Maine Voices: As Electricity Needs Increase, Nuclear Power Expected To Play A Greater Role


The ex-Republican in me says it’s okay to cut down a tree because our need for electricity is so great. Oh, how Dick Hill, a longtime professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, misses me at a time like this.

Steam rises from a nuclear power plant next to power lines in Doel, Belgium, in October. Virginia Mayo / Associated press, Dossier

His mind would have done the math, and when the ever-increasing demand for a reliable power grid was factored into the equation of need versus capacity to generate power, he would have only had One conclusion: we will have no choice in the future other than nuclear power, which is seen by Steven Pinker and other scientists as the safest alternative to what we have now.

The recent ‘yes’ vote to prevent the Central Maine Power Corridor from cutting more trees to expand it enough to make room for an additional transmission line suggests that more taxpayers and voters are also considering the nuclear energy as playing a more important role in our future.

As we add the difficulty of being allowed to build transmission lines to not installing dams on our rivers or no longer using fossil fuels in power generation, our remaining choices are few.

For those clinging to the idea that a satisfactory solution to our electrical needs can be solved with various renewable means of generating all the energy necessary for our advanced society, Hill, who has taught at UMaine for 46 years , would have taken out his sharp pencil. , did the math and sadly shook his head “no”.

If we realistically examine our current demand for reliable electric power and project what will be needed in the future; compared to the best that one would expect renewable sources to provide on a planet subject to climate change that will have a profound effect on many renewable methods under development, the conclusion brings us back to energy nuclear.

For those of us who have worked in the nuclear compartments of submarines when they were hot, it is obvious that small, safe nuclear reactors can be built close to where the demand is greatest, eliminating the need for so long and wide transmission lines, dams and fossil fuels. .

All are fully aware of the growing need for more and more electricity, and even the shortest outage now creates frustration and outrage. The 1998 ice storm, which affected 4 million people at its peak, caused damage estimated at over $ 3 billion and resulted in a 23-day blackout, could prove to be a slight glimpse of which could again hit us even harder with the extreme weather conditions which are becoming more and more common due to climate change.

Apparently, those voters who oppose the widening of the CMP corridor for various reasons are also sending a clear message as to what the future holds for them, and we had better get on with it as soon as possible. Choices are never easy, but when we come to the fork we have to take it because there is no going back. Yes, we have met the enemy – and he is us.

We have chosen electricity for a long time and it is increasingly clear that the supply must be reliable. Therefore, the common sense science of men like Dick Hill will catch up with us and overtake us.

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