I haven’t met a lot of people who take a moderate or middle-of-the road view of nuclear power. Either they are horrified activists who are convinced that anything nuclear is sick, wrong, and the makings of a new Chernobyl, or worse. Or they are nuclear enthusiasts who think nuclear power is our ticket to energy independence.
These folks want to build more plants now, and worry about the problem of spent fuel rods later. But later is here. We are running out of energy, and also running out of space to store spent fuel rods.
On the whole, the nation’s nuclear plants seem to me to have worked pretty well, and to have been well maintained and regulated.
Though plants have had problems, I know of only a couple really close calls in half a century: Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, and a near-disaster in Monroe in 1966, an episode immortalized, or sensationalized, in the book, “We Almost Lost Detroit.” Obviously we need to tightly and carefully regulate these plants. You may be able to make many reasonable arguments for libertarianism, but when it comes to nuclear power, I am not listening.
I have no objection to a utility which takes financial risks to build a nuclear power plant making a reasonable profit.
But someone needs to have the power to protect our pocketbooks and safety. One of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s problems with the proposed sale of the Palisades plant is whether the buyer will put aside enough money for its eventual safe clean-up. To that I say right on, Mr. Attorney General.
It is not reasonable to expect that our energy-hungry society will give up nuclear power in the foreseeable future. What if nuclear had been our only option for staying warm these past three weeks?
When Three Mile Island happened, I was working for a publisher who was also a scientist and a leading authority on radioactive iodine. He believed that was exactly the time to build more nuclear plants. “Everyone will have safety uppermost in mind now. Otherwise, they’ll wait till they run out of fossil fuel.
“Then they will be in a hurry to build them, and that will increase the chances of mistakes,” he said.
However, the huge mistake our nation has made is not insisting on finding a national solution for storing the spent fuel rods, which are this form of energy’s major drawback. I can tell you right now, storing the waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain isn’t happening, ever.
The Senate Majority Leader is from Nevada, and it has become a key swing state in presidential elections. But what we have instead is highly dangerous. Some fuel rods buried here; some over there.
We need a long-term national solution, and we need to make finding and agreeing on one a top priority. Until then, we should ban any new plants. Doesn’t that make sense to you?