This commentary is from Fred Baser of Bristol, former state lawmaker and school board member.
When I was a child, the nuclear age had just started. Nuclear-powered ships were being developed, as were nuclear power generation and, of course, air raid drills in schools that had us dive under our desks for protection.
Diving under desks and the destructive potential of nuclear power has created fear of using this technology in the minds of many people. Yet the safety record of nuclear power relative to fossil fuels, and the many new positive attributes of new nuclear power generation technology, justify its further development as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect.
How safe are nuclear power plants? There were two nuclear power plant accidents classified as major disasters, Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986.
The Fukushima accident was the direct result of an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Despite the devastation caused by these events, the Fukushima facility security protocol limited radiation exposure.
The circumstances at Chernobyl were quite different, as the security measures at the facility were below normal, and as a result, the radiation exposure was significant. Hannah Richie’s work in “Our World Data” will give you statistics on mortality from these accidents. The data are variable, especially on the indirect human damage caused by these events, and depend on the organization that developed the statistics, but overall the deaths, injuries and illnesses from nuclear accidents have been much lower. than those caused by fossil fuel installations.
Wikipedia reported that a 2012 World Health Organization study found that burning fossil fuels and biomass causes around 3 million deaths in urban areas each year. Plus with fossil fuels you have environmental damage that has hit much of the globe. A photo of Beijing shrouded in carbon fog says a lot about the burning of fossil fuels.
What about nuclear waste? Although waste from nuclear power plants can cause problems and requires special handling, I could not find any reported incidents in this area that caused significant damage.
Nuclear power plants today are very different from those first built in the 1960s. They use less nuclear fuel to produce the same amount of energy. They have much less nuclear waste, and there is progress in the storage of facility waste. Today, nuclear facilities are smaller and require fewer people to operate and less human intervention in an emergency. The costs associated with building new facilities are also falling.
Today, 56 nuclear power plants across the country supply about 20% of our country’s electricity needs. These installations are low carbon and provide a constant source of energy, which wind and solar cannot.
Many nuclear power plants in our country need to renew their licenses. Since these nuclear facilities can provide reliable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let’s renew their licenses. We also need to plan for new nuclear capabilities. Doubling our nuclear power production to meet 40% of our country’s needs will go a long way in achieving our zero carbon goals.
The siting of new facilities can be problematic. Recently, Terra Power, a company founded by Bill Gates, announced that it would build a nuclear facility on the site of a shutdown coal-fired power plant. Replicating this idea across the country, shutting down fossil fuel power plants to make way for nuclear facilities, may help solve the location problem.
Make no mistake, there are risks associated with nuclear power generation. All forms of electricity generation present problems. However, it is unwise to dismiss technology that can increase the ability of our nation and the world to eliminate dirty fossil fuel.