The recent Op-Ed in the Times notes that countries that have focused on the development of nuclear power have done more to reduce carbon emissions than countries that have focused on clean energy. The authors further state that:
“Nuclear waste is compact — America’s total from 60 years would fit in a Walmart — and is safely stored in concrete casks and pools, becoming less radioactive over time. After we have solved the more pressing challenge of climate change, we can either burn the waste as fuel in new types of reactors or bury it deep underground. It’s a far easier environmental challenge than the world’s enormous coal waste, routinely dumped near poor communities and often laden with toxic arsenic, mercury and lead that can last forever.”
So let’s look at this.
First, I agree that nuclear plants can be run safely: Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island not withstanding…
However, as is often the case with nuclear power advocates, they omit the relative risk factors. While it is true that extracting and burning fossil fuels causes significant environmental harm and harms communities, they ignore the extraction costs to the environment, the storage costs, the risk costs and the long term harm that can be caused by nuclear waste.
That total volume of nuclear waste in the “Walmart” is dangerous to human health for about 210,000 years if it contains Plutonium. The claim of safety storage in swimming pools is beyond comical. Oh it is safe right now, but really, for 210,000 years?
And, guess what, the cost is borne by us..
The cost of decommissioning the only failed plant in the US is now projected at more than $1 billion. Is that cost factored into the cost of the plants?
Finally, as is generally espoused by energy generators…meaning those that want to generate power, the authors completely ignore the value of reducing energy consumption through effective conservation strategies…If we don’t use the power in the first place, there are no costs for extraction, consumption and storage…
Of course, people who support continued use of fuels of all types are opposed to any form of subsidy for renewable power or conservation, but they are in favor of subsidies for nuclear, coal, oil and gas..
How far would $1 billion go in reducing consumption?
Read the full article:
Nuclear Power Can Save the World
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.