Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nuclear Bills Pass Washington Senate

No, not Washington, D.C., the one on the other coast.

A couple of weeks ago, we noted that a Washington state senator named Sharon Brown had introduced a couple of bills into the legislature to promote nuclear energy. (The state hosts the Columbia Generating Station.)

Sometimes, these bills drop off the news radar – they don’t get out of committee or run up against the end of a session – but these did move.

By a 27-to-21 vote Friday, the Senate sent a bill to the House that would have the [state energy] department find places to build and ship small modular reactors. Also Friday, the Senate voted 44-to-5 in favor of establishing voluntary nuclear education programs in schools.

These were sponsored by Republican state Senator Sharon Brown and clearly saw some bipartisan action – the Senate is split down the middle, with Republicans in control. The House has four more Ds than Rs, pretty close to even.

Which doesn’t mean there was no partisan action:

Sen. Brown said that Oregon, Idaho and Utah are talking about small modular reactors. “Where is Washington state in these discussions?” she continued. “We have the human capital. We have the ability.”

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, countered that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not approved any small modular reactor designs yet. And he noted that the nation has not nailed down where to put used nuclear fuel from its more than 100 commercial reactors, plus from Hanford’s defunct plutonium reactors. “Yes,” McCoy said, “it is carbon-free. … But when you burn it, you’re creating wastes.”

Arguable points, certainly, though I don’t have the impression there’s really much of a conflict. But you know newspapers – there isn’t  a story without he said-she said, in this case, literally. At least, the anti nuclear brigade isn’t hauled in.

On to the House!

2 comments:

Carl said...

We are proud of our nuclear energy heritage. Sen. Brown carries a strong message for nuclear energy in new SMR builds and STEM education. Sustainable abundant carbon-free electricity is the goal.

Anonymous said...

There is no "he said, she said" about nuclear power. Nuclear power is a scientific fact and a highly regulated industry that creates massive amounts of electric energy that we use every day and the amount of waste it creates is miniscule. So, let's talk about used nuclear fuel. The problem with used nuclear fuel is that it needs to be periodically "overhauled," which we refer to as "reprocessing," to take out the material that has been used and is now blocking the still good part from producing fissions (heat). Used nuclear fuel is probably more valuable, pound for pound, than gold. You can rest assured that it is not going to be dumped into a hole and left to rot. It will be STORED at Yucca Mountain until it is reprocessed into new fuel to be re-used, then reprocessed, then re-used, on and on and on, until there is nothing left but a few pounds of waste. The used nuclear fuel already in existence contains enough energy to provide ALL of the electric needs of America for generations to come, without ever manufacturing another single fuel element. So, why haven't we started reprocessing? After all, several other countries do it regularly. Jimmy Carter and his pal in the Senate, Frank Church, decided to ban reprocessing and special reactor design, called a "breeder reactor," back in the sixties because they were afraid that being able to reprocess nuclear fuel would encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons. LOL! Well, today, many third world nations, especially those whom Carter and Church intended to prevent from having them now have nuclear weapons. The horse is out of the barn. We no longer have a reason to not reprocess nuclear fuel but the prohibition is still in place. Congress will have to act to remove it. Once that is done and all the used fuel is moved to Yucca Mountain for temporary storage, a fuel reprocessing plant will be built there and start reprocessing used fuel. It will not remain there for millions of years, as the Chicken Littles like to claim. At Fukushima we saw four 1950s era nuclear reactors deprived of all power and cooling for a very long time. Did we see the "China Syndrome" as predicted by Jane Fonda? No. What we saw was an irrefutable demonstration that nuclear reactors are safe and do not represent a threat to public health and safety. Even after the absolute worst beyond-design-basis accident scenario predicted and imposing them on these ancient designs, nothing happened. Nothing. Well, a lot happened to Tokyo Electric Power Company, which is having to clean up the mess but not one single person was killed or injured by radiation from Fukushima. Not one. In a literal sea of death and destruction, not a single injury was caused by nuclear reactors, even after they suffered massive damage. Compare the nuclear energy safety record with ANY heavy industry and you will see that it is one of the most benign industries in existence. Why on earth wouldn't we choose nuclear as our national electric energy source? This way, we can drive electric cars in good conscience since we will know that the electricity used to charge our batteries is not being generated by burning coal, oil, or natural gas that pollute the air, water, and soil. Just saying.