But What about Nuclear Waste?
Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy-producing technology which takes full responsibility for all its wastes and fully costs this into the product. That being said, in the US at current production rates, the average Nuclear power plant produces an average of 20 metric tons of waste per year, for a yearly total of 2000-2300 metric tons of waste. If you took all of the nuclear waste from the last 40 years, it would fit into a 7 yard deep football field sized hole.
By comparison The 945 million metric tons of coal burned each year in the United States contain 98.1 metric tons of mercury, 7095.6 metric tons of arsenic, 1050.3 metric tons of beryllium, 675 metric tons of cadmium, 7929 metric tons of chromium, 8405 metric tons of nickel, and 2328.3 metric tons of selenium. On top of emitting 1.71 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, coal-fired power plants in the United States also create 108 million metric tons of toxic waste. That means each of the nation’s 500 coal-fired power plants produces an average 216,000 metric tons of toxic waste each year. A power plant that operates for 40 years will leave behind 8.64 million metric tons of toxic waste.
Yet, coal burning power plants are responsible for 41% of global electricity.
Well, in spite of the bad press and misinformation, the awkward kid is getting a second chance. Thanks to some progressive legislation, The United States Department of Energy has approved 6.5 Billion dollars in federal loan guarantees to complete the first nuclear reactors to go on line in over 30 years. The reactors are being built in Georgia by a group of utility providers led by Southern Co. They will be sited at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta at a plant that already houses two older reactors. The 2 new reactors will together produce 2200 Megawatts, enough to power a million homes. These reactors represent “The next generation of reactors with passive safety features” that require much less human interaction to keep them safe according to the US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moritz.
Not surprisingly, the naysayers have almost immediately popped their heads up out of the “whack-a-mole” game of modern media and started to spout venom at the proposed new plants. One of the front-running naysayer operations are the good old folks down at Greenpeace. The same people who cry out for clean water and air while tooling around our planet’s oceans in a hulking fleet of diesel burning pollution machines. The same people that slam BP for it’s drilling operations, yet buy their fuel so they can continue to “fight the good fight” one smelly boat trip at a time.
What doesn’t make sense to me are the arguments against nuclear power because of the safety concerns…
“We don’t want another Chernobyl”, shouts Greenpeace.
Good. There won’t be one.
“We don’t want another Fukushima, either”, they shout.
Well first, tell us how to stop earthquakes, and we’ll get started on that. In the meantime, how about we learn from the design flaws at Fukushima, and include those designs in MODERN plants. Hindsight is 20/20, so you keep looking backwards, while we move forward.
There are currently 104 reactors online in the US at 64 different plants. The newest of them is 40 years old. So in 40+ years of nuclear power plants in this country, the closest thing you have to a “Chernobyl” is an incident in which a safety feature technically worked with 40 year old technology, and lead to no loss of human life in any way shape or form ever.
Yes, 40 year old technology.
There is more computing power in an iPad than was running the entire Chernobyl power plant, and you’re going to tell me that modern plants are on the same safety scale?
Billions have been spent on nuclear research over the decades and almost none of it has been put to practical use here in the United States in terms of our energy needs. How much money is spent on the “Clean Coal” initiative that continues to be the biggest source of greenhouse gasses globally? In the 2010 budget from President Obama there was 3.4 billion dollars set aside for “Carbon Capture Research and Development”. The same budget allowed 824 million dollars for Nuclear power research and development. Guess what, folks, you don’t have to clean carbons out of nuclear exhaust because there are none.
Example of what the nuclear research and development program has actually produced?
Take for instance the twin Westinghouse AW4 reactors that power the Nimitz class super carriers in the US naval fleet. These two small reactors that need to be re-fueled every 20 years or so, create 194 megawatts of power. Enough power to move a floating airport with 7500 crew members, their supplies, and 45-50 aircraft at 35 miles an hour through water.
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