Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Have China and Russia Stolen the Nuclear Thunder from the U.S.?

wall-street-journalThis is startling: Lenin and Mao referenced in a pro-nuclear energy op-ed written by Eric McFarland of the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation at the University of Queensland:

The ghosts of Lenin and Mao might well be smirking. Communist and authoritarian nations are moving to take global leadership in, and profit from, the commercial use of nuclear power, a technology made possible by the market-driven economies of the West. New research and development could enable abundant, affordable, low-carbon energy as well as further beneficial products for industry and medicine.

This is published in the Wall Street Journal, so the goal may well be to wake up the capitalists from the dolorous slumber.

Governments are right, of course, to monitor and tightly control the application of nuclear energy, as they do chemical and biological weapons. But the well-intentioned systems, agencies, regulations, legislation, safeguards and bureaucratic mass that have been applied to every aspect of nuclear technology since its inception have tended to prevent us from realizing its full potential.

Um, well, that should wake them right up – free marketeers view regulation with considerable suspicion, and it’s true that domestic nuclear energy has many, many regulations from many, many agencies to contend with. Finding the balance between safety and regulatory priority is a prime interest of the industry – and of the regulators, too – but I’m not sure regulation can be debited for not allowing nuclear energy to realize its full potential. That’s the argument, which the editorial carries a little further.

Globalization is real. Preventing the innovators in Western democracies from creating new cost-effective technologies using nuclear reactions won’t prevent it from being done. It’s ironic, but given America’s ever-burdensome nuclear regulations, it will likely be engineers from nondemocratic, authoritarian regimes like those in China and Russia who will be free to design the safe and cost-effective commercial nuclear technologies of the future.

I’d probably also focus more on markets, a WSJ thing, because reforming them to recognize nuclear energy’s value as a reliable and emission-free energy source would bolster the argument considerably.

Again, this is meant to wake up quiescent capitalists. The case seems overstated to me, but, as the editorial says about regulators, the intention is good. It’s worth a full read to see what you think.

1 comment:

Marcel F. Williams said...

First of all, since many companies are actually international entities rather than national entities-- they really have no loyalty to America and to the American people.

Its actually up to-- the Federal and local governments-- to create an environment in which nuclear power can successfully grow.

Of course, since the Federal government actually owns its own public utility-- the TVA-- it could actually lead by example by selling off all of its fossil fuel assets in order to raise revenue for building more domestic nuclear power plants for the production of carbon neutral electricity.