technology issues such as the need for cell phones or cars by using English neighbors or employees.
Some animal activists vehemently believe YOU shouldn't keep animals for pets or eat meat. Do they reject all medicine for themselves or all cosmetics? ALL medicine has been animal tested and most or all cosmetics too; if not recently, then all the components were at one time.
Some people believe that mining the metals for and manufacturing solar and wind power equipment is somehow different from mining uranium and that the mills and factories don't pollute.
Do some environmentalists who complain about oil use fly all over and take limos to speak about why people shouldn't use cars or airplanes?
Would you rather live in a world with smart educated people, lots of energy, and little pollution (call it the Star Trek Universe); a world where we fight over any oil left (Mad Max); or a world where ONLY some people's concept of green technology is permitted (Soylent Green)? Even worse, how about a world ruled by a theocracy or people who put their personal beliefs ahead of YOUR family's welfare?
How about a sensible mix of energy sources and common sense conservation to reduce the need for more energy?
Instead of complaining that nuclear power plants cause some water to evaporate, why not complain about people who irrigate lawns with drinking water so they can emulate 18-th century English estates?
Why is it so hard to get permits to build a nuclear power plant but still legal to sell or use a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. How many have you replaced with CFLs?
Just how are we going to recycle those gigantic wind turbines?
John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.
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