Monday, February 15, 2010

Obama decision on nuclear power is potentially volatile compromise

Certainly being president of all the people means having to do things that may disappoint your supporters but benefit the country as a whole. That, certainly, is behind U.S. President Barack Obama's repeated entreaties to the Republican Party minorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, despite his Democratic Party's majorities in both. And that probably explains his thinking Monday, when an unnamed official told the Reuters international news service that he would announce an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help the Southern Co. of Atlanta build two nuclear reactors. But there should be, one would hope, a limit to the number of basic principles you're willing to surrender. Healthcare reform appears to have been inadvisedly compromised away, so expansion of the civilian nuclear power industry would have been a very good place to start holding the line. There's a good reason no nuclear power plants have been built in the United States for 30 years -- even besides the nearly incalculable damage that a major accident could cause, nuclear waste disposal technology is not now, even after all these years, and obviously may never be ready for prime time. Yet Obama plans to put the federal taxing power behind a utility company to help it build two more reactors at an existing two-reactor nuclear plant outside Atlanta. Obama is backing nuclear power as an environmentally desirable alternative to fossil fuel plants, even though his decision will likely damage his pro-environment credentials. The loan guarantees will enable the Southern Co. to finance 70 percent of the new construction, which is expected to cost as much as $9 billion when the plants are completed in 2016 or 2017.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the building of these type of plants. Yea, there is a reason but the technology has become far safer then the early years. This form of power while risky, provides a benefit.

If you look at the environmentalist movements, Yes they do not like nuclear power because of the risks, they do not like wind power because it kills birds, they do not like the use of ocean turbines because it kills fish. Pick a form of power. Anything is better then the burning of fossil fuels.

Now my opinion I would choose one of the newer alternative forms of power production, Wind or solar over nuclear, but that means our government needs to quit spending money in foreign countries and helping fix them. Fix our country, invest in the technology, invest in the business trying to create wind and solar alternatives.

Barrett said...

Dear Nate,since money is the lifeblood of politics,I believe that Pres.Obama is hoping for a little slack from the Repubs visa vie the healthcare bill,by providing federal loan guarantees to the nuclear power industry,whom as you say haven't built a new nuclear reactor for 30+ years,even though this may outrage the environmentalists,nuke power is still cleaner than another group of coal fired units to generate power,plus one of the darlings of the 6o's,the father of the whole earth catalog Stewart Brand is record as favoring nuke power as the lessor of two evils.While you are right about nuke waste and where to store or put it,mining more coal and burning same is not an answer either. Barrett V.

Phil said...

I once did a research paper on the viability of nuclear power in the United States and the roots of resistance for it.

Basically, my research discovered that the major resistance to nuclear power is cultural fear. There has been no solid research presenting a link between a normally-operated, regulated nuclear facility and incidence of radiation or poisoning. The waste debate is centered on the future-looking hand-wringing concerned that some post-civilization society will stumble across Yucca Mountain and rub themselves with leftover plutonium.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates is going to TED talks and telling people that there's a way to use the depleted uranium we already have to power the world and the government isn't jumping on that.

There has only been one incidence of a deadly nuclear reaction from a power plant and that was Chernobyl, an incident that has been attributed to the Soviet Union's failed safety protocols and not an inherent risk with nuclear energy. It'd be like stopping the use of oil because of Exxon-Valdez. Plenty of oil liners are still allowed to cross the oceans even though there was one major screw-up.

This isn't a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike both resist the expansion of nuclear power. Meanwhile, energy experts in the cabinets of Bush and Obama both try to quietly push for more, knowing that we're reaching the end of the oil era. America needs a new source of energy to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and true alternatives and the longer we spend debating whether we feel any safer with nuclear power plants in our backyard, the heavier the reprecussions of the energy crunch will be, essentially guaranteeing that we won't reach green alternative energy sources in our lifetime.

Thanks for the comments, Nate and I encourage you to start checking for the more frequent updates on my new blog URL:

I'll go ahead and add you to my blogroll.