Thursday, April 11, 2013

“A great boon for the benefit of mankind”


Whether or not NEI is involved, we’re sure to see coverage, even celebration, of the 60th anniversary of the domestic nuclear energy industry. C.T. Carley of Mississippi State University decides to be the one that gets it going with an op-ed:

Now, 60 years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his historic “Atoms for Peace” address to the U.N. General Assembly, history has shown that the world has benefited from nuclear energy.
That’s pretty nice. More, please:
“A great boon for the benefit of mankind” is on the horizon if that energy is harnessed for peace. His [Eisenhower’s] proposal took the form of an ambitious Marshall Plan for nuclear energy, a program of international pooling of nuclear technology and fissionable materials.
The editorial goes on to mention the five reactors being built here and 68 other ones being sited around the world.
Nuclear plants supply more clean energy than any of the alternative power sources. Despite billions of dollars in government subsidies for renewables, the combined output from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources currently meets only 4 percent of our nation’s energy needs. By contrast, nuclear power supplies around 20 percent of our electricity and 70 percent of our carbon-free power.
I’d probably go easier on our renewable cousins. Comparing a fully mature industry with one that’s fairly nascent in this manner can bite you back in the fullness of time. Let’s just say that nuclear energy was well positioned to do some good when the problem of climate change  arose. And very well positioned to do more good.
The conclusion:
A new generation of small modular reactors — competitive with natural gas and designed for safety and limited use of water — will be necessary to extend the benefits of nuclear energy in the United States and abroad. The rewards will be substantial.
I’m sure we’ll see some rather less positive views of nuclear energy as the 60th anniversary goes on. But this was a nicely done description of the nuclear machine that President Eisenhower set in motion.

1 comment:

Ernest said...

About the nascent renewables industry.

The first working photovoltaic cell was a selenium based device. It was created by Charles Fritts in 1883. The first windmill used to generate electricity was built in Scotland in July 1887 by Prof James Blyth. The first nuclear reactor to generate electricity was Experimental Breeder reactor (EBR-1) at Argonne National Laboratory. It was started up in December 1951.

The first utility-scale windmill went into service in 1941 in Castleton, Vermont. The first commercial photovoltaic cells were introduced to the market in 1955. The first experimental prototype nuclear power plants went online in 1954 and 1957. The first fully commercial nuclear power plants went online in 1960.

Nuclear power is as nascent as renewables if not moreso. No one knows exactly how technology will evolve in the future, but right now it is looking like nuclear power holds vastly more promise for future refinement and improvement.

Happy birthday nuclear power!