July 18, 2006

No Nukes is Good Nukes

It's hard to get as excited about nuclear power as Jon Gertner gets in his New York Times Magazine cover story. Gertner makes the point many times over that the industry has a lot of new gizmos that make it worth investing in, and it's now completely safe (but wait, didn't they say that before T.M.I. and before Chernobyl too?).

In the past 30 years, there hasn't been a single nuclear power plant built in this country, but the industry hasn't had a single new idea in all that time about what to do with the nuclear waste. The Times refers to this issue only in passing as if it were some minor detail. Our grandchildren will not be impressed that we made a bunch of energy to cool our malls, then left them with all this dangerous crap to deal with.

And every new plant built is a new target for terrorist attack, as well. Gertner describes this possibility as "increasingly worrisome." Phew! I was thinking terrorist threat was something really important.

I shouldn't worry, the article says, because there's all sorts of concrete and barbed wire. There's even employees with guns, and I suppose the industry should be responsible for its own security, just like the airlines used to be. That was awesome.

The article has photos by Mitch Epstein who's been making really nice images of "America's cultural investment in energy."

But my favorite images of nuclear power are in Paul Fusco's photo essay on the surviving orphans of Chernobyl.

I am not convinced that there is, or should be, a "nuclear renaissance" but if you're interested in more, Leonard Lopate did a segment on the same question, but without the nukes-now! cheerleading.


Eric McErlain said...

A couple of points:

1) While a new plant has not been ordered in the last thirty years in the U.S., construction on a number of plants was completed as late as the 1990s. In addition, while new plants may not have been ordered in the U.S. recently, activity has continued at an impressive clip internationally, especially in Japan and Korea.

2) We do have a solution for the nuclear waste, it's called Yucca Mountain. Unlike other types of electrical generation, the nuclear industry has to account for all of its waste byproducts -- something that can't be said of coal-fired electric generation, the source of 50% of American electrical generation.

3)The industry has spent more than $1.2 billion on security enhancements to its facilities since 9-11. For independent assesments of facility security, click here.

Tw said...

A PR guy from the nuclear energy industry offered a comment on this post. These guys serve their clients very well, so expect to see a lot more pro-nuke PR.