This section of DiscoverTheNetworks examines the issue of nuclear power, its feasibility as an energy source, and the environmentalist Left's obsession with banning it despite the promise it offers for helping to resolve the energy crisis.
By any measure, the U.S. lags far behind other industrial countries, none of them noted for environmental recklessness, in nuclear power. Nuclear energy currently provides about 20 percent of America's electricity, with 100 nuclear plants located at 65 sites in 31 states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By contrast, 80 percent of France's energy needs are supplied by nuclear power. For Belgium, it is 54 percent; Sweden, 46 percent; Switzerland, 41 percent; and Japan, 34 percent.
In the post-World War II years, the U.S. was the world leader in nuclear power design and construction. But since the Three Mile Island accident near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979, there has not been a new nuclear plant built in America -- largely as a result of pressure from environmentalists. In that time, the nation’s dependence on foreign oil has deepened.
Radical environmentalists ignore the fact that new nuclear power plants offer a regime of clean energy and energy independence. Moreover, new licensing processes Congress has authorized would ensure that safety concerns are addressed up front, before the construction begins.
Environmentalists’ tunnel vision keeps them from seeing that nuclear power reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; for example, it accounted for 54 percent of the voluntary GHG reductions in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The nuclear industry claims it kept 681.9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the air in 2005 -- the equivalent of taking 96 percent of all passenger cars off the road.
Former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman believes the safety concerns regarding nuclear energy are radically overstated. "People who fly airplanes every single day are exposed to more radiation" than from nuclear plants, she said. "They [the nuclear plants] don't pose a threat to human health. It's minimum radiation." Indeed, a person would have to live next door to a nuclear power plant for more than 2,000 years to get the amount of radiation exposure someone gets from a single X-ray, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group.
Also, "nuclear plants are bad targets for terrorists," said Whitman. "It's the most highly regulated power in the country and they are deemed to be one of the safest places to work because they are prepared for an attack. If a plane flew into the facility, it would not cause a mushroom cloud."
Nuclear power plants have numerous built-in sensors to monitor temperature, pressure, water level and other safety indicators. The sensors are designed to shut down the plant immediately and automatically, if problems occur. Because of these precautions, nuclear plants are safer work places than most other manufacturing plants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A 2004 University of Chicago study on the economics of nuclear energy found many positive aspects, but also noted that nuclear power will require government subsidies. But other industries are buttressed by taxpayer dollars as well. "We subsidize all energy," said William H. Miller, professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Missouri, told Cybercast News Service. "Nuclear is not unique. The same people who are against subsidizing nuclear power want to give tax credits for hybrid cars."
Adapted from the September 25, 2007 article, "Nuclear Power Can Help Solve US Energy Concerns, Say Experts," originally published by CNS News and written by Kevin Mooney and Fred Lucas