The National Catholic Review

Atomic energy is among the most impractical and risky of available fuel sources. Private financiers are reluctant to invest in it, and both experts and the public have questions about the likelihood of safely storing lethal radioactive wastes for the required million years. Reactors also provide irresistible targets for terrorists seeking to inflict deep and lasting damage on the United States. The government’s own data show that U.S. nuclear reactors have more than a one-in-five lifetime probability of core melt, and a nuclear accident could kill 140,000 people, contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania, and destroy our homes and health.

In addition to being risky, nuclear power is unable to meet our current or future energy needs. Because of safety requirements and the length of time it takes to construct a nuclear-power facility, the government says that by the year 2050 atomic energy could supply, at best, 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs; yet by 2020, wind and solar panels could supply at least 32 percent of U.S. electricity, at about half the cost of nuclear power. Nevertheless, in the last two years, the current U.S. administration has given the bulk of taxpayer energy subsidies—a total of $20 billion—to atomic power. Why? Some officials say nuclear energy is clean, inexpensive, needed to address global climate change, unlikely to increase the risk of nuclear proliferation and safe.

On all five counts they are wrong. Renewable energy sources are cleaner, cheaper, better able to address climate change and proliferation risks, and safer. The government’s own data show that wind energy now costs less than half of nuclear power; that wind can supply far more energy, more quickly, than nuclear power; and that by 2015, solar panels will be economically competitive with all other conventional energy technologies. The administration’s case for nuclear power rests on at least five myths. Debunking these myths is necessary if the United States is to abandon its current dangerous energy course.

Myth 1. Nuclear Energy Is Clean

The myth of clean atomic power arises partly because some sources, like a pro-nuclear energy analysis published in 2003 by several professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, call atomic power a “carbon-free source” of energy. On its Web site, the U.S. Department of Energy, which is also a proponent of nuclear energy, calls atomic power “emissions free.” At best, these claims are half-truths because they “trim the data” on emissions.

While nuclear reactors themselves do not release greenhouse gases, reactors are only part of the nine-stage nuclear fuel cycle. This cycle includes mining uranium ore, milling it to extract uranium, converting the uranium to gas, enriching it, fabricating fuel pellets, generating power, reprocessing spent fuel, storing spent fuel at the reactor and transporting the waste to a permanent storage facility. Because most of these nine stages are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, nuclear power thus generates at least 33 grams of carbon-equivalent emissions for each kilowatt-hour of electricity that is produced. (To provide uniform calculations of greenhouse emissions, the various effects of the different greenhouse gases typically are converted to carbon-equivalent emissions.) Per kilowatt-hour, atomic energy produces only one-seventh the greenhouse emissions of coal, but twice as much as wind and slightly more than solar panels.

Nuclear power is even less clean when compared with energy-efficiency measures, such as using compact-fluorescent bulbs and increasing home insulation. Whether in medicine or energy policy, preventing a problem is usually cheaper than curing or solving it, and energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to solve the problem of reducing greenhouse gases. Department of Energy data show that one dollar invested in energy-efficiency programs displaces about six times more carbon emissions than the same amount invested in nuclear power. Government figures also show that energy-efficiency programs save $40 for every dollar invested in them. This is why the government says it could immediately and cost-effectively cut U.S. electricity consumption by 20 percent to 45 percent, using only existing strategies, like time-of-use electricity pricing. (Higher prices for electricity used during daily peak-consumption times—roughly between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.—encourage consumers to shift their time of energy use. New power plants are typically needed to handle only peak electricity demand.)

Myth 2. Nuclear Energy Is Inexpensive

Achieving greater energy efficiency, however, also requires ending the lopsided system of taxpayer nuclear subsidies that encourage the myth of inexpensive electricity from atomic power. Since 1949, the U.S. government has provided about $165 billion in subsidies to nuclear energy, about $5 billion to solar and wind together, and even less to energy-efficiency programs. All government efficiency programs—to encourage use of fuel-efficient cars, for example, or to provide financial assistance so that low-income citizens can insulate their homes—currently receive only a small percentage of federal energy monies.

After energy-efficiency programs, wind is the most cost-effective way both to generate electricity and to reduce greenhouse emissions. It costs about half as much as atomic power. The only nearly finished nuclear plant in the West, now being built in Finland by the French company Areva, will generate electricity costing 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Yet the U.S. government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory calculated actual costs of new wind plants, over the last seven years, at 3.4 cents per kilowatt- hour. Although some groups say nuclear energy is inexpensive, their misleading claims rely on trimming the data on cost. The 2003 M.I.T. study, for instance, included neither the costs of reprocessing nuclear material, nor the full interest costs on nuclear-facility construction capital, nor the total costs of waste storage. Once these omissions—from the entire nine-stage nuclear fuel cycle—are included, nuclear costs are about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The cost-effectiveness of wind power explains why in 2006 utility companies worldwide added 10 times more wind-generated, than nuclear, electricity capacity. It also explains why small-scale sources of renewable energy, like wind and solar, received $56 billion in global private investments in 2006, while nuclear energy received nothing. It explains why wind supplies 20 percent of Denmark’s electricity. It explains why, each year for the last several years, Germany, Spain and India have each, alone, added more wind capacity than all countries in the world, taken together, have added in nuclear capacity.

In the United States, wind supplies up to 8 percent of electricity in some Midwestern states. The case of Louis Brooks is instructive. Utilities pay him $500 a month for allowing 78 wind turbines on his Texas ranch, and he can still use virtually all the land for farming and grazing. Wind’s cost-effectiveness also explains why in 2007 wind received $9 billion in U.S. private investments, while nuclear energy received zero. U.S. wind energy has been growing by nearly 3,000 megawatts each year, annually producing new electricity equivalent to what three new nuclear reactors could generate. Meanwhile, no new U.S. atomic-power reactors have been ordered since 1974.

Should the United States continue to heavily subsidize nuclear technology? Or, as the distinguished physicist Amory Lovins put it, is the nuclear industry dying of an “incurable attack of market forces”? Standard and Poor’s, the credit- and investment-rating company, downgrades the rating of any utility that wants a nuclear plant. It claims that even subsidies are unlikely to make nuclear investment wise. Forbes magazine recently called nuclear investment “the largest managerial disaster in business history,” something pursued only by the “blind” or the “biased.”

