Nuclear reality

I got an email related to the current discussions on national energy policy. I have been a supporter of nuclear energy going back to the ’70s and now I think it’s an even better idea, in spite of all its potential problems. Here is what I had to say.

--- "Jennifer Giegerich, WISPIRG State Director"  wrote:

> Dear WISPIRG supporter,
>
> Today, the U.S. Senate begins consideration of the anti-environment energy
> bill, and some senators are threatening to make the bill even worse.
>
> Senators John McCain (AZ) and Joe Lieberman (CT) may offer an amendment to
> the energy bill that includes massive government handouts for the nuclear
> power industry to build the first new nuclear reactor in the U.S. in 30 years
> as part of an amendment aimed at reducing global warming pollution. We can
> meet our future energy needs and reduce global warming pollution without
> increasing our reliance on nuclear energy, which is dangerous, expensive and
> creates more nuclear waste that we have no way to store safely or get rid of.

I am a paying member and long time supporter of your organization, however I
really disagree with your point of view on this topic. I live in Green Bay,

within site of a large coal pile and downwind of the output of the Pulliam
power plant as well as an industrial stack. Between coal dust from the piles
and output of the stacks, I have to breathe this every day. I have to clean it
off my house every day. The consequences are real, and they are real now,
something that is not the case with the 2 nuclear power plants within 30 miles
of my house.

Based on the resistance of neighbors to wind power, and it’s overall limits for
production in Wisconsin, I don’t hold much hope that this will be a significant
source of energy, as appealing as it is. Similar story for wave power whose
environmental impact would be unacceptable to me. Even with some dramatic
conservation efforts, I don’t see electricity demand shrinking. While small
scale solar power is very worth pursuing, the land acres required for it to
compete with chemical forms of energy is something I find worrisome on a large
scale.

We can make significant efforts on our overall energy policy in regards to oil
consumption, but most of those involve shifting the needs to other forms of
energy, electricity high among them. True whether you favor hybrid cars, fuel
cells, ethanol or other biomass solutions, they all require electricity to
produce the portable form of energy needed in the vehicle. I believe we could
cut our oil demand (probably not more than 1/2) if we enforced strict gas
mileage requirements, which I believe we should do NOW. The demand for
increased electricity production remains even with an oil reduction though, so
short of building more natural gas (PLEASE save that for my furnace), oil (just
say no), or coal plants (see above, see the mining devastation in the west), I
see nuclear plants as the least evil of many hard choices.

The *potential* impacts of nuclear plants are worse by far than with other
forms of energy production, however these potential problems have not been
significant *compared to* the existing real problems of the alternatives. I
breath the coal dust and ash now. I breath carbon monoxide now. Oil will run
out within my children’s lifetime. The snow line is moving north all the time,
affecting my favorite outdoor pastime. The arctic is melting now. It’s time for
environmental groups like ours to make a realistic plan for a long term energy
policy instead of believing that just by resisting the current energy companies
with their history of bad decisions, that any real problems will be solved. The
policies WISPIRG and others support can at best only slow the hard decisions
about what to do, unfortunately prolonging the existing problems rather than
building a complete vision of a long term strategy that could actually work. I
think nuclear power should be in that vision along with a set of inspired plans
for dealing with the waste. The waste is a huge problem, but not bigger than
the combined size of a Montana strip mines, Green Bay coal piles, coastal oil
slicks, melted artic tundra, lost Atlantic shoreline, sunken pacific islands,
forests and lakes lost to acid rain or wars fought to “protect” our oil supply.
Please consider making some of these hard choices when you formulate your
policies going forward.

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