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Nukes may be necessary

Our view: Waste storage a real problem, but global warming threat from fossil-fuel waste may be greater

The California Energy Commission doesn't want any new nuclear plants to be built in this state, citing concerns that the nation hasn't figured out how to handle nuclear waste. But waiting for such a solution may be a luxury we can no longer afford.

The commission may not have noticed, but we also haven't figured out how to handle most of the waste generated by burning fossil fuels. The threat of global climate change accelerated by carbon emissions might make nuclear power an increasingly necessary option. This is no time to take it off the table.

Last week, the commission completed its first review of the pros and cons of nuclear power in 30 years. It recommended that California continue a moratorium on building new nuclear plants that has been in place since 1976. The review was prompted by the Bush administration's renewed interest in nuclear power. The federal energy bill signed by President Bush last August called for six new nuclear plants to meet the nation's rising energy needs, and Bush recently offered to help India build nuclear power plants in an effort to reduce that growing superpower's demand for diminishing oil supplies.

The commission's main concern was the lack... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The California Energy Commission doesn't want any new nuclear plants to be built in this state, citing concerns that the nation hasn't figured out how to handle nuclear waste. But waiting for such a solution may be a luxury we can no longer afford.

The commission may not have noticed, but we also haven't figured out how to handle most of the waste generated by burning fossil fuels. The threat of global climate change accelerated by carbon emissions might make nuclear power an increasingly necessary option. This is no time to take it off the table.

Last week, the commission completed its first review of the pros and cons of nuclear power in 30 years. It recommended that California continue a moratorium on building new nuclear plants that has been in place since 1976. The review was prompted by the Bush administration's renewed interest in nuclear power. The federal energy bill signed by President Bush last August called for six new nuclear plants to meet the nation's rising energy needs, and Bush recently offered to help India build nuclear power plants in an effort to reduce that growing superpower's demand for diminishing oil supplies.

The commission's main concern was the lack of progress on solutions for safe storage of nuclear waste. The federal repository planned for Yucca Mountain in Nevada seems as far as ever from being ready to receive waste shipments, though Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is the latest federal champion trying to ram it through Congress.

With no place to send nuclear waste, plants like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in the northwest corner of San Diego County have been piling it up on site. That's a dangerous situation getting worse, and the more than 1,000 metric tons of spent fuel stored there represent a significant risk in the event of terrorist attack, earthquake or tsunami.

It's past time for Southern California Edison, the owner of the San Onofre plant, to thoroughly study how the reactors would fare in a worst-case scenario natural disaster, as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is doing for its Diablo Canyon plant.

So far, we're with the Energy Commission. But even allowing for the risks presented by nuclear waste, there still may be enough reason for California to think anew about nuclear power.

That reason lies in the gathering storm of evidence implicating carbon emissions in the global warming that a growing chorus of scientists have been forecasting. The vast majority of our power comes from burning oil and natural gas, and both processes appear to contribute to the buildup of carbon in our atmosphere. That buildup, in turn, may be heating up our planet at a pace never before experienced in human history, perhaps Earth's history.

Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and the earth's internal heat, are not nearly equipped to substitute for the fossil-fuel demand of the United States or the world in general. Of existing technologies, only nuclear power has that energy-generating potential. It's ugly, but it's fact. That's why many former opponents of nuclear power, the "No Nukes" crowd, are reconsidering their opposition in light of the growing consensus on human-induced climate change brought on by fossil fuels.

Also promising is the McCain-Lieberman bill circulating on Capitol Hill that would couple limits on carbon emissions with investments in cleaner nuclear technology.

There are many things Californians, Americans and people everywhere can and must do to reduce our growing energy demand. There are also important investments to be made in renewable-energy technology.

But nuclear power may prove to be part of the solution. It's too early to tell. It's also too early to rule out, because of worries about waste storage, the existing technology most capable of replacing oil and natural gas.


Source: http://www.nctimes.com/arti...

MAY 4 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2480-nukes-may-be-necessary
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