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Hurting For Nukes

The desperation of the nuclear power industry


Today, the nuclear industry is pushing for a so-called "Nuclear Renaissance." You may ask, why are these businesses spending millions of dollars on advertising now? Well, it is quite simple when you get right down to it. The nuclear power industry is desperate. Why are they pushing so hard and so fast? They are desperate to get the whole nuclear fuel cycle and new plant construction started before people get informed, and the booming renewable energies make them obsolete. If they don't achieve this quickly, there will be no nuclear power future.

Wind and solar power generation is growing at about 40 percent a year compounded. This outpaces new nuclear generation. This is all occurring despite the current higher cost of generation. The only thing limiting the growth is the current lack of supply. New investment and supply is coming on quickly. For example, Hoku Scientific is building a $200 million to $300 million polysilicon plant in Pocatello, Idaho. They already have over $2.1 billion in contracts for the polysilicon. Now we just need an Idaho solar panel manufacturing facility. We already have lots of sun, or should I say free fuel, forever. Renewable generation companies are some of the hottest issues on Wall Street today. Insiders say the cost of renewable generation will drop to a competitive level within the next three to seven years. This will be accomplished through much more supply coming online and with new technological advances.

The people are overwhelmingly demanding wind and solar power as their preferred source of electricity generation, even in Idaho, according to the Boise State statewide survey. Both systems can also be used at homes and businesses and tied directly to the grid without loosing significant power in transmission lines. Idaho has the potential to provide all the electricity to power everything in the state several times over with renewables—and this doesn't even include hydroelectric power. A study from Oxford University shows that intermittent renewables with combined heat and power can dependably provide most of Britain's electricity. It states, "[the study] puts renewables ahead of nuclear power." This strategy can be applied to other areas of the world as well. The smart or distributive grid is the future and is more secure than the centralized grid.

People from Idaho like to be independent. In 2006, the United States imported 21,435 metric tones of uranium from places like Russia, Kazakhstan and Namibia. Is this a secure fuel source? The nuclear industry spin, better known as "Green washing," is trying to put a green spin on something that is not green. Everyone knows green sells. So, the industry is trying to get on the green bandwagon. They say that nuclear produces no greenhouse gases but they don't tell you many greenhouse gases are produced in the mining, milling, and enriching of the uranium fuel used to power the plants. A 2005 study shows that when taking everything into account, a nuclear power plant produces 20 to 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions of a natural gas plant using the high-grade ore that is still available. When this high-grade ore runs out a nuclear power plant will create more carbon dioxide emissions than a natural gas plant. They don't tell you of all the non-green problems that come with the mining used to get the fuel.

The nuclear industry does not have a long-term solution for the radioactive waste it produces. They are asking the federal government to pay for it. This industry is very highly subsidized by our tax dollars and without the subsidies, cannot compete with other sources of generation. This is socialized energy generation.

Nuclear power is a very centralized generation source, making outages more serious. The few jobs, in comparison to renewable generation, are located in one area. Renewable jobs are distributed over all geographic areas. The profits from renewable generation are spent in the communities they service, not kept in the hands of a few shareholders likely living a long distance away.

If we, the people, allow the nuclear industry to rebuild, they will grow in size and power. With this increased power, they will lobby to reduce the little funding for renewable energy generation even further. This would lead to taking away these renewable or "democratic" sources of generating power and robbing us of our independence. Ultimately, this will all increase the cost of the electricity that we purchase. Maximizing the use of renewables is clearly the best choice for Idaho families.

John Weber, a self-described "solar enthusiast," is involved in business management for a chain of locally owned auto body shops.