Myth 3. Nuclear Energy Is Necessary to Address Climate Change

Government, industry and university studies, like those recently from Princeton, agree that wind turbines and solar panels already exist at an industrial scale and could supply one-third of U.S. electricity needs by 2020, and the vast majority of U.S. electricity by 2050—not just the 20 percent of electricity possible from nuclear energy by 2050. The D.O.E. says wind from only three states (Kansas, North Dakota and Texas) could supply all U.S. electricity needs, and 20 states could supply nearly triple those needs. By 2015, according to the D.O.E., solar panels will be competitive with all conventional energy technologies and will cost 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Shell Oil and other fossil-fuel companies agree. They are investing heavily in wind and solar.

From an economic perspective, atomic power is inefficient at addressing climate change because dollars used for more expensive, higher-emissions nuclear energy cannot be used for cheaper, lower-emissions renewable energy. Atomic power is also not sustainable. Because of dwindling uranium supplies, by the year 2050 reactors would be forced to use low-grade uranium ore whose greenhouse emissions would roughly equal those of natural gas. Besides, because the United States imports nearly all its uranium, pursuing nuclear power continues the dangerous pattern of dependency on foreign sources to meet domestic energy needs.

Myth 4. Nuclear Energy Will Not Increase Weapons Proliferation

Pursuing nuclear power also perpetuates the myth that increasing atomic energy, and thus increasing uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing, will increase neither terrorism nor proliferation of nuclear weapons. This myth has been rejected by both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment. More nuclear plants means more weapons materials, which means more targets, which means a higher risk of terrorism and proliferation. The government admits that Al Qaeda already has targeted U.S. reactors, none of which can withstand attack by a large airplane. Such an attack, warns the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, could cause fatalities as far away as 500 miles and destruction 10 times worse than that caused by the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986.

Nuclear energy actually increases the risks of weapons proliferation because the same technology used for civilian atomic power can be used for weapons, as the cases of India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Pakistan illustrate. As the Swedish Nobel Prize winner Hannes Alven put it, “The military atom and the civilian atom are Siamese twins.” Yet if the world stopped building nuclear-power plants, bomb ingredients would be harder to acquire, more conspicuous and more costly politically, if nations were caught trying to obtain them. Their motives for seeking nuclear materials would be unmasked as military, not civilian.

Myth 5. Nuclear Energy Is Safe

Proponents of nuclear energy, like Patrick Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace, and the former Argonne National Laboratory adviser Steve Berry, say that new reactors will be safer than current ones—“meltdown proof.” Such safety claims also are myths. Even the 2003 M.I.T. energy study predicted that tripling civilian nuclear reactors would lead to about four core-melt accidents. The government’s Sandia National Laboratory calculates that a nuclear accident could cause casualties similar to those at Hiroshima or Nagasaki: 140,000 deaths. If nuclear plants are as safe as their proponents claim, why do utilities need the U.S. Price-Anderson Act, which guarantees utilities protection against 98 percent of nuclear-accident liability and transfers these risks to the public? All U.S. utilities refused to generate atomic power until the government established this liability limit. Why do utilities, but not taxpayers, need this nuclear-liability protection?

Another problem is that high-level radioactive waste must be secured “in perpetuity,” as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences puts it. Yet the D.O.E. has already admitted that if nuclear waste is stored at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, as has been proposed, future generations could not meet existing radiation standards. As a result, the current U.S. administration’s proposal is to allow future releases of radioactive wastes, stored at Yucca Mountain, provided they annually cause no more than one person—out of every 70 persons exposed to them—to contract fatal cancer. These cancer risks are high partly because Yucca Mountain is so geologically unstable. Nuclear waste facilities could be breached by volcanic or seismic activity. Within 50 miles of Yucca Mountain, more than 600 seismic events, of magnitude greater than two on the Richter scale, have occurred since 1976. In 1992, only 12 miles from the site, an earthquake (5.6 on the Richter scale) damaged D.O.E. buildings. Within 31 miles of the site, eight volcanic eruptions have occurred in the last million years. These facts suggest that Alvin Weinberg was right. Four decades ago, the then-director of the government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory warned that nuclear waste required society to make a Faustian bargain with the devil. In exchange for current military and energy benefits from atomic power, this generation must sell the safety of future generations.

Yet the D.O.E. predicts harm even in this generation. The department says that if 70,000 tons of the existing U.S. waste were shipped to Yucca Mountain, the transfer would require 24 years of dozens of daily rail or truck shipments. Assuming low accident rates and discounting the possibility of terrorist attacks on these lethal shipments, the D.O.E. says this radioactive-waste transport likely would lead to 50 to 310 shipment accidents. According to the D.O.E., each of these accidents could contaminate 42 square miles, and each could require a 462-day cleanup that would cost $620 million, not counting medical expenses. Can hundreds of thousands of mostly unguarded shipments of lethal materials be kept safe? The states do not think so, and they have banned Yucca Mountain transport within their borders. A better alternative is onsite storage at reactors, where the material can be secured from terrorist attack in “hardened” bunkers.

Where Do We Go From Here?

If atomic energy is really so risky and expensive, why did the United States begin it and heavily subsidize it? As U.S. Atomic Energy Agency documents reveal, the United States began to develop nuclear power for the same reason many other nations have done so. It wanted weapons-grade nuclear materials for its military program. But the United States now has more than enough weapons materials. What explains the continuing subsidies? Certainly not the market. The Economist (7/7/05) recently noted that for decades, bankers in New York and London have refused loans to nuclear industries. Warning that nuclear costs, dangers and waste storage make atomic power “extremely risky,” The Economist claimed that the industry is now asking taxpayers to do what the market will not do: invest in nuclear energy. How did The Economist explain the uneconomical $20 billion U.S. nuclear subsidies for 2005-7? It pointed to campaign contributions from the nuclear industry.

Despite the problems with atomic power, society needs around-the-clock electricity. Can we rely on intermittent wind until solar power is cost-effective in 2015? Even the Department of Energy says yes. Wind now can supply up to 20 percent of electricity, using the current electricity grid as backup, just as nuclear plants do when they are shut down for refueling, maintenance and leaks. Wind can supply up to 100 percent of electricity needs by using “distributed” turbines spread over a wide geographic region—because the wind always blows somewhere, especially offshore.

Many renewable energy sources are safe and inexpensive, and they inflict almost no damage on people or the environment. Why is the current U.S. administration instead giving virtually all of its support to a riskier, more costly nuclear alternative?

Sidebar: "What Does the Church Say?"

Kristin Shrader-Frechette teaches biological sciences and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Her latest book, Taking Action, Saving Lives: Our Duties to Protect Environmental and Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2007), has been nominated for a National Book Award.

