Thursday, August 24, 2006

Penn. Representative Has Some Questions About Nuclear Energy

Over at Daily Kos, Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen is asking some questions about nuclear energy. Though he's a long-time opponent going back to the days of Three Mile Island, he's got some questions about where the industry stands now:

The questions now are: Is Nuclear Power safe enough to be expanded? Has the technology and training of nuclear power workers been so improved that there are no longer threatening problems of human incompetence? Is Yucca Mountain an achieveable destination for nuclear waste? Can waste be reliably transferred to Yucca Mountain in Nevada without dangerous risks to the public health? Are there still problems of escessive water use by nuclear power plants? How many of the problems of nuclear safety widely discussed in the late '70's and early 80's have been eradicated? Is expanded nuclear capacity a risky target for terrorists, or merely a manageable problem?

And what about cost problems associated with safety? Are the costs of nuclear safety now manageable so that it can be achieved without raising prices sky high in the long run?
It would be great if our readers could stop by and add their two cents. All I ask is that you be respectful. That's especially so in this particular case, where I'm actually encouraged by the tenor of the debate that's been sparked by Cohen's post.

As I've said before, nuclear energy isn't a Left/Right issue anymore, and many of the comments over at Daily Kos seem to support that contention. Even better, this is only one in what has become a series of posts where nuclear energy has shown more support than many might expect. Click here, here and here to see more of what I'm talking about.

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Kirk Sorensen said...

If by "nuclear" they mean conventional pressurized water reactors fueled by low-enrichment uranium in a once-through fuel cycle, then we don't have many changes to report to the "listening left". LWRs still require the conventional levels of capital investment per megawatt, they still produce electricity at about 35% efficiency, and they still discharge about the same amount of high-level waste per megawatt hour.

There have been substantial improvements in plant capacity factor and radiation release (which was already small to begin with). Also "passive safety" has gained greater visibility in projects like AP-1000, ABWR, and so forth.

But "nuclear" aka LWRs haven't changed much since TMI-2. If they didn't like it then, maybe global warming will make them like it better now. Maybe not.

robert merkel said...

But you also have 20-25 more years of evidence that:
a) that nuclear plants aren't going to blow up every few days.
b) The more apocalyptic claims about the damage wreaked by Chernobyl have turned out to be gross exaggerations.

There's also much greater awareness of the damage (and not only global warming) wreaked by the alternatives, particularly coal, and it's gradually dawning on some that the alternatives favoured by the greens (solar, wind and gas) have substantial issues of their own.