Making the case for Nuclear Energy – Part 1

June 6, 2012

At the recent May 21 – 23 Seventh International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute, Larry Bell, a professor of architecture and an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston, was one of 60 scientist and policy experts who spoke about the real science of climate change.  Professor Bell’s topic was “Getting the facts out about Climate Change.”

But it was Larry Bell’s published Op/Ed article in Forbes on May 22, 2012 that offered me the idea upon which this article is based.  In Bell’s Op/Ed, “How big oil benefits from global warming alarmism”, Mr. Bell expounds upon the drawbacks in producing constant and cheap energy from green ethanol, bio-fuels, wind, solar and even coal because of the hunger of an ever-expanding EPA regulatory bureaucracy, to conclude that oil will be the benefactor as green energy sources run amock.   

But why not substitute Nuclear for OIl? when ethanol, bio-fuels, wind and solar go bust, as will surely happen, because they are not cost efficient and have multiple limitations to producing abundant and affordable energy to meet future energy needs.

According to Paddy Regan, director of the MSc course in radiation and environmental protection at the University of Surrey, Guildford, “It is only this nation’s and the world’s irrational fear of the atom that is standing in the way of the development of nuclear power and its potentially vital contribution to the long-term energy needs of an ever-increasing and energy-greedy world population.” 

As to the death tolls directly associated with radiation exposure from the three best-know civil nuclear accidents –Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima — Paddy Regam sets the figure at about 50 as estimated by the World Health Organization.  All were associated with Chernobyl.   

“Why use Nuclear Power” is the thrust of another recent article which describes Uranium-235 as the isotope of uranium used in nuclear reactors.  Uranium-235 can produce 3.7 million times as much energy as the same amount of coal.  What’s more, uranium ore is abundant as the source material for making uranium fuel for nuclear reactors in the U.S. 

A Nuclear plant once constructed and with proper maintenance and upgrading can function for over one hundred years producing power with the biggest bang to the buck of all energy sources. It is also clean, green, and safe.  One nuclear power plant can produce 1,100 MG’s and more of energy on a relatively small acreage of land  The Navy has been using Nuclear to power ships since the time of Admiral Rickover in the 50’s without an accident. 

Illinois has seven nuclear plant facilities in Illinois, all owned by Exelon Corporation.  There is no way Exelon Corporation will ever consider adding additional nuclear plants here in Illinois, as Exelon has latched on to the green energy craze that has swept this state and nation by investing in wind and solar power, based on an ideology, not the hard facts of science, that man has a mission to save Mother Earth from heating up and self-destructing.

I’m still harboring a considerable amount of disbelief and grief over Exelon’s premature shut down of a rate-payer funded, dual nuclear facility capable of producing 2,200 MW’s of power in my own backyard at Zion, Illinois, in 1998, even thought the initial licenses didn’t even expire until this past year. 

In what amounted to a one-woman crusade over a period of two years, I am regretful of my failure to convince Exelon to restart Zion.  Instead, the Zion Plant was turned over to ZionSolutions, LLC for a 10 year, one billion dollar decommissioning project.  

Although I did meet several nuclear engineers at Heartland’s May 21 – 23 ICCC7 event, I was somewhat disappointed that only passing comments were made about the feasibility of nuclear energy as a superior energy source, as speakers frequently and with unanimity touted the use of oil and coal over wind, solar, and bio-fuels as viable energy sources. 

I was pleased to find inside my plastic parcel of information when registering on Monday, May 21, a video produced by the Heritage Foundation in March of this year, “Powering America”, which is a Heritage effort to launch a new debate on nuclear power.  The message conveyed:  A simple piece of rock can power a nation, and ultimately our future.   A trailer of the 40-minute documentary touting the virtues of nuclear energy can be found at this link:   Http://forumonenergy.com/2012/05/22/idea-gallery-launching-a-new-debate-on-nuclear-energy/ 

William Tucker in reviewing Heritage’s “Powering America” writes in his Nuclear Townhall blog post:

“Even the most conservative predictions say we’ll need at least 25 percent more electricity by 2035,  which happens to be the exact time when our current generation of reactors, built in the 1970s and 1980s, will be reaching retirement (There is disagreement in the life of a nuclear reactor.  Another 35-year renewal period is not out of the question.)  So its not just a matter of providing more electricity.  We’re going to have to replace the 20 percent of our electricity that nuclear energy already provides.  It’s a big task and building one or two new reactors per decade — the rate we’re currently achieving — isn’t going to come close to solving the problem.”   

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