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TibeunceGebig | 8/16/2009 - 6:14pm
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John Wheeler | 1/31/2009 - 10:47am
As a Roman Catholic and an engineer with 20+ years working to safely harness the energy of the atom for the good of society (for energy production, not for weapons) I have to say this article this article from this source is particularly harmful. It is so full of inaccuracies that I hardly know where to start. I do not have the hours that it would take to write a line-by-line rebuttal, so I will focus on just a few of the most damaging misrepresentations: Nuclear plants are not nuclear bombs. They cannot explode. It is physically impossible. Even if a reactor core were to “melt down” no one would be injured. Safety analysis for current rectors proves the likelihood of a “core damaging event” is between one in 10,000 to 100,000 years, and even then no one gets hurt. This information is available at the US NRC website. Nuclear energy is safe. Not one single person has EVER died as a result of a nuclear accident in a commercial nuclear reactor in the United States. Compare that to the hundreds that die each year mining coal and the thousands that die in fires and explosions in the oil and gas industry. My source: US Dept of Labor statistics. Nuclear power plants REDUCE the number of nuclear weapons on the planet (not increase it as the author would have you believe). They do this by burning weapons as fuel. In the last decade nuclear plants in the United States have consumed 350 tons of bomb-grade uranium, the equivalent of more than 14,000 Soviet nuclear warheads. In fact, 10% of the electricity used in the entire USA for the last 10 years has been fueled by burning up weapons. Google “Magatons to Magawatts” to confirm this if you would like. Nuclear energy is competitively priced. Existing nuclear plants produce electricity for about 1.6 cents per KW-hour. This is cheaper than natural gas, oil, wind, and solar, and about the same price as electricity generated from coal. Please go look at your electricity bill to see what you are paying for the energy you use. According to the US Energy Administration the average residential rate in October 2008 was 11.86 cents per KW. Nuclear plants CAN be built in time to help reduce CO2 emissions. 14 of the currently operating US reactors were built in five years or less, and a total of 28 nuclear plants were built in less than six years. There are 104 nuclear plants in the USA. 102 of those reactors were built between 1965 and 1990; a 25 year period. Keep in mind existing plants were built before the days of modular construction, computerized design and scheduling, and automated welding techniques, all of which shorten construction time. Your magazine really should take a close look at your position on nuclear energy. The power of the atom is a gift from God. Like any such gift we can choose to use it for good or for evil. Please do not allow an uninformed yet vocal minority guide your judgment and beliefs on this important topic. John Wheeler, “This Week in Nuclear” podcast
vic hummert | 1/9/2009 - 10:59am
Congratulations! In 1980 AMEERICA published an issue with two articles in favor of nuclear energy. Thank you for changing, Vic Hummert
Colin Morrison | 8/30/2008 - 11:02am
As some of the other readers above have commented, I find it hard to begin to describe quite how biased Shrader-Frechette’s article is. Just looking at the first paragraph: “The government’s own data show that U.S. nuclear reactors have more than a one-in-five lifetime probability of core melt, and a nuclear accident could kill 140,000 people, contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania, and destroy our homes and health.” This is enormously disingenuous and deliberately misleading. Putting aside for one moment the probability of a core melt, she is deliberately implying that any core melt would have the effect of the accident she describes. But this is not the case. Three Mile Island involved a core melt, and it killed nobody because the radioactivity was contained within the containment building (as it would be in any US powerstation). Furthermore the estimate of the number of deaths a nuclear accident “could” cause is based on the application of a tiny cancer risk to a huge population over a long period of time. A worst-case accident (like Chernobyl) could increase cancer risk by perhaps 2% in the local area and over the course of a century or more this could lead to the number of premature deaths indicated. But this is not the same as the effect of a bomb blast or a hydro dam failure that could kill thousands immediately. Stating that the land would be “contaminated” is also misleading. The fact that the radiation level would increase would not make the land unusable, certainly not for more than a few weeks. Most of the land around Chernobyl is well within the normal range for natural background radiation. And, as I noted above, such an accident could only occur if the radiation containment building failed after a core accident. (Chernobyl had no containment building – but all western nuclear stations do). The Uk estimate of the probability of a core melt, combined with containment failure, is 1 in 2.4 billion reactor years. In contrast, the default alternative to nuclear has been to use coal. In the US, coal powerstations cause 30,000 premature deaths every year, due to air pollution. Not by accident, note, but by normal operation. Nuclear power in contrast has negligible health impact. Shrader-Frechette may be a proclaimed expert in risk, and may have studied philosophy, mathematics and biology, but all she is displaying in the above article is a flair for rhetoric.
Jason | 8/12/2008 - 9:29am
Personal/structural/reference basis attacks aside, i am seeking a substantiated basis in which this fear of nuclear energy is evolving from. To put it simply: Look at it and weep. Out of all the nuclear reactors currently in operation (see image) only two have experienced an accident worth noting. To become aware of the cause (human error, if the procedures were followed correctly there would be no 'is nuclear energy safe?' question) refer to the following: You may also take the time to incorporate Patrick Eicker's link to Continuing on, waste products have been found to be reusable, ranging from the depleted-uranium armor for the American Paladin tank to food irradiation, radioisotope thermoelectric generators, the keels of yachts, and anti-tank shells. This results in a 10% waste level. Furthermore, a large amount of usable uranium-235 remains post-reaction, of which most is reprocessed and subsequently reused in countries such as the UK, France and Japan. The US, however, does not pursue this avenue as terrorism may strike at any moment. Despite this the use of spent uranium (and by-products) as a possible source of nuclear armament is ridicules as there is a roughly 9000 year wait until the Pu-240 has had its plutonium isotopes decay sufficiently to create weapons-grape Pu. As for Uranium as a non-renewable resource, as well as Coupled with vast amounts of mine able uranium, we are not in any danger of a 'peaking' uranium disaster, at least not within the lifespan of our sun. Literally. In conclusion, I believe that nuclear energy, if properly financed and viewed as it should be by the public, that is, an incredibly appealing alternative to a) Inefficient, expensive, space-consuming and toxic-creating solar panels b) Coal (for obvious reasons) c) Again Inefficient, space-consuming, unreliable Wind power d) Roughly the same idea for both geothermal, water-turbine generators, and ethane or other hydrocarbon derivatives. Nuclear energy, together with the introduction of a hydrogen fuel cell-based car (or phosphoric acid) would eliminate the threat of global warming, rising fuel prices, as well as some overzealous hippies along the way (we can only hope).
Joan Klonowski | 7/17/2008 - 2:06pm
