Here in Pinellas County, Florida, homeowners are being bombarded with offers to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes. We are offered this ‘service upgrade’ for no money down and very liberal credit terms for the panels and the battery packs that come with it. Are the power companies that generous, or are there other motives involved? I believe that this is all about those companies’ attempts to keep the advantages of nuclear energy, both financial and environmental, from being known and utilized.
An eye-opening documentary on Amazon Prime. Pandora’s Promise, reveals some fascinating truths about nuclear energy. For instance, did you know that not one person in the United States has ever died due to nuclear power generation or from an accident in a nuclear power plant? Three Mile Island caused no fatalities.
In Chernobyl, when a Soviet reactor built on the cheap and lacking any built-in safety features melted down, just over fifty fatalities occurred. The Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan caused a single fatality as a result of Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), which would be the demonstratable casualty indicator in such a situation. On the other hand, the burning of coal causes 13,000 deaths a year in the United States and approximately 3,000,000 worldwide due to its particulate pollution, according to various health experts.
What about all the resultant cancer fatalities due to those nuclear incidents? Those numbers are more difficult to ascertain, but according to the World Health Organization, there appears to have been only a slight discernible increase from any of those incidents. Other experts have suggested there might be as many as four thousand additional impending cancer deaths resulting from the Chernobyl meltdown. Those actual deaths and people living with possible future cancer are not insignificant, but the risks are far smaller than for those attendant upon coal. Statistics show that coal, not oil or natural gas, is the fuel whose consumption is being most rapidly increased worldwide.
It is no coincidence that these facts are unknown by the general population. Anti-nuclear and environmental activists have found common cause with an unlikely ally -- the large companies that produce electricity for the nation’s power grid. The anti-nuke and environmental crowd treat their causes like religions, and those who disagree with their positions are seen as heretical science deniers. Forget the fact that real science may not align with their positions or causes. The fact that New York City is not completely underwater, as prophesized by John Kerry and others, is readily obvious and an embarrassment to their band of disciples. The nuclear doomsayers have gone largely unchallenged, since the facts I relate above are not common knowledge. As for the power companies, their religion is money. Just ask cui bono? Who benefits if we do not use nuclear power? That would be those same power companies that are almost totally invested in burning coal and other fossil fuels to provide the nation’s energy.
Many highly educated, previously anti-nuclear advocates, including Gwyneth Cravens, Michael Shellenberger, and Ted Nordhaus, have converted to pro-nuclear positions after studying the facts. They realize that new nuclear technologies, properly constructed and managed, pose little danger to the population. Those risks, again, are smaller than those resulting from burning coal.
It's unfortunate that this transformative technology was born out of the creation of nuclear weapons. It is even more regrettable that the Democrat Party has made ‘anti-nuke’ an integral part of their ideology. The mainstream media, fulfilling their role as an arm of the Democrats, has done nothing to put the pro-nuclear facts before the public. Republicans have been far more open to the possibility of this technology. When Newt Gingrich said ‘Dig, baby, dig,’ he voiced support for all fuel possibilities, including nuclear.
The enormous benefits available from nuclear energy are the ultimate example of beating swords into plowshares. That should overshadow any political differences. It did in France, where after several energy crises, that nation went nuclear and now obtains 80% of its energy from nuclear reactors. As an added benefit, their carbon footprint is just 50% of their coal-burning neighbor Germany.
It would be nice if wind, ocean current, and solar power could solve our energy concerns. But all three of these energy generators are highly inconsistent. They are simply not up to the task. During WWII, the Army Corps of Engineers excelled at rapidly fabricating pontoon bridges over rivers to replace structures destroyed by the enemy. What we are asking solar, wind, and ocean energy to do is comparable to asking those engineers to build a bridge from the west coast to Hawaii. It is not doable.
The newer nuclear reactors, notably the Integral Fast Reactor (IRF), recycles their spent fuel with little remaining waste. More recent prototypes are predicted to be entirely self-sustaining for fuel. Isn’t that what everyone wants? A renewable energy source, one with no resultant pollution? It is no coincidence that John Kerry has spoken out against the IRF. It’s antithetical to everything he stands for. He claims it is a hazard for all of humanity, not just for New York’s shoreline. The truth is that it does not align with his blindly partisan agenda.
The power companies want us to commit to solar, but they know full well it will never meet the increased energy needs of the world’s population. Their efforts to bring solar to Floridians, while promising financial savings to homeowners, will actually result in a continued reliance on fossil fuel consumption, and the power companies, the same companies that would be asked to provide nuclear energy, are highly invested in those fuels. They are more than content to maintain the status quo. Why spend billions on nuclear plants? Meanwhile, the public remains distracted and oblivious to atomic power’s possibilities.
It seems to me that the participation of the power companies in steering us towards solar and away from nuclear are of meretricious, not meritorious intent. As for me, I’ll wait for a neighborhood nuclear reactor.