Dems need to consider nuclear energy

Will Marshall


KAI RYSSDAL: Hillary Clinton is going to be the headliner tonight at the Democratic National Convention. She and the other speakers taking the podium can be expected to hammer the Republicans on the economy. While the convention's on we've asked Democratic policy junkies to tell us about an issue they think the party's neglecting. Today, commentator Will Marshall says Democrats are short one plank in their energy platform.

Will Marshall: Party platforms aren't exactly beach reading. But they do tee-up the critical choices voters will face in this fall's presidential election.

The Democrats, for instance, devote big chunks of their platform to energy security and climate change. They rightly blast the Bush-Cheney policies that have turned a blind eye to science and made our country more dependent than ever on fossil fuels. And they spell out a smart, clean energy alternative.

But there's a missing element in the party's platform, and that's any discussion of the future of nuclear energy. In fact, nuclear power doesn't rate a single mention in 57 pages.

That doesn't make a lot of sense, especially in a document that calls man-made climate change the greatest threat to our planet. If that's true -- and most scientists believe it is -- shouldn't we be expanding nuclear energy, instead of ignoring it?

Nuclear energy has a huge advantage over coal. It's climate friendly. It doesn't pump any carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere. And it generates loads of power -- almost 20 percent of America's electricity needs.

Nuclear energy is no panacea. It's expensive and generates a lot of waste we haven't figured out how to get rid of yet. And Democrats are absolutely right that our country needs to invest big-time in clean and renewable fuels. But in the near term, there just isn't going to be enough solar, wind, hydro or geothermal power to keep the lights on in our offices and factories and heat our homes in the winter.

If we don't expand nuclear energy, we'll have to turn to coal and gas to meet America's growing appetite for electricity. That's an inconvenient truth for environmentalists whose hostility to nuclear power hasn't changed since the Three Mile Island incident back in 1979.

Other countries aren't so superstitious. China has plans to build dozens of new nuclear plants. And France already gets 80 percent of its electricity from atomic energy.

It's time for U.S. progressives and Democrats to break the taboo on nuclear energy. What better way to show we're serious about protecting our planet?

RYSSDAL: Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute. That's a think tank affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.

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What isn't mentioned in the Democrats Platform, I am willing to bet, is the need to control human numbers as an energy conservation, peace and justice strategy. There can be no energy future or peace and justice on the planet without reducing both our numbers and our consumption rates. Energy sources such as fossil fuels and uranium are finite and are no long term solution. Nuclear involves dangerous wastes and expensive decomissioning. Building nuclear powers plants and drilling for more oil are not viable solutions to the problem of too many of us. Overpopulation requires contraceptive strategies and motivational education or just a plain old epidmic or famine if using our smarts doesn't work.
I would also point out that with rising sea levels some of our nuclear power plant may be subject to flooding in the future. Better watch where they are built, if we should be so stupid as to build more of them.

I don't believe Will Marshall IS a Progressive. If he was, he would be smarter than to buy the lie that more nuclear power is needed - just to boil water! Here are some easily verifiable facts:
-Nuclear energy wastes millions of gallons of water per day, totally unthinkable in times of drought.
-France had to shut down 3/4 of its nuclear reactors last summer, just when they were needed most...because the cooling water was too warm. France is facing waste storage, water pollution and other problems. Countries like Cloudy Germany and Oil-rich Abu Dhabi are using the latest in SOLAR energy.
-No one knows what to do with nuclear waste. It stays a killer for thousands of years!
-The pretext of nuclear energy encourages the restart of nuclear proliferation and gives countries like Iran an excuse to work with it.
-Old uranium mines out West are still contaminating and poisoning people - you may SAY nuclear plants are safe, but they do pollute air and water. Very likely that nuclear power contaminants are to blame for the huge increase in cancers in the US. Just because no one sees black smoke out of the stacks doesn't mean "Clean".
-The cost would be in the tens of billions of dollars per plant, take 10 years to build and divert time and funds from solar, wind, wave, geothermal, algae, green building..truly clean energy available NOW.
See www.ieer.org, download CARBON-FREE AND NUCLEAR-FREE, A Roadmap for US Energy Policy. I heard the author speak. Pg 41 shows our US Naval Base powered by solar photovoltaic panels installed over their existing parking lot - not a tree to chop down. Employees can park underneath out of the weather...and when we finally get hybrids, they can plug in as well.
Sorry to be cynical, but I think Will is getting at least some of his funding from Westinghouse, Areva or some of the megapower companies who are paying off everyone who will accept their handouts these days.

Looks like no one yet has mentioned that a "new" design of nuclear reactor, implementing high energy neutrons facilitated by liquid sodium coolant as compared to the traditional water coolant, is capable of using the radioactive "waste" that is left in "spent" nuclear fuel. This type of reactor would greatly reduce the amount of mining needed, as "spent" fuel from a traditional reactor has only used 5% or less of the potential fission energy. Sodium cooled reactors would "burn" the plutonium created in the old reactors and reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. The reason we're not hearing much about this is that these new plants would be expensive to build and their future is uncertain, due to the public's anxiety over nuclear energy, to the companies that would otherwise be interested in building them.
If the companies running nuclear power plants were not subsidized in their handling of their nulear "waste" by the government, but had to pay for the tens of thousands of years of storage and security, building these new plants to use up the waste would look a lot more attractive.

Nucular - noun - a term commonly used by unintelligent blowhards who, for some reason, are totally against completely clean energy sources like wind and solar.

I guess Mr. Marshall's commentary must have been interesting. But Jason is right. Alas, I only heard one word--over and over and over--NUKE-U-LER. Can't help myself, folks. He said it so many times, it almost sounded correct! I'm sure he'd wanna know. Would someone please pass it on to him?

The credibility of any policy organization decreases exponentially every time its head says "nucular" -- especially as many times as Will Marshall said it in yesterday's piece. My opposition to this form of energy has now grown by leaps and bounds, purely out of spite.

What Will Marshall faled to mention in his commentary is that the nuclear fuel cycle,mining refing disposal etal will, in fact exacerbate carbon emissions leading to climate disruption. But the media, by and large is too busy promoting nuclear power to tell us that. By the way, this is hardly the first time 'public' radio has shilled for nuclear energy. MornEd. had a shamelessly biased piece on 'environmentalists" reconsidering nuclear energy. But they didn't talk to any serious environmentalists. Could that be because businesses with a vested interest in nuclear give alot of financial support to National "public" radio?

If Wall Street won't back these projects, why should we (the taxpayers) be forced to? Nuclear is the most expensive, least viable soltuion to the problem at hand. Without government subsidies, it has no chance. Perhaps we should listen to the market on this one.

Mr. Marshall missed an excellent opportunity to correct a glaring misconception about nuclear energy: that it necessarily leaves behind dangerous nuclear waste.

We've known for decades how to separate the still-radioactive (i.e., energy-containing) material from spent fuel rods, reprocess it into new fuel rods, and discard the non-radioactive "ash". Jimmy Carter, however, unilaterally decided that the United States just wouldn't do that anymore, leaving us with the mess we have now.

Energy companies don't like radioactive waste any more than anyone else--it's literally wasted product. The real tragedy is that even though we've known how to eliminate it for decades, the federal government has refused to be dragged into the 1980's.

The DOE's solution to nuclear waste is to rename it. Everything has been reclassified to low level except spent fuel rods. For 20 years low level nuclear waste was shipped to and contaminated Middle Point Landfill in Murfreesboro, Tn, about 25 miles from Nashville. Now the big push is to "recycle" spent fuel rods. Reprocess is the correct word. Look at Hanford Washington and Savannah River Site to understand the magnitude of the problem of waste left over from recycling millitary spent fuel at these locations. Since 1990, DOE has been spending over $1 Billion each year trying to vitrify it at SRS. So far, only 2 of the 51 tanks, each larger than the state capitol dome of Georgia, have been emptied enough to grout them. Even those two tanks still had heavily radioactive crud in the bottoms and on the sides. Jay Hakes new book, "A Declaration of Energy Independence" proposes very deep well injection of the spent fuel rods instead of reprocessing. No Yucca Mountain and no reprocessing. But that will still leave the low level waste. I don't want it in a landfill near me. Do you? Since there is no acceptable way to dispose of nuclear waste, the only sane solution is to stop making any more of it.
Nuclear Power can not survive without mass government subsidies. Stop the subsidies now. Look at the newest attempt to slip hundreds of billions of dollars for nuclear into oil drilling legislation. Follow Al Gore's recommendation and go 100% renewables in 10 years. Yes we can. I want to be personally energy independent. I want an affordable solar array on my roof. Nanosolar Power sheets ware projected to cost only 10% the price of conventional photovoltaics. I want a plug in hybrid or all electric car in my garage, so that I can, as S. David Freeman said in his new book "Winning our Energy Independence," put sunshine in my tank.


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