I live in a uranium belt. All the politicians and the local newspaper have assured the 20,000+ people in the area that new uranium mining is completely safe and the only reasonable alternative to energy problems. No public health agency has disagreed with this. Many of the Hispanic and Native Americans have died or are still suffering health problems from the prior uranium boom. Can anyone help us disseminate this information or fight the dominating uranium companies from going ahead with their plans?
T. West | 7/14/2008 - 3:27am
For many, the most troubling result of nuclear power generation is the necessity for storage of high level nuclear waste "in perpetuity" to avoid widespread radioactive contamination now and in the future. Professor Shrader-Frechette correctly points out the likelihood that the current Yucca Mountain high level waste repository will be breached by volcanic or seismic activity such as the 1992 earthquake that damaged Department of Energy buildings. Yet even if a seismically relatively inactive repository were found, the storage of nuclear waste "in perpetuity" would still be a practical impossibility for several reasons: 1. High level radioactive waste is dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. (Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Radioactive Waste: Politics, Technology, and Risk, 1980, Table A-1, Radionuclides in Spent Reactor Fuel, p. 178-9) 2. For over 60 years, experts have been trying without success to design a safe, permanent disposal method for high level waste. To wit, the Yucca Mountain repository's design allows fast flowing pathways for contaminated gases and water to leak out, threatening downwind and downstream communities (primarily Native Americans). Furthermore, the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board has warned that corrosion of the waste burial containers will cause relatively rapid radioactive releases. (US NWTRB Report on Localized Corrosion, Nov. 25, 2003) 3. U.S. production of high level waste exceeds our feasible capacity to store such waste into the future. There are currently 103 commercial U.S. nuclear power reactors creating high level waste. These reactors now store over 45,000 tons of high level waste in “interim” storage. At current rates of production, 63,000 tons of high level nuclear waste will exist in the U.S. by 2011, enough to fill Yucca Mt. to its legal limit. (Yucca DOE EIS, p. J-63) The long-term risks of nuclear energy make it an unacceptable solution to the energy crisis. Scientists have known for decades that radiation given off by high level radioactive waste causes cancer and birth defects. (Lipshutz). More recently, they have learned that radiation can permanently mutate and weaken human DNA, resulting in “developmental deficiencies in the fetus, hereditary disease, accelerated aging, and such non-specific effects as loss of immune competence.” (The New Scientist, October, 1997) There is no "safe" level of exposure to high level nuclear waste. The federal government promulgated the first radiation exposure limits in the 1930s (Lipschutz). As the effects and dangers of radiation exposure became clearer, these limits were gradually reduced, to the point where the "suggested radiation level" deemed "safe" for any person to recieve is 2-20 mrems per year. (Flynn, James et al. Redirecting the U.S. High-Level Nuclear Waste Program. Environment. 39(3), 7-11, 25-29). Will this be the final revision? To gamble with the health of future generations by subjecting them to inevitable radioactive exposure is both foolish (because of the availability of less costly renewable energy sources) and immoral. Professor Shrader-Frechette should be commended for her articulate examination of this issue.
Mario Rossi | 7/9/2008 - 11:52am
I'm against nuclear power for these reasons: -is NOT safe -is NOT cheap -is NOT a solution to energy needs The first idea is that we don't actually know where to put uranium waste: no place is secure enough. I want to focus on the third Althoug I find this article very interesting, I think that, when speaking of energy, it is essential to say that we must decrease our needs. There is no other solution to this problem: Hubbert taught us that no ore is endless. It is thought that if the whole world energy production came from nuclear energy, the uranium ore wuold last a decade. There is no energy source that is compleatly clean: for example a German study claims that windmills are dangerous to health because of some "non-udible sound" (mechanical vibrations of low frequency) and for that reason it is impossible to bild a windmill near a city. What I want to say is that the earth is limited and we must admit that we can't grow endless. An interesting book on this topic is "Limits to Growth". The matter is not which energy source we should use, but how much we should reduce our lifestiles. Mario Rossi italian engineering student
Paul Peete | 7/7/2008 - 11:18pm
Ms. Kristin Shrader-Frechette is to be commended in her effort to debunk the current pitch by the Nuclear Industry and the profiteers it will enrich at the expense of our safety. As I pointed out in my blog on Huffington Post, a McCain Presidency is a guarantee of nuclear plants being built across America as he has wholeheartedly supported their use. While Obama has not completely ruled out their inclusion in an energy plan, he stresses looking into their safety as the first phase of their consideration. My blogs are under and address the issue from a healthcare perspective.
Graham R.L. Cowan | 7/3/2008 - 1:24pm
Nuclear energy is indeed not a necessary evil. Rather, it is a optional good. Loretta Van Coppenolle asks whether we who support it do so by example, by living close to nuclear installations. Many of us do, and there is an interesting flipside to her insinuation: people who claim that fission is not the safest source of energy currently available, but act as if they believed that it is, in fact, safe. As I said at an oil-company forum in 2006, BP reports world nuclear electricity production in terms of how many million tonnes of oil might otherwise have been burned to make the same electricity. For 1995 they say 526.1 million tonnes, and for last year, 627.2. Maybe in 2025 it will reach 5,000 million tonnes-of-oil-equivalent, and level off there for the rest of the century, and then drop to zero in 2100 and forever after. Very little radioactivity exists in a litre of seawater now. It is inevitable that seven generations hence, when children go swimming in the sea, every drop of it will be at least as radioactive as all the waste left over from that century of expanded nuclear power, oceanically diluted, would be. But it is NOT inevitable that the expansion will occur. While the last ten years' increase has been substantial, for hydroelectricity the increase was almost as much, and it and nuclear together accounted for barely a tenth of new supply. All the rest was fossil fuel. As rapidly as as these fuels' carbon dioxide ash was building up in our air in 1995, still more strongly was it doing so last year. But dedicating 0.01 percent of the planet's land surface to CO2 scrubbers can make net emissions negative, and gently ease the CO2 level back towards its pre-1900, natural state, even if gross emissions keep rising rapidly. So nuclear energy is optional. It is an option that will in fact be taken, despite the very low cost of nuclear fuel compared to fossil fuels and the concomitantly very low tax yield. A gas pipeline blast here, a tanker crash there, and as long as one doesn't know any of the victims, it's easy to say one does not believe nuclear is much safer; a government paycheque may be helpful in saying this, and in calling for renewable energy, secure in the knowledge that as yet it's no threat to anyone's petrodollar income. But if, at some point, one's personal skin needs to be put near either one power source, or another, suddenly all those accidents don't seem so insignificant, and one realizes that one does, in fact, understand that nuclear is much safer. So we have the spectacle of campaigners for an organization that preaches against nuclear energy voting with their legs by getting on nuclear icebreaker rather than waiting a chilly wait for a diesel boat. Perfectly sensible, indeed if safety is a real concern and the diesel boat comes first, one should wait.
