Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nuclear Power Trouble Closer to Home

The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan was a jolt to many nuclear power proponents, including some environmentalists who reluctantly backed the power source as a way to ameliorate the crisis of global climate change.  Officials of the U.S. nuclear industry were quick to offer assurances that U.S. nuclear plants did not face the potential circumstances that caused the crisis in Japan.

But today's news about a Nebraska nuclear plant that is threatened by flooding of the Missouri River raises new--and most likely previously unimagined--concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants in this country.   Aside from potential flood damage to nuclear plants, the lack of a reliable means to permanently dispose of spent fuel has long troubled me.  Spent fuel is commonly stored "temporarily" (read:  indefinitely) on site at most U.S. nuclear plants--many of which are "bulging at the seams."

I realize that there is not yet a fuel source on a large scale that is a panacea, but I wonder why energy conservation seems to be anathema to many Americans, and especially elected officials on the right.  An urgent program of energy conservation should be the first step in solving this country's energy crisis.  Conservation is the cheapest form of energy, and at a time of ongoing economic challenges, saving money by using less energy helps businesses and households.  And then let's push for dirty fossil fuels to reflect their true costs to society.  People respond to incentives, and having the right energy incentives could make a big difference and put this country in a better position to compete with the rest of the world, which has gained a big lead in sustainable energy and economic policies.

Steve Lehman

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