Skip to main content

No Energy Pecking Order Necessary

A theme developing among a lot of writers is the notion that if some country in the world decides to abandon nuclear energy, the alternative pickings leave a lot to be desired.

But the alarm in Japan and globally belies the fact that nuclear power plants, in the approximately half a century that they have existed, have caused fewer deaths than another common source of power production: coal.

Frankly, it’s too soon for defensiveness – always too soon, really.There have been plenty of politicians who have not been shaken from their conviction that nuclear energy  has to be part of any energy policy that seeks to reduce carbon emissions - I’ve quoted quite a few of them here over the last few days - and keep up with world demand for electricity generation. On Thursday, for example, UAE broke ground on its first nuclear plant.

Coal plants pose an even larger threat than mining, however: pollution. Coal plants emit soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants.

The concern now should be finishing the job at Fukushima Daiichi, getting Japan back on its feet and letting Tepco and the Japanese government get to the bottom of what happened at Fukushima. All that is not going to happen tomorrow or next week or next month. 

While natural gas plants burn their fuel more cleanly than coal plants, people who live near drilling sites have complained about air and water pollution stemming from exploration.

All the other nuclear energy plants all over the world, including those in Japan not shut down by the earthquake last week, are thrumming along quite well, making electricity safely and cleanly.

That is because renewable energy, too, has downsides: The wind does not blow all the time, and wind farms can occupy substantial amounts of land. Solar power is expensive, and it does not work all the time, either. Hydroelectric dams kill fish.

The attempt to establish a pecking order for energy sources that put nuclear energy on top (or at the bottom, depending on perspective) isn’t really necessary. Not yet, likely not ever.

Comments

Joffan said…
"letting Tepco and the Japanese government get to the bottom of what happened at Fukushima"... I can save them a bit of time - it was a tsunami.

OK, OK - there's more to find out. There's boatloads of details to uncover and consider. Contingencies that could have been made. Designs that could have been different. International lessons that might have made a difference. Implications of, and responses to, releases (and I expect, sooner or later, a Japanese equivalent of Yablokov claiming spuriously large numbers affected).

But at bottom - unlike Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island - it was a very extreme nature event that overcame mulitple defenses. Which should not be forgotten.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Ex-Im Bank Board Nominations Will Turn the Page on a Dysfunctional Chapter in Washington

In our present era of political discord, could Washington agree to support an agency that creates thousands of American jobs by enabling U.S. companies of all sizes to compete in foreign markets? What if that agency generated nearly billions of dollars more in revenue than the cost of its operations and returned that money – $7 billion over the past two decades – to U.S. taxpayers? In fact, that agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), was reauthorized by a large majority of Congress in 2015. To be sure, the matter was not without controversy. A bipartisan House coalition resorted to a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver in order to force a vote. But when Congress voted, Ex-Im Bank won a supermajority in the House and a large majority in the Senate. For almost two years, however, Ex-Im Bank has been unable to function fully because a single Senate committee chairman prevented the confirmation of nominees to its Board of Directors. Without a quorum

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org . We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy. So, what's changed? Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need.  You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals.  We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page. Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward,  all blog posts will be published in the News section , along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just l

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

The South Texas Project As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief. Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas. STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry. The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women : “STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their famil