John Bauer | 7/1/2008 - 3:03pm
There are so many errors in this article a proper response would take the length of the article. Suffice to say that it should have been entitled "Five Myths About Nuclear Energy as Espoused by the Ignorant and Ill-informed." Interested readers would be well advised to read Iain Murray's article in the June 16th issue of National Review on the same subject. The editors of America should be ashamed of themselves for printing this inaccurate propaganda and should run another article written by a competent and honest author.
Loretta Van Coppenolle | 7/1/2008 - 11:40am
I am amazed at the number of pro-nuclear comments posted. I can imagine Jesus looking toward the sky, and saying, "Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do." Anyone with any sense of morality would not condone nuclear power when it is not even a necessary evil. What will it take to make people realize it is too hazardous to be a viable option for an energy future that should be emphasizing efficiency, conservation, and renewables? The cost of nuclear may persuade more than the health and ethical issues do. A 2700 mw plant today will cost, for construction alone, between $12 and $18 billion. If utilities have to pay for on-site waste storage, which was not the case in the first round of nukes, the cost is greatly enhanced. For a fraction of that amount, buildings could be retrofitted to reduce energy demand, and wind, geothermal and solar (large and small scale) could be put into use, to respond to current and future energy needs. It is the lack of political will and the power of corporate interests that keep modalities like nuclear on the table. Not necessity, and certainly not suitability. I wonder how many who here posted pro-nuclear comments live within 20 miles of a nuclear plant or would choose to do so.
Dan Bishop | 6/29/2008 - 12:58pm
The Church teaches her children to have a "preferential option for the poor." What does this mean in the world of energy? For one, it means supporting public policies that ease the burden of essential commodities -- like home heating costs -- on our low-income neighbors. The U.S. now burns as much natural gas to generate electricity as is used for its more normal purpose, which is providing fuel for home heating. A consequence is higher heating bills for everyone. Why are we using so much natural gas to make electricity? Nuclear power should be a much larger share of U.S. electric generation than its current 18% -- France is at 80% and Japan is at 50%+. Biased analysis like the cover story by Ms. Shrader-Frechette fails to provide the whole societal impact of current, real-world impact on the poor. Her article also fails to point out that the capacity factor for windmills -- the actual amount of time when they generate electricity -- is about 25%. In other words, to generate as much power as a standard coal or nuclear plant it would require four times as many windmills.
DENNIS R. NELSON | 6/28/2008 - 3:13pm
The 'College of Complexes' is a long-running weekly discussion of social/political topics at Lincoln Restaurant in Chicago. Following the guest speaker, there is a question-and-answer session followed by "five-minute rebuttals" from the audience. This is my "rebuttal" to the topic "America's Challenges in This Century" on Saturday, 6/21/08, where the guest speaker favored an expansion of nuclear power: My name is Dennis Nelson. I am a Board Member of the Nuclear Energy Information Service. Located in the 'Logan Square' neighborhood on Chicago's NW side, NEIS has been Illinois' "environmental 'no nukes/safer energy' group" for over 27 years now. NEIS has themes like "You Can't 'Nuke' Global Warming!" and "Energy As If Common Sense Mattered!" One of our biggest challenges in this century is a "'Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free' Energy Pathway!" This means converting our entire energy system into one which uses only greatly increased energy efficiency and renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biofuels, 'renewable hydrogen,' hydro, and geothermal). It is technically and economically feasible to complete this conversion by the year 2050. (Germany is ahead of us in using solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Denmark is ahead of us in using wind electricity. Both countries are embarking on their own "'C-F & N-F' Energy Pathways"--Germany to phase out its nuclear power, and Denmark to phase out its imported oil.) According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Federal Energy Administration, nuclear power supplies 8% of our nation's energy--this is after billions of dollars in federal subsidies, and a list of headaches that we don't have time to discuss this evening. Various forms of renewable energy provide 7% of our country's energy--as the title of a past Union of Concerned Scientists book stated, "Renewables Are Ready!" At the end of last year, the world's nuclear industry had 439 operating nuclear power plants--with 117 nuclear reactors already shut down. Let's don't just "psychologically justify the 'status quo'." Physicist and Energy Consultant Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, has recently co-authored another opus magnum. This new report is entitled "The Nuclear Illusion." According to Lovins: "New nuclear power will reduce and retard climate solutions because it provides about two to 11 times less solution per dollar [spent]--tens of times slower than if we spent the same money and time on micropower and efficiency." ('Micropower' includes renewable energy technologies, and the on-site generation of electricity with co-generation and recovery of waste heat. 'Micropower' already out-produces nuclear power worldwide, and is growing more quickly.) Attempting to revive the "nuclear illusion" is no solution for either our real energy problem or global warming crisis! "You Can't 'Nuke' Global Warming!" This past week, the (presumed) GOP presidential candidate, John McCain, has supported continuing the failed "national energy 'tragedy'" of the Bush-Cheney Administration. McCain wants to rescend the long-standing ban on offshore oil drilling, construct 45 new nuclear reactors by the year 2030, and develop so-called "clean coal"--an oxymoron when you consider the environmental damage from mountaintop-removal coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains. This is NOT "Energy As If Common Sense Mattered!" By contrast, "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free" presents the 'Vision' of a truly sustainable energy future providing people with what they really want: ---We want "healthier lifestyles"--C-F & N-F will cut the production and release of a variety of "toxics" from fossil fuels and nuclear power. ---We want freedom from the rising cost of imported oil and gasoline prices "going through the roof"-
Peter Shea | 6/27/2008 - 3:33pm
I thought the article on the "Five Myths About Nuclear Energy" was clearly and thoughtfully written highlighting some problems with nuclear energy. These are problems that all citizens should be aware of in order to make informed decisions about the feasibility of pursuing nuclear energy. Similar information about the dangers of commercial nuclear power plants were outlined in the Brookhaven Report in the early 1950's. That report was suppressed by the government for over decade, preventing citizens from being aware of the risks of nuclear power, and preventing them from being able to give free informed consent to the risks of nuclear energy. That moral issue alone makes this particular article especially relevant to a prestigious Catholic publication such as America. The author supported her claims with an abundance of documented details available to anyone wishing to check her sources. I was surprised by the unrestrained vehemence of some of the reviews, which offered mostly general comments in a flawed attempt to rebut specific issues raised by the author.
Elaine Tannesen | 6/27/2008 - 7:49am
Thank you for publishing this excellent and obviously provocative article. This is a magazine that addresses issues of morality. No operation can be 100% safe. If nuclear energy claims to be safe, why can't nuclear plants get insurance on the open market and have to ask tax payers to stand ready to cover their accidents? A nuclear accident could be catastrophic. Would it be morally right to expose our brothers and sisters to even the remote possibility of this happening? If you have ever watched someone suffer and die of cancer, you might want to think twice about bearing responsibilty for this. There are other safer sources of energy.
Kelly Classic | 6/26/2008 - 1:34pm
I read with interest the article on the “Five Myths About Nuclear Energy” (America, June 23). It would be very useful to the readers of America to have initial statements before articles such as this, to indicate that the author is strongly for or against the topic about which they write. In this case, Dr. Shrader-Frechette is strongly opposed to nuclear power and has generated a very biased article. If readers were aware of this, they could read it knowing that the information is not sharing all points of view, but is sharing only one. I’ve been a radiation safety specialist for nearly three decades in the medical and research field. Although I know radiation safety, I am not a nuclear power specialist so, to make informed decisions, I read about nuclear energy and many other technologies impacting our lives. In her statements about the safety of nuclear power, Dr. Shrader-Frechette states that safety claims [about nuclear power plants] are myths, then uses arbitrary information to support her claim (claims of government subsidies really do not support or refute whether plants are safe). Also, offering statements about explosions and meltdowns to scare the reader does little in the way of sharing scientific information about the safety of the plants. While we can calculate and project what might occur should there be a catastrophic event with a nuclear power plant, the fact remains that the United States has had over 1,000 nuclear power operating years with no event of public safety and health significance. The meltdown of radioactive fuel at Three Mile Island led to no deaths or injuries because of built in safety mechanisms and redundant systems. New plants proposed to be built in the coming years have even more safety built in to their operations – twice that of current plants that already operate safely. The other argument presented in Myth #5 regards disposal of the radioactive waste. Dr. Shrader-Frechette is correct in her statement that, while it remains radioactive the waste will need to be monitored and secured. That is a good thing! For purposes of safety, it must be monitored and secured. However, she paints an ominous picture of transporting radioactive wastes (or materials) around the country when, in fact, there have been more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high level waste across this country since 1971 without [radiological] incident. Unfortunately, articles like Dr. Shrader-Frechette’s focus on the “could be’s” – what could go wrong, what could happen to the public, etc. Projecting worst case scenarios into the future for any technology, with no acknowledgement of current and past safety, will generate a long list of why something might not be good. The United States must to take a broad view of our energy needs with the understanding that nuclear, wind, solar, gas, and coal may all be necessary to meet our increasing demand for electricity. Rather than reasons “why not,” we need to focus on the fact that we have safely lived with nuclear power for over two decades and we must work together to determine how the nuclear, wind, solar, gas, and coal resources can be used with minimal or no risk to public health and safety. Radiation is one of the most studied physical hazards in our history. While it is necessary to assure that people are not exposed to radiation unnecessarily, it is not responsible of your magazine to paint nuclear power as a villain and needlessly cause worry for your readers.
Julia Yang | 6/26/2008 - 8:46am
In every country where it is used, nuclear power exists only because of massive government subsidies. The French nuclear industry has NEVER independently operated in the black. Although it is true that France exports energy and earns money from this portion of its nuclear enterprise, these payments do not fully cover the domestic industry’s costs, and the French government has repeatedly “forgiven” the expenses associated with the industry. Without these massive subsidies, which in the US are many times greater than the monies given to renewables like wind and solar, no country would use nuclear. Italy has not gone nuclear. It rejected nuclear power 20 years ago as unsafe and expensive, and Berlusconi now says he wants nuclear power. It is not clear that he will get his way. If nuclear power were such a great deal and were safe, it would be able to get full insurance coverage on the free market. It’s not. Let’s see nuclear power put its money where its mouth is. As of now, the industry refuses to generate power without the protection of a liability limit that is roughly 1% of losses. For additional explanations as to why this may be the case, read “Insurmountable Risks” by Brice Smith (Physics PhD, MIT). Independent researchers have found statistically significant increases in leukemia in persons living close to nuclear reactors. “Extraordinary nuclear occurrences” – that is, leaks of radioactivity – occur more than one hundred times a year in the US. These kinds of metrics are hard to find in places like France, where the government does not release comprehensive safety data. This suggests that one reason the French people are willing to use nuclear energy is that they don’t know all the relevant facts. Nuclear power seems a lot like a mortgage-backed bond: it’s flashy, it’s complex, and for a while it seems to make sense. But in the end it bites you.
Gino Dalpiaz | 6/25/2008 - 2:31pm
France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. This is due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. France is the world's largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over EUR 3 billion per year from this. France has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and fuel products and services are a major export. Why don't the French have the qualms of conscience over nuclear energy that Kristin Shrader-Frechette seems to have? And why is Italy under the new Prime Minister Berlusconi getting into nuclear energy production once again? And soon maybe even Great Britain and other countries? Do they know something we don't know?
JOE BLISS | 6/24/2008 - 10:37pm
Since this article was presented as part of the series "A Closer Look", I look forward to your article presenting the other view of Nuclear Energy".
lLetha Chamberlain | 6/23/2008 - 5:23am
My brother is a radiation biologist who has studied the effects of radiation on biological systems his whole adult life--he went into that field because he wanted to do something for the good of humankind. From him I have learned a great deal that has opened my eyes to the level of downright hysteria on this issue, which I see right before my eyes in these comments. We live with radiation in our environment--and it is GOOD for us; it kills bacteria and makes substances necessary for our survival. We often do not give this any thought, whatever. The nuclear waste from nuclear processing plants does not take 800 generations to deteriorate to the place that it is not harmful to us... and it CAN be safely stored until it does. However, the heavy metals used in such energy-processing plants for solar batteries (cadmium) does NOT degenerate EVER, enters into our water and soil supplies FOREVER. Wind mills kill migrating birds and butterflies by the scores... and often we do not give credence to these things. We NEED to think through ALL the pertinent facts--and my earlier entry was not allowed for some unknown reason I cannot imagine.
lLetha Chamberlain | 6/23/2008 - 5:22am
My brother is a radiation biologist who has studied the effects of radiation on biological systems his whole adult life--he went into that field because he wanted to do something for the good of humankind. From him I have learned a great deal that has opened my eyes to the level of downright hysteria on this issue, which I see right before my eyes in these comments. We live with radiation in our environment--and it is GOOD for us; it kills bacteria and makes substances necessary for our survival. We often do not give this any thought, whatever. The nuclear waste from nuclear processing plants does not take 800 generations to deteriorate to the place that it is not harmful to us... and it CAN be safely stored until it does. However, the heavy metals used in such energy-processing plants for solar batteries (cadmium) does NOT degenerate EVER, enters into our water and soil supplies FOREVER. Wind mills kill migrating birds and butterflies by the scores... and often we do not give credence to these things. We NEED to think through ALL the pertinent facts--and my earlier entry was not allowed for some unknown reason I cannot imagine.
Patrick Eicker | 6/22/2008 - 10:51am
Here's the more relevant information re reactor safety: "In the United States, we are currently operating about 100 reactors, so the frequency of an extreme event is about 1 in 10 million per year." This is from the US government's official work on reactor safety: The professor's number of 1 in 5 core melts is taken from the writings of another fear monger in which he assumed 5000(!) reactors. We'll never get close to that number. The sort of slanting of information used by the professor throughout her article should not be allowed in a reputable magazine. And by the way, how was such a person granted tenure at a reputable institution?
Russell J. Lowes | 6/21/2008 - 6:02pm
This article is very well-thought out. It is amazing to me how nuclear advocates are often so ideologically bent on favoring this 20th century technology. Nuclear power is a has-been. The only reason it was ever in vogue is because of big government subsidies. The only reason any more will be built is because of big government subsidization. Nuclear energy can not stand on its own in a free market. This is why France is so heavily nuclear-powered: the state took over the financing and hid the real free market costs of capital. Nuclear energy is a capital-hungry mechanism that only displaces dollars that could go toward solving energy problems. A dollar for nuclear is a dollar taken away from real solutions. See for more information on the real costs and benefits of nuclear energy and its real alternatives.
Patrick Eicker | 6/21/2008 - 3:00pm
This woman is not trying to convince anyone of anything. She's simply topping up the memories of the wingnuts who already agree with her.
PATRICK AGNEW | 6/21/2008 - 2:44pm
As a reader who works for an energy company which produces electricity from wind, solar-thermal, natural gas and nuclear sources - and operates the nation's largest conservation programs - I was disappointed with this article. The nuclear question is an important one, and certainly deserves more thoughtful and balanced discussion.
Peter Machamer | 6/21/2008 - 11:01am
Few of the replies to Professor Shrader-Frechette's arguments actually address her claims. To take only one example, reprocessing nuclear waste is expensive and not a very secure or studied option. It is being followed in various countries because they are already committed to nuclear power. No one of the responses actually addresses the major point about governemnt subsidies to the nuclear industry.
John Dwyer | 6/20/2008 - 7:15pm
It is disappointing to see such a one-sided and I believe misinformed, analysis regarding the future of nuclear energy published in America. Relying on 12 million barrels of imported oil per day is sapping the strength of our economy and taking us to terrible political decisions. Full speed ahead on renewable sources such as wind and solar but we won't get there fast enough to maintain an acceptable standard of living. We must not give up on our ability to solve the technological problems that nuclear energy presents.
ROBERT MCNULTY | 6/20/2008 - 3:53pm
What can one say about an article that is wrong in nearly every statement it makes about nuclear energy? There is no need for refutation. France and Japan have committed to the French system which reprocesses nuclear waste. Finland has also. After studying all the arguments in this article, the United Kingdom has made the decision to go with the French process,
(Rev. Deacon) John L. Hubisz, Ph.D. (Physics & Spa | 6/20/2008 - 1:53pm
While I have seen such ignorance displayed in many places over the years, I have never seen so much in one essay.
MoJo | 6/18/2008 - 3:20pm
Wow! The misinformation in the previous comments is incredible!! The commenters obviously have no clue about the damage that radioactivity does to the human genome for generations upon generations to come. The errors in the comments are just too numerous to even begin to argue soo--- As this is a Catholic Weekly let's just talk about the morality of leaving a deadly waste for the next 800+ generations to have to be responsible for keeping completely isolated from the environment. They'll not see one single watt of electricity yet they will have to pay for the storage and deal with the problems that arise when containers fail and breach. Even the NRC fully agrees that waste MUST be kept completely isolated; that's just how dangerous it is. If you don't think we need nuclear power I challange you to read "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy" Go to this website where you can read and download the whole book free
Phillip Whitaker | 6/18/2008 - 4:45am
Reply to #1: Prof. Shrader-Frechette is a widely published academic author with a background in physics, mathematics, biology and philosophy. Her discussion of the fallacious arguments being used to promote nuclear energy are spot on and stand up to rigorous examination. Her website contains a library of her publications on the topic which are meticulously documented with a heavy reliance on original sources from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and and the Department of Energy. Murray's attack on the other hand, is a baseless personal assualt - a prime example of an ad hominem logical fallacy. #2: Reductions of CO2 emissions and MERCURY are both achieved with deployment of CFL bulbs. Even considering the mercury in the CFLs, it is less than half of what would be emitted by the coal burned to power a similar number of incandescent bulbs. Another advantage is that the CFL mercury eventually is confined to landfills, where studies have shown it to be absorbed by the surrounding wastes. The mercury from coal, however, is atmospherically distributed, where it finds its way into the soil and the beds of waterways. There the mercury enters the food chain by being absorbed by bacteria and converted to methyl mercury - the form of mercury that is most harmful to humans. Space considerations limit my ability to refute the litany of misinformation in above the responses to the original article, but I'd like to address just one more specifically;the reference to France as a demonstration of nuclear energy as a success story. It isn't. The French nuclear program has been successful in the limited context of the few decades it has been in operation, however, there are already more than twice the number of nuclear power plants in the US than in France. On both sides of the ocean this deployment has been possible only because of massive government assistance and by ignoring the full external costs of nuclear waste disposal and the the threat of nuclear proliferation. It should be recognized that the elites proposing climate change be addressed by widescale deployment of thousands of new reactors also endorse the concept that control of nuclear materials will be possible because the non-nuclear countries will be so obligated to the providers of recycled nuclear fuel that they will be compliant regarding the use of these materials in the development of nuclear weapons. However, the basic idea of nationalistic energy security concerns argues that the opposite is true. The policy of widespread deployment will give rise (witness Iran) to the assertion that processing of nuclear fuel is an inalienable right of all countries. Far from acting to deter nuclear proliferation, encouraging nuclear power will ensure that any country that wants to acquire nuclear weapons will have the means to do so rather easily.
Carlos Echevarria | 6/18/2008 - 4:13am
This is typical left wing, environmental propoganda...citing Greenpeace? Give me a break, during the Cold War they were part and parcel of the KGB, remember their utter silence regarding Cherynobyl.
lLetha Chamberlain | 6/17/2008 - 5:13pm
This author does not have many of HER facts straight, either... straight from the mouth of my brother, a nuclear biologist, who has spent his life studying the effects of radiation on biological systems--and endorses nuclear power for the world. Just imagine what using wind power--which kills birds and butterflies, or solar power, which uses cadmium batteries that NEVER decay, but poison the earth FOREVER. HER fact--that we have to store uranium waste for MILLIONS of years is faulty--the half life is much less than that--well within the reach of storing it in glass in non-fault zones until it decays to the point of being non-dangerous to life (well within the lifetime of glass). We only have to use the techology we know and have, which we haven't been doing due to many issues, like this kind of ignorance. This article is dangerous to the public because it is faulty in information--and is misleading. I challenge America to put in an article written by someone who KNOWS nuclear power better.
THOMAS FARANDA | 6/17/2008 - 4:38pm
Wow! Do the French know these facts? As an over 18 year subscriber to America, this is without doubt one of the poorest articles I've ever read in America - and America has printed a lot of poor articles. Wild claims, no back-up. Where are the references? Ohh - A Notre Dame prof. - no need for references.
John Loretz | 6/17/2008 - 9:49am
This is one of the best, clearest, most accessible articles on the nuclear energy boondoggle that I've seen in print. The negative comments that have been posted -- at least the ones that have any substance at all and are not merely ad hominem attacks -- are just rehashing the same tired propaganda we've been getting about nuclear energy for decades. This is an op-ed for a newspaper, not an article for a scientific journal, so the criticism that Prof. Shrader-Frechette did not fully document her sources is duplicitous at best. The documentation is out there and accessible for anyone interested in facts rather than corporate spin. The right-wing, neo-con, true believers are too entranced by the raw power symbolized by nuclear fission (see how easy ad hominem attacks are?) to see that their whole paradigm is being replaced before their eyes by something far more Earth-friendly and supportive of people's real economic and social needs.
Bob Balen | 6/15/2008 - 3:00pm
Hi, You definitely receive the Chicken Little Award..
Graham R.L. Cowan | 6/14/2008 - 10:22am
Nuclear energy is distinct from non-hydro renewable energies in that it has significantly inconvenienced oil and gas interests over the last 30 years. Because oil and gas bring in large royalty and consumption tax revenues, these interests include government. The misconceptions Kristin Shrader-Frechette promotes are all beneficial to them. Per $100 in cancelled oil or gas revenue, uranium costs on the order of two dollars; it is being discovered at ten times the rate of use, so there is no prospect in this millennium of its ceasing to be inconvenient to fossil fuel interests. Rather, they will cease to be inconvenient to it, and to us. Because uranium is so enormously abundant, nuclear energy is not meaningfully distinct from renewables in terms of renewability. For a much longer time into the future than the pyramids of Egypt are in the past, it will always be possible to find more. It is true that special equipment to burn whole uranium has been prototyped, and existing unsubsidized commercial plant burns only 1 percent of what is mined, but the essential renewability of nuclear energy does not depend on those prototypes becoming commercially competitive. Even with only 1 percent of the mined uranium being burned, nuclear energy is sustainable for a great many generations. If you are in favour of clean energy, as long as it's not nuclear, you are in favour of dirty energy. --- Graham R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996
Gus Burk | 6/13/2008 - 3:31pm
Nothing changes with the radical environmental progressive left wingers. These are the same false arguments that anti-nuke groups have been using for over 20 years. France, a country that relies on nuke-power generation for over 30% of it's electricity has experts and a 30 year track record that comletely contradict and disprove the falsehoods promoted by this article. I urge all who read this to use their computer to research the truths pertaining to nuclear power as a clean energy source. It is far better that ethanol that is using up all the corn crop in the US while causing more to be grown in place of other crops, thereby causing starvation on a large world wide scale. Nuclear is far cleaner than coal even though both minerals come from mining the earth... a pound of uranium from 50 tons of ore gives a thousand times more energy what comes from 50 tons of coal. We are at least 10-20 years from the technology needed for efficient affordable solar power. Wind power is a farce. Just research the poor efficiency of wind turbines... only 28-42% with damage to birds due to the subsonic harmonic vibrations created by them as they turn. The best power sources we should be looking forward to are nuclear, hydrogen, geo-thermal and down the road solar.
Paul | 6/13/2008 - 1:43pm
Do you have anything to add but the usual anti-nuke canards?
LaFeet | 6/13/2008 - 1:36pm
I can see that you have a serious concern for the planet. You advocate the use of fluorescent bulbs, but fail to state the related emmissions for manufacturing or that they each contain toxic mercury. You push wind turbines but fail to state the effect they have on migratory species or that they require extensive maintenance and that they have to have wind to operate. Did misunderstand me, I am all for supplementing our energy needs with solar and wind sources. But your basis that we can meet our current and future needs on these technologies alone is a crock. Nuclear power is expensive, from the get go. But even our aging fleet has far surpassed the output expected. With continued analysis they have been PROVEN safe to continue to produce power without having to build new plants. Meanwhile, America is allowing coal, oil and gas fired plants to crop up like weeds. These are the plants that you should focus on. They have a far greater output of toxicity than any nukes. Their CO2 and heavy metal emmissions are still tainting our air, even with the increased filtering requirments. The filters themselves are a hazardous waste nightmare. You worry about unguarded "nuclear" shipments... but these have been safely occurring on our nations highways and roads for years. Like many Americans you fail to grasp the concept that if used properly nuclear power is a boon. It stems from too many of us baby boomers having to due the "crawl under your desk" drills. I support your initiative in seeking more solar and wind generation. I hope to be a surplus net meterer soon myself. But I do not see any way that we as a nation can survive without nuclear energy, especially as oil prices skyrocket.
Chris Murray | 6/13/2008 - 1:01pm
Are you really a professor at Notre Dame? Really? Let's see some sources of your information. There are several key points that you claim to be fact, yet I have proof otherwise from CREDIBLE and ACCURATE sources. I just don't know where to start. I would think that an academic such as yourself would understand the value of obtaining good information, but apparently I was wrong. For the sake of anyone who might read your article and put value into what you say, PLEASE revise your work to reflect accurate information.

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