The forces of light: why supporting nuclear energy is good for the soul

I have actively supported nuclear energy for five years. Before that, before starting to work in the industry, I never gave nuclear energy much thought. Didn’t really see the need. There were more than 100 plants out there producing 20 percent of the nation’s energy – and doing it quite well. In other words, I didn’t have to think about it.

Now having learned something about nuclear energy – and seeing the industry from the inside – I can see why it is an endeavor worth supporting. Strongly supporting.

Michael Hanlon wrote a great piece at Aeon, looking at how risk-aversion has just about killed our innovative spirit over the past four decades. When it comes to nuclear energy, he doesn’t mince his words: “The climate change crisis, which might kill millions, is one of the prices we are paying for 40 years of risk-aversion” toward nuclear energy.

Which is one reason nuclear energy should be looked on as a force of light, a force for good. Think about its attributes:

  • It’s the safest form of energy generation we’ve ever known
  • Its fuel is cheap and abundant
  • It’s carbon-free in the generation of electricity (though the mining of uranium creates some carbon)
  • It’s a baseload, or full-time, source of electricity
  • Its waste is a solid, completely containable, with no impact to the environment

But more than that – nuclear energy can be a national endeavor for the benefit of all.

Plant Vogtle Unit 3 under construction in Georgia. Photo credit: PowerMag

Plant Vogtle Unit 3 under construction in Georgia. Photo credit: PowerMag

The five plants now under construction are arguably among the largest construction projects this nation is undertaking, employing thousands of people: men and women; skilled laborers; engineers; professionals. And the result will be carbon-free energy generation stretching, perhaps, all the way to the 22nd century. During that time, generations of highly-skilled professionals will have family-wage jobs. Thousands of them. Cities will have abundant, clean, safe, cost-effective energy.

Nuclear energy demands the best of people on a daily basis. Isn’t that a good thing? Going back to Hanlon’s piece, we don’t advance as a society by simply making a larger screen on a smartphone and calling it a breakthrough. That’s just marketing. We advance as a society by big pursuits of important things.

Nuclear energy is about the pursuit of perfection in energy generation. Think about it. To have a 1,200 megawatt plant run nearly 100 percent of the time producing carbon-free electricity with little (to no) environmental impact at a very low cost. As Vince Lombardi once said, perfection, in the end, is unattainable, but in pursuing perfection one can catch excellence.

That’s where you’ll find the next generation of nuclear energy innovators – pursuing perfection in their designs of advanced nuclear technology. They are designing nuclear

Leslie Dewan, co-founder of Transatomic Power, a nuclear energy start-up.

Leslie Dewan, co-founder of Transatomic Power, a nuclear energy start-up.

reactors that are smaller, utilize passive safety features, and that would be economical to manufacture and deploy.

They should be celebrated. And encouraged. Politicians, fellow scientists, even the environmentalists (especially the environmentalists), should be leading the cheers and pushing them on in their work to create an abundant source of clean energy. Many are supporting them.

Which brings us to the other side of the equation.

Those who find themselves opposing the current use of, or future deployment of, nuclear energy are not the ones who will make this nation or this world a better place for humankind by holding this position. They add little to the discussion about how we will supply billions and billions of people with electricity in the future without harming the environment.

So they chase ghosts. “Nuclear is dirty.” “Nuclear is expensive.” “Nuclear is unsafe.” None of that is true, but they repeat it a lot and they are able to get other people to repeat it as well. The New Republic, for example, recently reported, “For starters, nuclear energy isn’t clean.” For support of that statement, the author sources… an anti-nuclear energy activist. You can read the piece here but you’ll get far more insight skipping to the comments of well-informed readers.

Many environmentalists are taking a fresh look at nuclear energy and with good reason. Nuclear energy is not going away, just ask China – or the rest of the world. So why waste time arguing for its elimination?

Vermont Yankee protester.

Vermont Yankee protester.

After all, what was gained by closing Vermont Yankee? Lost jobs. Lost clean energy. Lost taxes and charitable support. Why? Because some people can’t evolve from a 40-year-old, fear-based ideology. It was misguided then and it is even more misguided now, but old habits are hard to break.

Thank goodness for this next generation of innovators who want to give us a clean, safe, full-time source of energy. Celebrate them and thank them – but most of all – support them. Your grandchildren will thank you for it.

To learn more about innovations in nuclear energy, here are links to a small sample of what’s happening out there:

NuScale Power

Transatomic Power

TerraPower

Helion Energy

(Posted by John Dobken)

4 thoughts on “The forces of light: why supporting nuclear energy is good for the soul

  1. The article lists these good attributes of conventional nuclear power. They are all wonderful, but Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) like those being designed by Flibe Energy will do things even better.
    • It’s the safest form of energy generation we’ve ever known
    † LFTRs will be even safer. LFTRs are inherently stable and long term walk away safe.
    • Its fuel is cheap and abundant
    † Thorium is even cheaper and more abundant.
    • It’s carbon-free in the generation of electricity (though the mining of uranium creates some carbon)
    † The carbon footprint of LFTRs will be the lowest of ANY form of energy. Thorium needn’t be mined as it is the byproduct of many other mining endeavors, especially rare earth mining. It also doesn’t need to be enriched OR fabricated into fuel assemblies.
    • It’s a baseload, or full-time, source of electricity
    † LFTRs can do baseload even better since they can be refueled while running. BUT they should also be cheap enough to be run in a load following mode so we could reasonably expect to get ALL of out energy from nuclear.
    • Its waste is a solid, completely containable, with no impact to the environment
    † LFTRs will produce about 1/200th the waste of conventional nuclear and can slowly help burn thru the currently stored PUFF (previously used fission fuel).

    I think conventional nuclear is THE BEST… current source of energy. But LFTRs will be even better.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: A pretty remarkable moment in Salem | Northwest Clean Energy

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