Skip to main content

Lamar Alexander and Natural Nuclear Energy

55520310 We always like to hear what Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has to say about nuclear energy. Now, obviously, that has something to do with his all-in attitude – in fact, his call for 100 nuclear plants in 20 years shows him to be quite a fan – but does not pitch every other energy source our the window. Well, maybe he does a little, in this op-ed co-written with Health Physics Society’s Theodore Rockwell:

Make no mistake — solar, wind and other “renewables” have their own environmental impact as well. Solar and wind farms will occupy dozens — even hundreds — of square miles to produce ordinary amounts of electricity. The Nature Conservancy has labeled this “Energy Sprawl.”

What he says here is true, but, if care is taken, there’s a lot of territory in the United States in which to sprawl. His real argument, though, is that nuclear energy is “green” energy:

The natural case for nuclear power is compelling. Today nuclear power produces 19 percent of our electricity and 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity. Nuclear plants occupy a fraction of the land required for wind or solar and can be built in locations near where the actual power is needed rather than being transported from faraway places where wind and sunshine are stronger. And nuclear reactors operate 90 percent of the time while wind and solar are only available about a third of the time.

It’s a simple set of points, but the points are on-point, so to speak.

You can read the rest yourself, but here’s the conclusion:

When properly understood, nuclear energy is as clean and natural as wind, sunshine or any of the supposedly more “natural” alternatives.

We like the idea of “natural energy” – Alexander finds a way to join renewable (wind and solar) and sustainable (nuclear) clean energy sources in a way that makes sense.

---

Alexander and Rockwell start off their op-ed with a reference to the movie Avatar – a way to bring their audience into their arguments – and we were amused to see that this very popular movie has caught hold, at least a little, in the imagination of nuclear advocates. For example, here’s Jason Rebeiro at Pro-Nuclear Democrats:

We can see from the Avatar movie trailer and website the plot is set in the future where humans have traveled through space to a planet some 4 light-years away, Pandora, to recover a rare mineral that sells for $20 million dollars per kilo that yields a tremendous amount of energy.

His point?

Now that's interesting, we already have a mineral on Earth that yields a tremendous amount of energy that sells for around $50 a pound (.45 kilos), uranium.

Ribeiro goes on to make some good points and to question some of the science of the movie – the element unobtainium would seem to be unable to exist in the form we see it. This is what movies, and other arts, can do at their best – spark imagination beyond the contours of their own existence.

Sen. Lamar Alexander. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to do an Avatar photo.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …