Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Less Nukes, More Navels

Already I'm letting myself down: reneging on my passion for navel-gazing, this is as close as I think I'll have time to come today: the bit part I'll be playing at tonight's press conference on a proposed nuclear reactor in Callaway County. (To make sure I get people’s attention before “speeching,” I’m trying to come up with a song to play on the kazoo as an intro. Suggestions?) …. :

Over the next year or so, Ameren UE will undoubtedly go to great lengths – I’m sure they will tonight – to convince us that nuclear power is on the right side of our worldwide environmental crisis. In effect, they’re going to pitch this new nuclear reactor as “green” energy – as a viable way to solve the problem of climate change, and thereby make Missouri and the world a better place.

That, friends, will have to be quite a pitch.

Tonight I urge you not to be fooled: recognize a curve-ball when you see one. Another Nuke in Missouri would not be a part of our environmental solution, but a giant part of the problem. Leaving aside our growing – and entirely unsolved – nuclear waste issue, and the fact that nuclear power is increasingly dependent on fossil fuels for its production, we still have the question of nuclear power’s staggering cost – and this may be the greatest environmental concern of all.

In short, the six billion dollars – or maybe seven, or eight, or nine – that Ameren U.E. wants to spend on this reactor would be far better spent toward renewable energy use, home weatherization, and other steps toward conservation. If we’re looking at what is good not for Ameren UE, but for the state of Missouri, for the people of Missouri, and for our fragile climate, nuclear power is simply not the way to go.

As even conservative estimates by Rocky Mountain Institute and others have shown, dollar for dollar, nuclear energy is seven times less effective solving our climate crisis than would be the implementation of simple measures in energy conservation. And heaven knows, with skyrocketing energy costs and climate change looming, this is not the time to let our utility companies spend our money willy-nilly. We cannot forget that we do not answer to Ameren U.E. Ameren U.E. answers to us. And it’s time to take a stand as a state – like we successfully did over 30 years ago – to tell them that here in Missouri, we have our eyes set on renewable energy and sustainable living; not on nuclear waste and wasteful spending.

I’m thinking of a patriotic piece, like “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” My history’s not the best, but I think it was first written for kazoo. Any confirmation on that?


Jarrod said...

You should have played "I'm Too Sexy"... FOR MY NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.

Nice speech, btw.

And wikipedia doesn't have anything on the kazoo, sorry :)

Red Craig said...

I think the reason we're stuck on this issue is that opponents of nuclear energy don't look for good information, just misinformation that reinforces their misinformed opinions.

You ought to find more reliable sources. The Rocky Mountain Institute just keeps recycling misinformation that has been refuted many times.

Nathan said...

Thanks for the input, red craig. Granted, you're right about this: I DON'T look for good information, and I DO just look for misinformation that reinforces my misinformed opinion.

But I'll differ with you here: being "refuted many times" doesn't make something untrue. After all, if the RMI wasn't "refuted many times" for calling the nuclear industry out on its exorbitant costs and its waste debacle, what the hell would the nuclear lobby be doing with its time?

Red Craig said...

Hi Nathan,

A fair question. NEI is sponsoring a race car. I imagine that if the staffers weren't distracted by RMI they could concentrate more on the car.

RMI is just wrong on economics. For example, it keeps insisting that it costs $4000 or $6000 or even more per KW to build a nuke in the US. How could they possibly know that, when nukes haven't been built here in--what? 30 years? In France they build them for $2000 per KW. RMI never mentions that.

The nuclear waste problem was easily solved, as fictitious problems always are. No doubt you're aware that the US is back on track to recycle spent fuel, as other nations are already doing. The coal waste problem never has been solved and has no prospects of ever being solved.

If you and I could get past these fruitless discussions we could focus on solutions to real-world problems. Even pro-nuke fanatics like me realize nukes are only part of the solution to global warming, plus there are terrible conditions in different parts of the world. Somehow we have to deal with that and diminishing resources, especially water, while 2 billion Asians are growing their ecologic footprints as fast as they can.

RMI is like some stinking little rat in your basement. You have a thousand things you have to get done but they all have to wait while you deal with the rat.

Nathan said...

The rats and basement analogy could just as well go the other way -- that's my point.

I don't think nuclear power is the bane of our existence. I just think it's a poor use of our limited resources in a world that you -- rightly -- note will have plenty on its plate as it is. Add the nuclear rat to the equation -- especially on a massive scale -- and there goes our last chance of putting our energies into truly renewable sources. Nuclear power is slowing renewables down, not the other way around.

Red Craig said...

Nathan, I don't follow your argument. Renewables only work if they have energy backup and the backup has to be either fossil-fired or nuclear. Nukes make renewables possible.

Besides, they don't compete for critical materials or talent. But both of them offer terrific economic opportunities to workers and investors.

jen said...

Great points Nate.

Nathan said...

Red Craig: One qualification, and then have at the last word.

I'm not against "backup," as you call it -- not for the time being, anyway. Not that I like it, but you're absolutely right: with our energy infrastructure the way it is, renewables won't currently get off the ground without having some "oomph" from dirty energy sources (coal, oil, and yes, nuclear). We're that dependent.

My point is that we will need to wean ourselves from that "oomph" (again, forgive the technical jargon) as MUCH as possible, and as QUICKLY as possible. Here in Missouri, especially -- with one of the worst home efficiency records in the country -- if we've got nine billion dollars to throw around, we'd save far more energy by weatherization than we'd produce with a new nuke. To say that these two industries (nuclear and renewable) aren't in competition for such large-scale funds is, in my mind, short-sighted.

Red Craig said...

Possibly we're not too far apart, with the difference being mainly on emphasis.

Here's the way I see the big picture. We can't avoid global warming because it's already started. The best we can do is minimize it. To do that will require all the renewable energy we can manage, all the nuclear plants we can build, and more conservation than anyone wants.

Conservation, everyone agrees, is the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest way to reduce greenhouse gases. What's left is to replace fossil fuels as much as possible. Electricity is the low-hanging fruit and all fossil-fired power plants will need to be replaced.

Motor fuels are the high-hanging fruit. Whether they are replaced by electricity, hydrogen, or synthetic fuels, the energy requirements will be prodigious. The melding of renewable energy and nuclear energy is the only promising tactic open to us, absent some miraculous new technological development. Renewables won't work without nuclear.

Meanwhile, I'd never advise someone to forgo any renewable energy source that can be made to work. I merely make the point that, overall, nukes will be part of the solution.