Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Provocative Piece of the Day

Here's one that will wrankle a few folks...

William Tucker pens a longish piece in the National Review rationalizing the use of nuclear power. While he makes some indisputably good points, he also tosses some bombs that will drive the anti-nuclear crowd nuts (e.g., calling uranium "easy on the environment" and essentially calling out the concern over storing spent nuclear fuel as a overblown).

It's a good read though, and here are some highlights:

  • "The solar thermal plants being considered in Florida and California — where they used mirrors to concentrate sunlight to boil water — will cover a hundred or more square miles to match one coal or nuclear plant. We’re building these things because the federal and state governments are providing huge tax subsidies and many states are even mandating that utilities buy the power."

  • "We’re now fomenting 30 percent of the corn crop and replacing only 3 percent of our oil — plus pushing up world food prices. The U.N. is calling biofuels a “crime against humanity.” Supporters talk about “cellulose ethanol” but it’s never been done and they’ve been trying for almost a hundred years."

  • "The average 1,000-megawatt coal plant must be fed by a unit train arriving at the plant every day. Such trains now leave Cheyenne, Wyoming every 12 minutes carrying coal from the Powder River Basin to power plants from Nevada to Arkansas. More than half the nation’s rail freight is now coal. In fact, it’s straining the whole infrastructure and we may have to build new rail lines before long. ... Now lets’ look at nuclear. A 1000-MW nuclear reactor is refueled by a single tractor-trailer arriving at the plant once every eighteen months. "

  • "So why are we do we need Yucca Mountain, a huge repository designed to “bury” 77,000 tons of “nuclear waste,” when 95 percent of the material is non-fissioning natural uranium? ... The French have complete recycling. (I know you talk about France’s nuclear power a lot but I doubt you know this.) They take plutonium from spent fuel, mix it with uranium depleted by enrichment, and call it “mixed oxide fuel.” It’s sold all over Europe and Japan. They’re also importing bomb-grade uranium from old Russian nuclear weapons, mixing it with the tailings from uranium mines (another “waste product”) and shipping it to the United States of America as reactor fuel. It’s a treaty engineered by your old colleagues Senators Pete Domenici and Sam Nunn in the 1990s. One out of every ten light bulbs in America is now being lit by a former Soviet weapon! It’s the greatest swords-into-plowshares effort in history — although very few people know about it. Things nuclear, of course, are not the subject of polite conversation.So what’s left when all this reprocessing is done? Essentially nothing. All of France’s nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity is stored beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague. The lifetime output for each French citizen would fit in a soda can. That’s what the incredible energy density of nuclear power can do for the environment."
As I say, it's a "provocative read...

Going Nuclear [National Review]