Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Promise of Nuclear (or Nukular) Power

If there's one thing that "gets my goat" about environmentalists, it's their aversion to anything that could help the environment. Mention solar power, wind power, or biodiesel and they get all happy. Mention nuclear power or ethanol and they start to have seizures. There is virtually as much power in one pound of enriched uranium as in 3 million pounds of coal. Solar power and wind power are nice supplements, but you would have to build arrays larger than the Mojave Desert to power Las Vegas alone. I have some "solar solutions" as well, but lets stick to the nuke plants.

Europe and Asia use Nuclear power for the bulk of their energy needs. Fission power plants produce less air and water pollution than coal plants. Their greenhouse emissions are on par with natural gas power (primarily from the production of the fuel rods). They are expensive to build, but are less expensive to operate than any other type of power plant. The bulk of cost goes to employment which is good for the economy. Sure sounds horrible.

The one downside (other than up front construction costs) is the idea of waste disposal. Seeing barrels of nuclear waste is enough to make the most conservative environmentalist cringe. But think of the alternative. If coal power waste was treated nearly as carefully as it should be, there would be thousands of barrels of waste for every one barrel of nuclear waste. Nuclear power's political downfall is its most admirable aspect: Containment. The net environmental impact coupled with job creation and more energy independence (most of our uranium ore comes from Canada) makes nuclear power the best alternative for our ever-expanding energy needs.

It's not perfect. No energy source is. But until hydrogen fusion becomes a reality, we will need many more nuclear plants to help the environment and "fuel" economic development. Somebody just needs to grow the cajones to make this point on the national stage.

No comments: