A green deal we all should consider: Nuclear energy


Like the fallen leaves of autumn twirling around and around, the new green eco-warriors dizzily dance to beliefs and notions of their own creation.

And like their adversaries — who deny the human impact on climate change — much of their mirror-like zealotry is based on pseudoscience.

Nuclear power generation has the potential to make a substantial contribution to our country’s growing energy requirements, decarbonization of the atmosphere, along with ensuring our future energy independence.

The need to address global warming caused by industrial production, power plants, home heating, and automobile combustion of fossil fuels is close to reaching a critical level. A little-known fact is that once carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, more than a third of it remains there for hundreds of years. It should be apparent to anyone concerned about climate change that we must gather and implement every available technology needed to provide a carbon block within the next couple of decades.

Nuclear power provides approximately 20 percent of our electric power, and despite the hype renewables generate, only about 11 percent comes from hydroelectric (large dams) producing about 7 percent of that total.

The idea that intermittent sources of wind and solar energy production can totally replace base-load (constant) electrical production is unproven and borderline absurd.

Unfortunately, America’s old existing large light-water reactors are gradually being retired, and only two new commercial light-water nuclear reactors have been built here in more than 35 years.

Because of lower coal and natural gas costs, these facilities are no longer as profitable as they were only a decade ago. Even if most older existing power plants are confirmed to be safe, extending their useful operation will require costly replacement of components, refurbishment, along with government subsidies.

Meanwhile, China now has plans to build 12 new commercial reactors, India seven, and Russia and South Korea four plants apiece.

Additionally, China has developed its own reactor design for export, the CAP1400.

As part of its so-called “Belt and Road Initiative,” China plans to install nuclear reactors in Pakistan, Romania, Argentina, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Kazakhstan.

Presently, France produces 70 percent of its electricity using nuclear power plants. Sweden 40 percent. Russia 25 percent. And South Korea and China already have plans to increase their capacity to 30 percent by 2030.

Many of these countries have developed their low-cost nuclear power industry with private and government consortiums working closely together. Conforming to approved standardized designs, building multiple reactors on single sites, selecting a limited amount of vendors, exercising strict national regulatory controls, and limiting costly legal challenges by outside groups once construction has begun.

This is perhaps a model the United States should consider imitating.

Many private venture capitalists from Silicon Valley believe that new nuclear power plant design is a needed solution to provide our growing base-load electrical needs, and are funding ventures like Terra Power with the backing of Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold. Another venture, General Fusion, has raises tens of millions from investors including Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Other private ventures like NuScale Power are at the forefront of designing smaller modular nuclear reactors.

But the biggest, most important potential investor into all these new nuclear technologies is missing: the United States government. Yet despite America’s excellent nuclear safety record, security and climatic benefits, its detractors outnumber its advocates.

Until and unless the majority of American public realizes that nuclear power is an essential part of the mix to produce safe, clean energy, it will never get government support.

Are we to seriously believe that with the amazing rapid technological advancements we already have witnessed, we cannot design and build better, safer, more efficient nuclear power plants? In fact, most of the problems concerning the safety of power plant operation and nuclear waste are now being addressed.

It should be noted that the nuclear reactor failures in both Russia and Japan were absolutely the result of their governments’ failure to acknowledge serious risks and heed numerous safety procedures and warnings.

There aren’t presently any better alternatives to meeting our immediate future energy needs.

Serious attention has been given concerning the past failure of regulators to address crucial issues like constructing plants in densely populated and geologically unstable areas.

Time is running out, and we cannot waste it on fantastical notions of re-engineering world society within a couple of decades. Until and unless enlightened government leadership is willing to confront political pressure from organized anti-nuke alarmists and the well-financed advocates of fossil fuel, nuclear power generation in the United States will not survive as a viable option.

And the dancing flower children spinning around the fallen colorful leaves of autumn will symbolize the death of our worldwide leadership, creativity and innovation in one of the world’s most needed, vital and important technologies.

Lou DeHolczer,