Unfortunately, the other half of the equation regarding nuclear energy needs to be addressed- that of safety and waste. This is the direct result of unsubstantiated fear-mongering by the anti-nuclear groups, usually with some dumb Hollywood actor as the spokesman. They usually trot out Three Mile Island. However, every single direct study of residents near TMI (one conducted over a 13-year period) showed no bad health effects and that the cancer rate in the area was no higher than the national average. In fact, less than 1% of the average American’s yearly exposure to radiation comes from nuclear plants. The average exposure rate is 1 millirem per year- total. In a single one way flight from New York to LA, you are exposed to 2.5 millirems of radiation! Are we to watch the number of cross country flights, or decrease the number of X-rays or MRIs, ban microwaves and televisions, etc?
There are the concerns about attacks on nuclear plants. There is no doubt that terrorists have sought to attack America’s nuclear infrastructure. However, they have also targeted gas pipelines, refineries, dams and other power plants. Older style nuclear plants are built to withstand a 9/11 type attack and security around nuclear plants is some of the tightest in the world (most provided by private firms) and there are flying restrictions around nuclear plants. A terrorist attack on a nuclear plant is one of the weakest arguments against nuclear power.
Some have argued about the transportation problems involved with radioactive material. However, since 1971 there have been over 20,000 shipments of nuclear material over 8 million land miles in the United States alone without a single incident. Today, over 20 million packages of radioactive material are transported annually throughout the world, again without a single accident, worker exposure, leak, or terrorist attack. You cannot get any better than a 100% success rate.
Opponents usually look to headline grabbing accidents here and abroad. A realistic analysis indicates that the nuclear industry has a remarkable safety record, all things considered. With TMI, the injuries and deaths were attributable to those responding to the accident, not the release of radioactive material. A study immediately after the accident indicated that the 1 million people nearest TMI had been exposed to exactly 1 millirem of radiation. There is also the example of Chernobyl, but that is like comparing apples and oranges. Most Soviet-era plants had/have serious design flaws which is the reason so much radiation was released in that case, along with operator errors along the way that made the problem worse.
To illustrate the difference between Chernobyl and an average American plant (and note, this is not even using the enhanced modern designs and technology), the Besse-Davis plant in Ohio had a small weakness detected in the steel cladding that moved nuclear waste. Unlike Chernobyl, when discovered, it was not actual hole, but a weakness. Once discovered, Besse-Davis immediately addressed the problem despite the fact that engineers had determined that the plant could have operated at full capacity for another 13 months. Japan relies heavily on nuclear energy and they are one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world. It needs to be noted that the most recent accident was caused by not only the earthquake, but by the resulting tsunami. Other nuclear plants in Japan have survived earthquakes of larger magnitude.
Which brings us to the admitted problem of nuclear waste. Most of the solution is not technological, but political. Today, American nuclear waste is stored on-site because the federal government has lacked the political will to do anything. Originally, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was the proposed solution, but that was torpedoed by Harry Reid. So what does France, who relies more heavily on nuclear power, do with their waste? The French have developed a technique where they recycle 60% of all spent nuclear fuel rods. The remaining 40% is sealed in lead-lined drums and dumped in the sea. Those drums are designed to withstand decay for 1,500 years. If Obama and company were truly serious about reviving the manufacturing sector and creating jobs, the United States would be a leader in nuclear recycling and waste disposal. Instead, we have to rely on French technology. Because many more countries- many of them formerly opposed to nuclear energy- are now pursuing nuclear power generation, the United States is losing out on a unique opportunity to export technology and create high-paying long-term jobs. If nothing else, this illustrates years of misguided energy policy in this country, not to mention economic and job creation policy that would cost the government little to nothing. And while Nevada a nuclear waste facility and we do nothing about recycling, because environmentalists have so scared people, cities in France were actually fighting for nuclear recycling plants. Part of the reason is that France is more tort-aversive than the US.
The bottom line is that Obama and Liberals are not committed to true energy independence for this country. Their idea of “all of the above” means only the sectors they choose. In their world, there are no fossil fuels and there is no nuclear energy. In their world, we drive electric cars that look like modified golf carts with limited ranges. In their world, the answer is solar, unless the desert tortoise or a newt lives nearby, or wind power, unless an iconic liberal Senator can see the windmills. In their world of mandates, they dictate a utility’s energy portfolio then falsely claim that alternative energy use is increasing in the United States. They claim that we are under 50% in imports of oil for the first time in years but fail to mention that most of those leases were issued in the previous Administration who they continuously chastise. They dictate MPG standards on the auto industry, yet hypocritically exclude the heaviest, most gas-guzzling offenders that causes cars to be built less safely and at greater expense to all potential car-buyers. Theirs is a world of misinformation and endless EPA studies, that don’t consider a cost analysis by the way, only to be met with costly litigation and more misinformation even in the rare cases of approvals. Their world is one of political paralysis in making decisions. make no mistake, there are also some Republicans who fall into this category. They worry about global warming despite the fact it is based on questionable science and perpetuated by bearded, reinvented Presidential LOSERS who also, coincidentally, allegedly invented the Internet. They insist on failed systems like cap-and-trade (ask Europe how that worked out) or “green jobs” (ask Spain how that worked out). Ironically, Europe, when they had cap-and-trade, actually saw an increase in the emission of GHG while the United States, through technological advances, saw a decrease in those emissions. Guess George Bush’s Bali initiative proves Bush wasn’t that stupid after all. The energy policy of Liberals and Democrats and Obama in particular is nothing but talk and hypocritical talk at that. When so much economically is dependent on a coherent energy policy, Obama and company- literal slaves to the misguided environmental movement- dither about bringing us no closer to energy independence than Jimmy Carter or anyone after him achieved. If for no other reason, Obama MUST GO and any GOP candidate would be well-advised to hammer him on his energy “policy.” Its ironic, but the best idea they have put forth? Painting roofs white. That is sad.