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West Virginia could benefit from nuclear power plants

...nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide and causes no air pollution. It can be argued that because of the large amount of base-load electricity it produces from a small amount of fuel, nuclear power is the only energy source that can make a real difference in the battle against global warming.

Whatever the future has in store for energy production in West Virginia, it isn't only from coal. To be sure, coal will continue to provide the bulk of our electricity, with a small but growing share coming from wind, solar and biomass.

But when and if the government clamps down on power-plant emissions of carbon dioxide, which accounts for roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, the cost of producing electricity from coal will certainly rise. Coal has the highest carbon content of any fossil fuel.

By contrast, nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide and causes no air pollution. It can be argued that because of the large amount of base-load electricity it produces from a small amount of fuel, nuclear power is the only energy source that can make a real difference in the battle against global warming.

Because uranium fuel is relatively cheap and because nuclear power plants are being run more efficiently than they were back in the 1970s, the average cost of producing electricity from nuclear power in the United States is marginally cheaper than coal and less than one-third the cost of natural gas.

Now, with the government forecasting growth in U.S. electricity... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Whatever the future has in store for energy production in West Virginia, it isn't only from coal. To be sure, coal will continue to provide the bulk of our electricity, with a small but growing share coming from wind, solar and biomass.

But when and if the government clamps down on power-plant emissions of carbon dioxide, which accounts for roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, the cost of producing electricity from coal will certainly rise. Coal has the highest carbon content of any fossil fuel.

By contrast, nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide and causes no air pollution. It can be argued that because of the large amount of base-load electricity it produces from a small amount of fuel, nuclear power is the only energy source that can make a real difference in the battle against global warming.

Because uranium fuel is relatively cheap and because nuclear power plants are being run more efficiently than they were back in the 1970s, the average cost of producing electricity from nuclear power in the United States is marginally cheaper than coal and less than one-third the cost of natural gas.

Now, with the government forecasting growth in U.S. electricity demand of 1.6 percent a year throughout 2030, there is a need for increased nuclear power capacity if our country hopes to maintain a balanced mix of energy sources and still reduce green house emissions.

Utilities are preparing to build between 15 and 20 new reactors in eight states, including Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois. They will be able to make use of incentives that Congress approved last year for construction of the first few nuclear plants.

Public support for nuclear power is the highest it has been in many years, with a poll conducted by Bisconti Research Inc., showing 70 percent of Americans favoring nuclear power. Interestingly, the poll found that 76 percent of residents near nuclear power plants said it would be acceptable to add a new reactor at the site of the nearest nuclear plant.

Nuclear power also provides good-paying jobs. Each nuclear construction project requires thousands of craft workers, engineers, technicians and other specialists. Once a plant begins preparing for commercial service, a permanent work force of hundreds of plant operators, maintenance workers and security personnel must be assembled. And an even greater number of jobs in local communities are needed for services.

It's no surprise that the anticipated construction of more than a dozen new nuclear plants has attracted a lot of attention, with many towns competing against one another to be sites for new plants.

West Virginia should consider the benefits of nuclear power, not only as a source of clean energy for our state, but for sale to neighboring states as well. A plant here could be owned and built by a consortium of utilities, with construction costs divided among the companies.

But even if a company wanted to build a nuclear plant in West Virginia, it couldn't. A 1996 statute bans the use of nuclear power. It needs to be repealed.

We should not assume that coal alone will be enough to meet our energy needs in the years ahead. It's time to think about a possible role for nuclear power. That would, perhaps, provide some real economic and environmental benefits.

Michael L. Green of Scott Depot, W.Va., has been a physicist with nearly 40 years of experience in government and industry.


Source: http://www.herald-dispatch....

JUN 10 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3004-west-virginia-could-benefit-from-nuclear-power-plants
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