Obama Finally Goes Nuclear

Nope, I’m not talking about political tactics…I’m just overdue on congratulating the President on finally embracing the inevitable answer if we are truly going to get serious about carbon emissions reductions: nuclear power.  I am delighted to finally see some real movement on the front.  Here’s the Dallas Morning News editorial board:

At last, a nuclear energy breakthrough.

It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of President Barack Obama’s plan to finance the construction of two nuclear reactors, the nation’s first in three decades. Regardless of the political risks of alienating the anti-nuke wing of his party, the move is the best effort in years to jump-start the nation’s long-stalled nuclear power industry.

Obama called for a “new generation of clean, nuclear plants” in his State of the Union address last month and is backing it up with $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees to a power company consortium in Georgia and more dollars in his proposed 2011 budget for nuclear energy.

Nuclear power in the United States has languished as the result of exaggerated fears of meltdowns, waste disposal controversies and financial concerns. As a supporter of nuclear energy, this newspaper hopes the industry will now have the confidence to make the $6 billion to $8 billion investment required to construct a nuclear reactor without worrying that the federal government will pull the financial rug from beneath it, as happened after Three Mile Island in 1979.

The president’s decision wisely acknowledges that nuclear power is the most practical way for this country to reduce reliance on dirty fossil fuels and to confront the issues posed by climate change. Solar and wind power will be part of the solution, but those alternatives can’t match nuclear energy when it comes to steady and massive electricity production.

For example, even though there hasn’t been a new U.S. plant since the 1970s, the nation still gets more than 20 percent of its electricity from the 104 nuclear power plants still in operation. Those plants also generate about 75 percent of all clean energy produced in the U.S., far more than wind and solar combined. And unlike coal, the nation’s main source of electricity, nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

CNN has an interview with an early environmentalist, Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, on his conversion to a disciple of nuclear power:

Brand says his turnabout began in 2002, when the Global Business Network, a consulting organization he co-founded, did a project on climate change for the U.S. Secretary of Defense. In an interview with CNN.com, Brand said the project showed him that the globe’s climate can change abruptly: “It goes over some tipping point and suddenly you’re in a situation that you don’t like and you can’t go back. That got me way more concerned about climate as a clear and present danger than I had been.”

Looking for a surefire way to cut greenhouse gases, Brand said the alternative to burning coal became clear: “We already had a very good supplier of …electricity. It worked like mad and was as clean as it could be — and that was nuclear.

“Looking at nuclear more closely made me look at coal more closely and I got to realizing what a horror it was across the board, and as I learned more about nuclear, I started learning all this stuff that my fellow environmentalists had been careful not to let me know about.”

It’s truly a no-brainer.  Yes, it’s expensive up-front - but long-term, it’s the only proven way to make massive amounts of clean energy at a reasonable cost…

3 comments to Obama Finally Goes Nuclear

  • Bob from Ohio

    it’s expensive up-front

    It doesn’t have to be as expensive as it is. The regulations and rules were made excessively complicated so as to deter new plants. Rules are often changed mid-stream requiring costly changes.

    That is why we need to guarante the debt. Otherwise, its too risky.

  • steve

    Meanwhile, the VT Senate votes not to extend the VT Yankee nuclear plant permit, effectively putting it out of operation.

  • Trey

    I disagree with Brand that we’re near any tipping point. Earth has had a lot of $%&* happen to it in the last 4 billion years, and it didn’t go the way of Venus.

    Either way, it’s good to hear some talk about nuclear power from a least some small fraction of the environmental community. (Another community that would surely brand me a heretic.) For more on the math behind wind and nuclear, see this.

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