For most of my life, there’s been a very simple calculus to memorize with regard to nuclear energy production:
Nuclear Energy = Nukes = Bad. Very Bad.
Every environmentalist I’ve ever run into over the past 3 decades may as well have had this equation tattooed onto their foreheads and they were vehement in their advocacy of the notion. Ironically, it’s the climate change debate that’s managed to bring nuclear energy into a much kinder light even producing, as Glenn Reynolds points out, dyed-in-the-wool nuke protesters that are suggesting nukes as the way to go. Reynolds has been one of several highly educated folks who are skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming hysteria (as am I) but he’s been equally adamant that there are excellent reasons to stop burning fossil fuels that have nothing to do with climate change. In this, I also agree.
There are some interesting points about nuclear energy in the United States that the no-nukes crowd either doesn’t know or hasn’t been in a hurry to tell you about. Quick – how many people in the United States have been killed as a result of direct harm from nuclear power?
That’d be zero. As in: none. Three-mile Island is the 1 incident on US soil and years of testing have shown that literally no one’s health was impacted in any measurable way. Want to go world-wide? The only other major incident was Chernobyl and we’ve seen about 60 deaths related to the direct release of radiation in that case. Almost all of those were in the emergency responders who were fighting the nuclear fire. Not good, to say the least, but hardly the disaster it’s been painted to be.
Nuclear energy production gives off a carbon emission level about that of wind power and the energy production is orders of magnitude higher. Here’s an interesting statistic from the linked story for you to consider. An American getting all of his electricity from coal-fired plants for his entire lifetime would garner a share of the solid waste produced in that power generation that would weigh 68 tons. That load would require six 12-ton rail cars to cart away. The total carbon dioxide emissions for that individual would be 77 tons, requiring almost 6 1/2 more cars, assuming you could gather it together to be moved away. That’s the share of the waste borne by a single person.
A family of four in France – under their currently operating fuel reprocessing procedures – would produce enough waste to fill a coffee cup in the same period of time. Read that again – a full family of 4 will generate less waste material in the production of their energy than that 1-pint bottle of water you likely had sitting next you at the office over their entire lives. That’s 0.00000046% of the single American’s waste load.
There are certainly issues to be dealt with but we need to have a clear, rational discussion of the realities of nuclear power, free from the hysteria and doom-mongering that has plagued it up to now. I’m looking forward to it.
(Welcome Punditeers! Feels like I’ve won the Nobel, getting a link from Instapundit!)