Nuclear energy? Turn the world green or our skin green?

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I know one aspiring nuclear engineer who says the evidence in favor of nuclear energy is so overwhelming that one educated on the issue cannot help but support it. Countries like France get an enormous amount of their power from nuclear energy. In Wisconsin, the issue has been reawakened recently, as Republicans and others who oppose restrictions on fossil fuels advance nuclear power as a business-friendly solution to environmental problems. Environmental groups oppose nuclear energy nonetheless. Rep. Mike Huebsch:

Rep. Huebsch said that the groups’ decision to oppose an integral piece of the global warming legislation being readied for introduction by Governor Doyle and Democrat lawmakers jeopardizes their ability to enact the environmental policy for Wisconsin.

“If these members of the task force feel they must pull their support from certain sections of the final recommendations, I would suggest other members are free to do the same,” Rep. Huebsch said.

The Wisconsin Sierra Club maintains that there “is a reason no new plants have been built in 30 years. Nuclear energy is dangerous to human health, economically unfeasible and not a carbon-free solution.”

Spin from both camps. First, Huebsch reveals the Republican strategy of proposing nuclear power and then giving up on any energy reform as soon as liberals reject it. The more the Democrats reject nuclear power the easier it is for the GOP to cast energy reform as the package of a group of narrow environmental absolutists (if such a term exists).

The Sierra Club wants us to believe that nuclear power is economically unfeasible even though it has proven to be very productive in other countries.

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6 Responses to “Nuclear energy? Turn the world green or our skin green?”

  1. Eric Schmidt Says:

    So it’s a Catch-22, then, Jack? Your quote: “The more the Democrats reject nuclear power the easier it is for the GOP to cast energy reform as the package of a group of narrow environmental absolutists (if such a term exists).”

    So Democrats won’t get nuclear energy off the table if they don’t talk about it, and they won’t get it off the table if they do. I think it’s a little preposterous to say that a political party should refuse to share its views because doing so would make those views seem partisan to the other party.

    But anyways. You know my rationale for opposing nuclear energy; it’s the same as the Sierra Club’s, the Wisconsin Democratic Party, etc. See an old dissent on the issue I wrote during my BH days. I agree that there’s a very narrow window before nuclear becomes the law of the land, but until that window closes I would hope that the major opponents wouldn’t stop talking, writing and debating.

  2. Eric Schmidt Says:

    There. You see. I COMMENTED.

  3. Jack Says:

    Mocking the host of this website by suggesting that he is desperate for comments is grounds for censorship. That’s a warning.

  4. Sam Clegg Says:

    The Sierra club fails to mention the very tricky fact that Wisconsin has a, uh, moratorium on building new nuclear plants. If they’re forbidden, you probably won’t see many get built. As for subsidies, it depends on who you talk to; but everyone would agree coal gets much more than nuclear – the EIA has a good rundown but the huffington post naturally cuts the numbers differently. I’m going to defer to patrick, but it would seem that if you actually believe global warming to be serious, nuclear energy is the only economically feasible way of reducing emissions to impact anything in a serious way – without killing economic growth and engendering the same consequences that would lead us to fight global warming in the first place.

    In lieu of that, one would be advised to read this:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=40600

    Naturally the better chances are that congress will be cowardly and back down from elimination of energy subsidies, preferring to “invest” (obscene misuse of the word) in green energy while continuing to subsidize the ones that are killing us. But in any case ending current subsidies of coal (and oil or nuclear power) would be a good starting point – perhaps then one could talk about whether or not the market is capable of providing these initiatives, given that at the current moment political necessities dictate nuclear power’s viability far more than, well, the viability of nuclear power.

  5. Patrick Says:

    Little late in on this discussion, but two thoughts on the subject.

    First on the economics of nuclear power, there are a number of economic issues which are the primary reason we don’t have more nuclear power plants. However, most of them have either been addressed by new technology or were the result of political issues (there is probably no better way to deter potential investors than this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoreham_Nuclear_Power_Plant). There is a saying in the nuclear industry that the biggest problem with nuclear power is anti-nuclear advocates (/protesters/activists).

    Secondly, the information in that Sierra Club link you provided is entirely full of misrepresentations of the truth, terrible arguments, outright lies and, worst of all in my opinion, blatant fear mongering. For example it makes the argument that we shouldn’t build nuclear power plants because they might be potential terrorist targets. In addition to letting the terrorists win, that’s the kind of fear mongering I’ve come to expect from the neo-cons, not the left. Seriously though, if anyone opposes nuclear power for any of the reasons listed in that Sierra Club link, let me know, because you’re either basing your views of off incorrect information or not getting the whole truth.

  6. Patrick Says:

    Oh and one more thing. On the topic of energy subsidies, I fully support lifting subsidies from the nuclear industry. As soon as they remove them from fossil fuels, wind and solar as well. Most nuclear subsidies come in the form of loan guarantees, often from funding that wind and solar projects are eligible for as well. All this does is lower the borrowing costs for the nuclear industry, the money still has to be paid back. Wind and solar get subsidies in the form of basically direct cash payments in addition to loan guarantees. I don’t know what the latest numbers are of the top of my head, but as of 2008 new wind projects were getting 1.9 cents per kWh locked in for 10 years in subsidies. Considering electric rates are somewhere in the 5-10 cents per kWh range that’s a huge percentage.

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