Tuesday, March 22, 2011

All Around the Country: More Editorials

natchez-ms An editorial from The Herald Times Reporter in Wisconsin takes a reasonably concerned stance:

Sara Cassidy of the Point Beach plant said the facility's design and maintenance are based on the worst-case seismic scenario for the plant's location.

And Mark Kanz of the Kewaunee nuclear plant said its owner, Dominion Resources, would review all of its safety systems.

They all are comforting, albeit predictable, statements.

Comforting, we hope, predictable, maybe, true, yes.

In this case, however, we put more stock in the past than in what might happen in a future impossible to predict. The Point Beach and Kewaunee facilities have, for the most part, had clean safety records since going online in the 1970s.

There have been occasional glitches, but they were thoroughly examined by the NRC and corrective measures were taken. None of the instances rose to the level of seriously compromising public safety.

We can be thankful that current and previous management of the local nuclear facilities has been, if not always stellar, at least proficient to the point of keeping the plants operating safely and efficiently.

I’ll bow to local media on how “stellar” management of the plants have been – though I suspect that’s a newspaper’s watchdog instinct at work – it’s really the conclusion that counts:

We hope that nuclear power, with ongoing and thorough oversight, will continue to be part of the nation's energy landscape for many years to come.

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The Natchez (Miss.) Democrat takes the same tone as the Wisconsin paper and for the same reason: there’s a nuclear plant in the neighborhood. But like Wisconsin, the tone here is concerned and supportive:

Thus far the track record in the U.S. has been good.

In terms of human lives lost, coal mining and oil and gas drilling have proven far more deadly to the workers involved in their production than nuclear energy production.

However, it’s the threat of being harmed by invisible radiation associated with nuclear energy that gives many people fear.

Most of us know we’ll rarely be in a coal mine or on an oil rig in the gulf, but the notion that radiation might seep into our lives and harm us is enough to worry even the most calm among us.

When the current crisis has passed, we hope our nation — and the world — considers bolstering the already stringent nuclear regulations to help avoid another crisis in the future. By all accounts, our world needs the potent energy creating aspects of nuclear power, but we need to continue our excellent record of safety.

Let’s leave to one side that American regulation didn’t play a part one way or another in Japan – the desire to see that regulation is strengthened here at home is certainly valid. The editorial board at the Democrat might want to go over here to learn more about radiation.

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The Washington Times is not known for nuance. This editorial takes up the issue of Yucca Mountain:

President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise to his radical supporters by zeroing out funding for Yucca Mountain in his fiscal 2011 budget last year. Then his energy secretary, Steven Chu, tasked nuclear energy backers with finding a different disposal solution.

This is true except for the whole “radical supporters” bit. To the Times, “radical” just means ideologically left of center and even that’s a stretch in this instance.

The O [for Obama, I guess]  Force is pursuing an unrealistic energy policy that is free of nuclear power and anything that emits carbon dioxide.

Well, we agree with the basic premise of the editorial that Yucca Mountain may warrant another look, but the haze of ideology is awfully thick here. Obama has been quite explicit – many times – about his support for nuclear energy, so the Times just seems way off base.

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The Times’ editorial, though, did lead me to wonder whether the idea of a second look at Yucca Mountain might be picking up energy. So, a bit. Here’s an op-ed from Dennis Burney in the Chicago Tribune:

Scientific studies concluded that the best burial site is under Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert. Congress approved and required ComEd and other nuclear power customers to pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund to finance disposal.

But Burney really has other advice to offer:

But no more studies are needed. There's a technology, called the Integral Fast Reactor, that could produce abundant, safe, environmentally friendly and less expensive nuclear power. IFR supporters said it would provide an inexhaustible and domestic fuel supply, while solving the spent-fuel problem.

I’ll let this one alone – it’s interesting to see the discussion. Doesn’t really count as a Yucca Mountain revival piece, though.

Downtown Natchez – maybe on a Sunday.

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