Friday, February 29, 2008

Orlando Sentinel Says Nuclear Should Not Be 'Scapegoat'

Here's what an Orlando Sentinel editorial has to say about the role of the Turkey Point nuclear plant in the Tuesday blackout...

Our position: Nuclear energy shouldn't be used as scapegoat in this week's massive blackout

Critics of nuclear energy were barking up the wrong power pole when they blamed reactors at Turkey Point for the blackout Tuesday afternoon that cut off electricity for millions of Floridians.

The reactors shut down, as designed, when a West Dade substation caught fire and a circuit breaker there failed to contain the problem. The loss of power from the reactors caused outages to spread across the grid that draws and distributes electricity from all of Florida's utilities.

Like the massive power outage that struck multiple states in 2003, Florida's blackout is another reminder of the vulnerability of America's aging electrical infrastructure. U.S. customers endure many more blackouts than their counterparts in countries that have modernized their grids.

Opponents of nuclear power contend the latest blackout shows Florida is too dependent on huge reactors such as the ones at Turkey Point, and that plans to add nuclear capacity in the state will deepen the dependency. But for now, the only alternatives that would keep pace with Florida's growing energy demand would be more plants fired by coal or natural gas, huge producers of greenhouse gases.

Energy sources that don't produce those gases or radioactive waste, such as wind and solar, need to be developed to be more viable in the future.

Conservation also is crucial to get the most out of Florida's generating capacity.

Meanwhile, nuclear energy is needed. And whatever the state's power mix, it will take improvements to the grid to give Floridians more protection from blackouts.

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