I agree with President Bush about the need for new nuclear plant construction. This is not a new position for me at all. I've been convinced since the 1970s that the retreat from nuclear power generation that began under President Carter was a mistake. It's not that I like nuclear power, but all told I consider it to be the lesser of the available evils, and the most capable of sustaining our energy needs until cleaner technologies are economically practical. I understand that inexpensive and virtually inexhaustible nuclear power would create a powerful disincentive for actually developing these cleaner technologies, but the hopeless optimist in me still believes that in we'll do more good than bad with nuclear power. Of course, "inexpensive" is the rub, and level of regulation that we have put on the nuclear industry -- much of which I believe is probably very necessary -- may make that a pipe dream.
On the other hand, if my credentials as a liberal are in danger, what about Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia's credentials as arch-conservatives? They both recently voted simultaneously against gun owners and in favor of instructing US courts to accept the judgement of a foreign court. The latter, in particular, has of course been one of the real hot-spots in all the recent ruckus from neo-cons about so-called "judicial activism".
This is far from the first time that I've found myself in this position. In fact, when I was a teenager, my Civics teacher jokingly called me a "closet conservative" because he never could predict when I'd take what most would consider an outspoken conservative view on one of the issues that we would discuss in class. Of course, the fact that I was outspoken either way didn't surprise him, just as I doubt it would surprise any of my regular readers here :-) Anyhow, this all just proves IMHO that simple labels like "liberal" and "conservative" are, well... too simplistic for most of us.
1. Jon Johnston04/28/2005 02:05:03 PM
Too simplistic for us, yes, but not for the media!
Especially the radio talk-show hosts on both sides. Gag.
2. Kevin04/28/2005 02:37:27 PM
Yup... labels are not simple... in some issues I consider myself a liberal-conservative and in others I'm a conservative-liberal.
3. Bruce Perry04/28/2005 06:23:05 PM
The problem I see with nuclear (or nucular if you prefer) is that we're not very good at handling and storing the waste. We in the US haven't even been able to get a site built for long term storage of waste. Yes, I know one has been designated in Nevada, but it doesn't appear to be a done deal yet, and it appears to be unpopular there. Our environmental record in various nuclear fuel production facilities is not good. I don't think creating a problem that spans many generations is a good idea.
Meanwhile, spent fuel rods are stored on-site at existing reactors, creating upwards of 100 potential terrorist targets. From what I've heard, these aren't very well guarded. We should all be worried about this, but nothing seems to be happening. We certainly shouldn't create new plants before having a secure spot to store the spent fuel.
If the politicians proposing the facilities and the CEOs of the companies operating the facilities are willing to live on-site or store the waste in their basements, then I might reconsider nuclear power.
4. Nathan T. Freeman05/03/2005 07:44:21 AM
"From what I've heard, these aren't very well guarded."
My father works at Cooper Power Station in South Carolina. The security team there is headed by an ex-SWAT commander and they regularly drill with assault rifles. You'd have an easier time attacking a police station.
By the way, nuclear power generation in the US isn't "inexpensive." In fact, it's got the same cost per megawatt as every other kind of major production technique. And yes, the cost of waste disposal is accounted for in that figure. Regulatory compliance is the single largest expense (and not without good reason) and it's only gotten more expensive since 9/11.
There are reactor designs that can run cheaper and safer, but the regulatory approval cycle on these makes the FDA look like a fly-by-night operation.
5. Bruce Perry05/03/2005 02:24:04 PM
I'm glad to hear they're serious about security at your father's plant. Overall though, the news on nuclear power plant security overall is not what I'd call comfortable.
Here's a GAO report from September of 2004
Sorry about the ghastly URL.
Here we learn that plants only did "force on force" excercises once every 8 years before 9/11. That's since been changed to every 3 years. The report also says that re-evaluation (since 9/11) of the various plants is not yet complete. It also mentions some of the same cheating that the next URL mentions.
There there's this report on Wackenhut:
This one points out that Wackenhut guards about half the nuclear power plants in the US. Among other things, it claims that Wackenhut has cheated on drills and illegally punished guards who have raised security concerns.
I've read elsewhere*, an interview with a member of one of the "black teams" that tests the security at nuclear plants. He was of the opinion that if the tests were done without warning then nearly all plants would fail.
Oh, and to finish on a humorous note, here's a link to an article on how pilots have been forbidden to fly over nuke plants on penalty of being shot down, yet they're not allowed to know the specific locations of the plants, even though that information is publically available. Catch 22 anyone?
*possibly the New Yorker, but I can't be certain.
6. carl tyler05/03/2005 07:36:31 PM
I'm all for it as long as it is in someone elses backyard