Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on September 24, 2008
Is it just me or when you hear the words “Three Mile Island” you think of a nuclear disaster? Though that label may be technically correct, the truth is not one person died at Three Mile Island. Not one person was even injured.
I may have only been 5, but I am usually a somewhat more astute historian, as I thought Three Mile Island was some sort of nuclear holocaust. I thought there were at least some people who melted. To say that someone’s publicity team didn’t do a very good job of spinning that story is perhaps an understatement. If I’m your average consumer, and you add Chernobyl into the marketing mix, you’ve got yourself one very wary nuclear public.
Which is one reason that nuclear power—the darling resource of the 50’s and 60’s—never took over as the nation’s premier power source. However, as the shocking reality of burning coal and other carbon-based fuels becomes more and more apparent, so too does the upside of the nuclear notion, namely clean efficiency delivered on a grand scale. Efficient enough to produce just 2% to 6% of the CO2 of natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels. Grand enough that the U.S. Navy currently powers 10 aircraft carriers and 71 submarines using nuclear technology. And safe enough to do so without any incident (or at least none they’ve told us about). Because of these facts, there is a big-time nuclear revival going on, with 14 new reactors currently going up across the globe and both of America’s presidential candidates interested in pursuing such aims (obviously to varying degrees).
But one recent study doesn’t think the nuclear renaissance is a very good investment at all. Last month, long-time energy expert Amory Lovins, released his report “The Nuclear Illusion” which found that the numbers for nuclear just don’t add up. According to the report, while the renewable energy industry generated some 71 billion dollars in private investment last year, not one green dollar from Wall Street went into the nuclear industry. The big bagel. Nodda. Zilch.
While people’s fear of nuclear power seems to be somewhat relieved, there are plenty of other reasons the industry appears to be a bad investment. Though the high cost of producing a plant may be offset with generous government subsidizing, our inability to discover a suitable atomic wastebasket, an aging and diminishing nuclear workforce, and the fact that not one insurance company will insure the operation makes nuclear a risky bet. Lovins’ study suggests a balance of renewable energy, movement away from the central energy plant, and adopting small-scale (even residence-scale) plants would be the cheaper and more efficient solution.
But unfortunately, Capitol Hill is more afraid of investing its capital in renewable than in nuclear because many believe we require more energy than the prevailing winds and beams will allow. The truth is we need to get off carbon-based power and move on quickly before posh protective suits and designer gasmasks become part of the upcoming fall line.
Nuclear power is proven to work, and the powers that be are in the business of keeping their power. The reality is we need power to power that power. We need more power than we use, because much of what our freedom is based upon is the display of power’s potential. Like it or not, nuclear is part of the means of achieving such power. But strength is only one part of our ideal. Innovation is another. Nuclear is by no means the only option. To stay in power, to ensure such ideals, our source of power must always depend on a balance of power.