Wednesday, January 16, 2008

nuclear energy and the debates

I wrote a comment regarding nuclear energy from the post below, but it was so long I thought it'd be a good idea to repost it here.

A lot of people involved in the debate about nuclear energy aren't informed about the mechanics of nuclear power and its benefits. Its not a perfect solution, but it offers a reliable, safe, and extremely well regulated source of power. If you have doubts, look no further than the U.S. Navy which has operated nuclear reactors for over 50 years.

Regarding the Democratic debates, I went to a John Edwards rally over the summer and became dissatisfied with his energy policy after his adamant refusal to support an increase in nuclear energy. I'm not a one topic voter, but I feel so strongly about the benefits nuclear power holds that I wrote him off.

Ultimately I think education of the public will help to alleviate the barriers of building new reactors in the U.S. There is a stigma against nuclear energy after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, but education about why there were disasters involving the reactors needs to be done. Additionally, advances in reactor design, waste management, and heavy regulation by the NRC have addressed those problems.

I really believe that nuclear energy should be looked at seriously for the future.

David Wogan
http://davidwogan.us

2 comments:

Alix Broadfoot said...

I think nuclear energy is a good option to the energy mix our country will have to develop in the future, but I have my doubts. Not as much about the technology, but the policy. Senator Harry Reid says "The proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is never going to open." I don't see any solutions to the storage problem being developed by our policy makers that will appeal to everyone, or even enough people to pass in Congress.

David Wogan said...

You have a great point. No one wants a nuclear waste dump in their backyard, town or state. But at the same time, a lot of people aren't aware of what goes into a nuclear waste site. Most of the nuclear waste produced in the U.S. is in the form of medical waste. The things that go into the biohazard bins in the hospital rooms have to go somewhere, as do components for x-ray machines etc.

I really think the bottleneck is in education. Educating the public on what exactly makes up radioactive waste, how long it takes to decay etc.. will go a long way in shaping the policy debate. Most people don't know that you receive a higher dose of radiation from a cross country flight than those on site at Three Mile Island, for example.

As for finding a policy option that deals with radioactive waste, I agree in that I don't know if anyone will ever want a site built in their backyard. Yucca Mountain has tons of problems with regard to financing and schedules, but at the end of the day no one wants a site near them.

The sad thing is that this isn't confined to just nuclear waste sites. An article from the NYTimes (free registration required) a few months ago talked about how residents of New York state wanted greener power options, but no one wanted wind turbines built along the mountains because they ruined the view.

Everyone wants clean power but no one wants it near them.

The solution for nuclear waste is in advanced reactor designs that burn up waste, reducing the amount that needs to be stored long term. Will we have a policy decision that incorporates this, or storage?? Who knows.