The Dernogalizer

March 22, 2009

Nuclear Power Article Contention

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Dernoga @ 10:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today there was a column in the Washington Post by Todd Tucker about some common misconceptions about nuclear power from his perspective. I wanted to be careful to remind him about some problems with nuclear power which I thought he had overlooked in his column. He quickly responded and acknowledged my concerns, and I think he gave a very fair response. I think this is a good example of how two reasonable people can disagree about something. I’d encourage you to read his article, and I’ve posted both my original e-mail and his response below.

My e-mail:

Hi Todd, I read your Op-Ed. I’m an environmentalist, but my lack of enthusiasm for nuclear power isn’t because of environmental reasons. If it could be shown to me that nuclear power was the most cost effective and fastest way to replace coal plants, I would seriously consider supporting it. However, it’s neither of the two. Renewables such as wind, solar, geothermal, as well as energy efficiency can be deployed faster and cheaper for the same amount of MW a nuclear power plant would provide. The reason there haven’t been new nuclear power plants isn’t because of environmentalists(we haven’t been a strong enough force until recent years), it’s because nuclear power is nearly incapable of capturing investors or attracting private investment despite the fact that we’ve had massive government subsidies for it. People like to reference European countries such as Finland and France that get a lot of their power from nuclear, but these references are usually in poor context. Countries like these are the size of small US states and use far less energy per capita. The only reason they are able to build power plants is because they are borderline socialist since the free market would never allow it.

I’d encourage you to check out a column I wrote about nuclear power last year(environmental argument never factored into the picture)

http://media.www.diamondbackonline.com/media/storage/paper873/news/2008/10/21/Opinion/Nuclear.Power.Turn.To.Better.Alternatives-3496543.shtml?reffeature=recentlycommentedstoriestab

Additionally, here are two excellent blog posts by former employee of the Dept. of Energy Joe Romm about some recent ills of mordern nuclear power in other countries

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/2/3/161845/6691

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/1/30/124538/973

His Response:

Thank you so much for the calm, reasoned note. I’ve been reading a lot of rants since the article came out, so it was nice to hear from a logical person. In most of those rants, I am accused of being a shill for the nuclear power industry, a strange position to take about a guy whose book describes a fatal reactor accident.
My charter with this piece wasn’t to argue for or against, but to elaborate on “5 myths.” If I had a thesis, i guess it is that i think nuclear power should be considered as a matter of trade-offs, not an absolute evil –or an absolute good.
But, had i listed the soundest argument AGAINST nuclear power, it would have been yours. I think you are absoultely correct in that nuclear power has not proven its economic viability. Although, with some plants operating 40+ years now, they are getting close. The other counter argument is that as more plants are built, they will become more economical. But – – your point is a very good one, and your arguments are very sound.
Thanks again for taking the time to give me such reasoned feedback –
Todd Tucker

Author of ATOMIC AMERICA: HOW A DEADLY EXPLOSION AND A FEARED ADMIRAL CHANGED THE COURSE OF NUCLEAR HISTORY

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