Critical Section


think green, think nuclear

Sunday,  02/20/05  04:42 PM

If you're a regular reader you know that I'm a green in wolf's clothing.  I think we must get better at preserving our environment and slowing our consumption of natural resources.  And I also think - gasp! - that nuclear power is the key to this.

clean nuclear energy		Wired magazine's February issue has a great article on this point of view: Nuclear Now!  You should read the whole thing, but here's a taste:

"In the years since [Three Mile Island] we've searched for alternatives, pouring billions of dollars into windmills, solar panels, and biofuels.  We've designed fantastically efficient lightbulbs, air conditioners, and refrigerators.  We've built enough gas-fired generators to bankrupt California.  But mainly, each year we hack 400 million more tons of coal out of Earth's crust than we did a quarter century before, light it on fire, and shoot the proceeds into the atmosphere.

"The consequences aren't pretty.  Burning coal and other fossil fuels is driving climate change, which is blamed for everything from western forest fires and Florida hurricanes to melting polar ice sheets and flooded Himalayan hamlets.  On top of that, coal-burning electric power plants have fouled the air with enough heavy metals and other noxious pollutants to cause 15,000 premature deaths annually in the US alone, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study.  Believe it or not, a coal-fired plant releases 100 times more radioactive material than an equivalent nuclear reactor - right into the air, too, not into some carefully guarded storage site.

"Burning hydrocarbons is a luxury that a planet with 6 billion energy-hungry souls can't afford.  There's only one sane, practical alternative: nuclear power.

Amen. 

The Wired article has an interesting sidebar: Green vs. Green, which discusses the current state of Green opposition to nuclear power.  I've always been amazed that people who are anti-fossil-fuel aren't pro-nuclear power, but perhaps there is an education gap.  Nuclear power is not even the same thing as nuclear energy.

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