FW: Wired News :Bush Puts Energy Into Nukes

From brian carroll <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Tue, 29 May 2001 22:29:41 -0800
In-Reply-To <200105081632.JAA21501@fastbreak.hotwired.com>
User-Agent Microsoft-Outlook-Express-Macintosh-Edition/5.02.2022

 From Wired News, available online at:

Bush Puts Energy Into Nukes
By Farhad Manjoo  

2:00 a.m. May 8, 2001 PDT

Recently, physicist James McKensie and his colleagues at the World
Resources Institute decided to hold a conference on nuclear energy.

This didn't seem like an unusual thing -- the group often hosts
conferences on energy sources, and it thought that talking about nuclear
power would be a good idea, considering it accounts for 20 percent of
electricity in America.

So the WRI made the preparations. It put out a notice soliciting
scientific papers on nuclear energy, and it started looking for sponsors.

"And we couldn't find anybody," McKensie said. "We had to scrap the

This anecdote summarized the view of nuclear energy that's been
pervasive in America for many years -- it's old-tech, people said. It's
dirty and dangerous, and nobody is interested in going back to that. But
that view might be changing, at least since the Bush administration and the
nuclear industry have recently been calling nuclear power a "green" source
of energy. 

In a policy speech delivered last Monday, for example, Vice President
Cheney said that nuclear power is one of "the cleanest methods of power
generation that we know."

He emphasized that nuclear plants do not produce greenhouse gases,
which scientists believe contribute to the warming of the planet.

"If we're serious about environmental protection, then we must
seriously question the wisdom of backing away from what is, as a matter of
record, a safe, clean and very plentiful energy source," Cheney said.

Predictably, the nuclear energy industry welcomed this view, saying
that nuclear power has for too long been ignored as a "clean" way to power
the country. 

"We're very optimistic at what's been said so far," said Mitch Singer,
a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry trade and
lobbying group. "Some of the legislation looks very promising."

And with all this newfound good feeling surrounding nuclear power,
Singer said that many in the nuclear industry are convinced they can get a
new U.S. nuclear plant online within the next decade -- which would be a
considerable accomplishment, considering that the last time that occurred
was in 1986. 

The debate over nuclear power is marked by passion; if there's one
thing that opponents have in common with proponents, it's that they both
hold to their views as tightly as a uranium atom holds its protons.

Those in favor of increased nuclear power say opponents are driven by
fear -- fear of a repeat of past accidents and fear of nuclear waste. But
Cheney and the NEI paint an increased reliance on nuclear power as simply
one aspect of a rational, common-sense energy policy.

The first advantage of nuclear power, said Singer, is cost. "The
rising price of natural gas has dramatically increased electricity costs in
America. The price of nuclear fuel is very stable -- nuclear offers
forward-market stability," he said.

Singer said that the fuel costs of nuclear energy -- the cost of the
uranium and other compounds that produce the electricity -- is only 1.83
cents per megawatt hour, which is lower than any other fuel.
But opponents say there's a bigger cost to nuclear energy than the
price of the fuel. The WRI's McKensie, for example, pointed to the price of
building and maintaining a nuclear plant. "It's much cheaper to build
natural gas turbines," he said, "and those don't take years to build."

And then there are the environmental costs. Opponents of nuclear power
say that while nuclear plants produce no emissions, they significantly
damage the areas in which they are situated, and they produce radioactive
waste that we still don't know how to dispose of.

"For every unit of energy produced in a nuclear plant, there are two
units dissipated as heat," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer at
the Union of Concerned Scientists. Nuclear plants must consequently take in
vast quantities of water from their immediate surroundings, "and this
devastates all the aquatic life around the plant."

"And of course," Lochbaum added, "there's a lot of radioactive waste.
So to say that this is a green technology is true, as green is the color of

When representatives of the nuclear industry hear such comments, they
dismiss them as fear-mongering. "The problem is that you have a lot of
virulent, extremist environmental groups out there," said the NEI's Singer.
"They're not only against nuclear. They're against anything. It's not only
NIMBY -- it's BANANA."

Singer was referring to the anti-power plant acronyms that have
recently been in vogue in California: NIMBY is "not in my backyard," and
BANANA is "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything."

"The fact is, when it comes to the environment, there are no
consequences of nuclear plants -- no carbon gases, no sulfur dioxides. And
the nuclear wastes -- every bit of it has been accounted for, and the
proposed repository at Yucca Mountain (in Nevada) will be a viable place to
store it. So that's a waste, but it's not a pollutant."

He added that "communities that are situated around nuclear plants are
the ones that most love it. You should see these places. They're like nature

Obviously, there is a vast disconnect between both sides of the debate
over nuclear power, and the final decision over whether new nuclear plants
are built in the United States may come down to public opinion.

For many years -- ever since the nuclear accidents at Three Mile
Island and Chernobyl, and with the release of movies like The China Syndrome
-- the public's opposition to nuclear power was predicated on the assumption
that it is dirty and unsafe.

But given the rising cost and scarcity of electricity, Americans seem
to be taking a new look at nuclear power. An Associated Press survey
released in April showed that 50 percent of Americans support nuclear power,
half of whom wouldn't mind having a plant built within 10 miles of their

Related Wired Links:

Germany's Net Idea: Electricity
April 6, 2001 

Brazil Could Face Blackouts, Too
April 4, 2001 

Still Crazy Over Electric Cars
March 26, 2001 

010101: Art in Blackout Times
March 21, 2001 

Copyright (C) 1994-2001 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.

  the electronetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization