More Nuclear Power, Not Less, Needed To Avert Acid Oceans, Climate Catastrophe


Image credit:NASA, via Youtube

It seemed as if Republican Wisconsin State legislators had decided to do something practical about climate change with their pending vote to overturn a long-standing moratorium on new nucs in the State. With the news from Japan, they've backed down it seems.

Maybe the Tea Party provided a screech-in-the-ear reminder to 'get government out of our lives!' (Without government backed loans and insurance, the nuclear renaissance of the 1970's would never have happened.) Or else Wisconsin Republican legislators didn't want to look like they were trying to counter man-made climate change. Which brings me to the first major point of this post.New nucs need a decade.
From design, stepping through environmental assessment and permit issuance and licensing, through local zoning hearings, and corporate process safety reviews, plus construction and commissioning, plus getting insurance and loans, getting a new nuc on line will take 8 to 10 years. Significantly upgrading an old one, a bit less...maybe. No amount of de-regulatory futzing by technically-clueless politicians will change this.

New acid coolaid test.
We don't have decades to quarrel about the potential acceptability of adding nuclear power sources unless we want to ensure turning the oceans of the world into acid and making the earth uninhabitable for hundreds of thousands of years.

A mix of fast-tracked energy solutions are needed. Many of these will be renewables.

For the long term, for baseline power, nuclear capacity must be expanded. The Japanese lesson is to do it better.

Plenty of butts need a hard kicking before society comes to grips with this. The times are changing. Everything needs to be re-framed because of climate change and ocean acidification (these are separate but related issues).

GOP presidential candidates, libertarians and free market think tanks .
Who's in favor of abolishing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)? Speak up!

Come on....I'm waiting. OK, thanks. The Newt, predictably, wants to "streamline" the permitting for more nucs. See Republicans Embrace Nuclear Power story in The New York Times.

Permit "streamlining" has been a Trojan Horse talking point lately.
Free market fundamentalists want to do everything they can to demoralize regulatory agency staffs, to de-fund enforcement agencies, and anything else possible to stalemate or eliminate regulatory oversight, from the NRC on down to township supervisors worried about quality of life. Republican governors keep talking about 'permit streamlining' as if it is just some bureaucratic bad habit that can be cured - like sucking a thumb or scratching an ear lobe.

Permits are for risk management - not paperwork, as Libertarians would have us believe.
Construction and operating permits are formal and legally binding ways to ensure the applicant/operator of a utility or factory is capable of looking out for more than just stockholders and that they will stay competent over the life of the permit - decades or more. Permitting draws on engineering and economics, not just form filling skills, and results in a documented agreement on how owners will comply with adjudicated community standards. Does that sound socialist to you? Too bad.

We do not need candidates for political office micro-managing permitting issuance under the pretense of 'everything faster is better.' EPA and the NRC are capable of coming up with better permitting and enforcement procedures. Administrators and engineers can read the same news the rest of us do.

Environmental activists need some strong reality therapy.
In his "Atomised" post, George Monbiot said it better than I could have.

I despise and fear the nuclear industry as much as any other green: all experience hath shown that, in most countries, the companies running it are a corner-cutting bunch of scumbags, whose business originated as a by-product of nuclear weapons manufacture. But, sound as the roots of the anti-nuclear movement are, we cannot allow historical sentiment to shield us from the bigger picture. Even when nuclear power plants go horribly wrong, they do less damage to the planet and its people than coal-burning stations operating normally.

Greenpeace has jumped on the anti-nuc bandwagon; and David Crosby has reportedly spoken with Bonnie Raitt to (presumably) see if they might resurrect the 'No Nucs' tour, with some new blood on the front stage this time.

David Crosby meet Newt Gingrich. 'The times, they are a changing....'

Per Monbiot, again:

...disaster has occurred in a plant that was appallingly sited in an earthquake zone; therefore, they argue, all nuclear power programmes should be abandoned everywhere. It looks to me as if they are jumping on this disaster as support for a pre-existing position they hold for other reasons. Were we to follow their advice, we would rule out a low-carbon source of energy, which could help us tackle the gravest threat the world now faces. That does neither the people nor the places of the world any favours.

Update: Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame (I have several originals in my basement) was prescient about this issue. See:

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