A SECOND CHANCE FOR NUCLEAR POWER
July 22, 2005
The nuclear power industry has some surprising new friends: environmentalists. New plant designs, operational standards and an ever-increasing demand for energy has led former critics to conclude that nuclear power is better than any other option, says USA Today.
- Nuclear power, which produces 20 percent of the nation's electricity, creates virtually none of the pollution which allegedly causes climate change and delivers electricity cheaper than other forms of generation.
- The primary alternatives are coal-fired plants, which account for half the nation's electricity, but emit pollutants, or plants powered by natural gas, which has doubled in price since 1999.
- New technologies, while promising, are not yet capable of meeting the expected need.
Energy bills in both houses of Congress encourage investment and would renew federally backed insurance for the industry and with the Senate bill, nuclear plants could qualify for loan guarantees and tax credits. These incentives will jump-start construction but two issues still remain: what to do with nuclear waste and how to protect against terrorism.
- Since 9/11, plant security personnel has increased from 5,000 to 8,000, and even a direct hit by a large commercial aircraft is unlikely to have severe radiological consequences.
- There is no definite plan to deal with the 52,000 tons of radioactive waste stored at plants; however, a planned permanent storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada won't open until 2012 and still faces obstacles.
Source: Editorial, "Former critics see the light," USA Today, July 18, 2005.
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