Yes, Nuclear

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
I believe that global warming is the most serious threat humanity faces. So we need to use every possible technology we can to replace energy sources that put greenhouse gases into the air. This includes nuclear energy.
One big problem with nuclear is figuring out what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. But here’s the thing, when we burn coal and oil we’re just putting the dangerous waste product into the air and it is destroying the planet. So we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good — nuclear waste is not destroying the planet and fossil-fuel waste is. We simply have to replace coal and oil as our energy source.
Climate change is an emergency. We need to do everything we can. This means we need to put up every windmill we can, every solar panel we can, every solar power plant, biofuel and geothermal facility that we can. We need to retrofit every building to be energy efficient, switch to electric cars, stop eating meat that is not grass-fed. We need to do research into finding ways to sequester carbon from coal. And we need to build nuclear power plants. What part of “everything we can” did I miss?
Please, let’s make this a discussion. Please join the discussion and leave a comment with your thoughts on this.
As we proceed with this, we need to learn some lessons from the past. As we build a new generation of reactors there are some things that need to be clear from the outset.
Make them safe. This means a highly regulated effort, not a free-for-all for profits. Tax dollars are involved, and even if they were not public safety must be the primary focus. Newer reactor designs eliminate Chernobyl-style “meltdown” fears but we need close supervision by government. We need the government “meddling” and “interfering” and “snooping” every step of the way. We, the People need to be sure that every best practice is followed and no corners are cut to make a buck.
Buy American. If we are building nuclear power plants we should regulate that they create American jobs, not offshore in China or anywhere else. There are federal funds guaranteeing loans for these projects and they should specify that we Buy American. Use American –made components, right down to the steel. China’s and other country’s governments are helping their own economies, let’s us help our own economy this time.
There are also safety concerns for Buy American. We need very close inspection of every component and material that is used in these plants. How would we monitor the manufacturing of the components and the quality of the steel if it is done outside the US? Do you remember the faulty welds in the Chinese components that shut down San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last year?
Protect the environment. There is also the environmental impact of making steel in China and then shipping it versus making it here — in our highly productive steel industry. China creates three times the greenhouse emissions when they make steel that our own steel plants create. This is one reason their steel costs less. What is the point of building nuclear to lower greenhouse gas emissions and using greenhouse gas-creating processes?
So I say Yes, Nuclear, and make sure that we use Big Government oversight to keep it safe, create American jobs and mostly to protect the environment.

Global Warming – Serious

Salon has an article today, Calculating the global warming catastrophe, that I recommend everyone read. This is the most important subject. It is vastly more important than our election, except that our election offers a way to start doing something about the problem. We only have a few years to turn things around. (To see it I had to watch an ad for a car that doesn’t get good fuel economy…)
HOW serious is the problem? The article quotes one scientist who says it is already too late and makes a dramatic worst-case prediction,

Human beings, a hardy species, will not perish entirely, he says; in interviews during his book tour, Lovelock has predicted that about 200 million people, or about one thirtieth of the current world population, will survive if competent leaders make a new home for us near the present-day Arctic. There may also be other survivable spots, like the British Isles, though he notes that rising sea levels will render them more an archipelago. In any event, he predicts that “teeming billions” will perish.

Others, however, say that we are heading that way, BUT we still have 10 years to turn it around.
The article says – along with many scientists – that the only way to really address the problem is to start replacing our power plants with nuclear power plants right now.

It’s to the question of solutions to mitigate the effects of global warming that Lovelock eventually turns, which is odd since in other places he insists that it’s too late to do much. His prescriptions are strongly worded and provocative — he thinks that renewable energy and energy conservation will come too slowly to ward off damage, and that an enormous program of building nuclear reactors is our best, indeed our only, real option.

I believe the problem of where to put nuclear waste pales in comparison to what we face – and what we are doing now is just dumping the waste (CO2) from burning fossil fuel into the air.

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