I recently came across an interesting article syndicated through the DC-based "Tribune News Service" by Evan Halper, formerly an LATimes correspondent. Entitled "Nuclear pitched as the new green," it immediately caught my attention for a variety of reasons:
*I've been observing the Greeniacs marching and posting and cajoling and interviewing in the service of combatting their apocalyptic vision of a terminally-warmed Earth thanks to "carbon pollution", you know, CO2 rising, fossil fuel-engendered devastation. I've often wondered, What about nuclear? Wouldn't that be a win-win-win solution for our energy needs, keeping the planet cool, and just being cool overall? Yet, when I was sucked into the maw of the million-person Climate Change March (or whatever it was called) in 2014 — and I ain't kiddin', I was entrapped in, of all things, a CAR in midtown Manhattan for like 3 hours! — I actually saw marchers AGAINST NUCLEAR (among many other non-sequiturs, e.g. anti-business, anti-capitalism, etc.). By what twist of logic might a marcher against global warming be OPPOSED to using clean safe COOL nuclear as a power source?
*Even Pres. Obama, perhaps the #1 fan of cooling the planet by any means necessary (see "The EPA," the "Clean Power Plan" etc.), endorsed "all of the above" a few years back when asked about how to deal with our nation's burgeoning energy needs (before he got into destroying the coal industry, of course). That included nuclear, and indeed he empaneled a group only last month at the White House "summit" on nuclear energy!
*Sadly, the vast potential of nuclear energy in the USA was cruelly and needlessly throttled in 1979 by the concordance of the Three-Mile Island nuclear plant mishap (nothing much happened but it scared a lot of folks to near-death) and the movie, "The China Syndrome" (too bad it was such a good movie, but it also scared...see above). So a few decades went by with little innovation in nuclear technology, including safety measures (no one has ever been harmed by nuclear plant dysfunction outside of the USSR), waste disposal, and especially smaller, modern, efficient designs. Meanwhile, backwards, precautionary Europe was generating 50-80 percent of its energy from...yes, nuclear! Today, France gets ~70 percent from nuclear.
*Then came the March 2011 Fukushima "disaster," at which time an earthquake and tsunami of historically-unprecedented magnitude struck Japan. Thousands were killed, many thousand displaced, the reactor was inundate — but no one (NO ONE) was harmed by radiation in or around the plant. Nevertheless, Germany's Merkel decided that (simultaneously with her assault on coal, an inspiration for our own leader) the German nuclear industry should be shuttered. (Maybe that's why Germany now has the highest electricity rates in the known world).
So we've started, hopefully, to come full circle, as per the article I initially referred to. Mr. Halper's piece focuses on California's tech industry tycoons, especially Silicon Valley (NOT silicone valley, that's in LA). He features several green-oriented million- and billionaires who are now investing in nuclear innovation as well as brick-and-mortar (or whatever they use to build the latest nuclear plants). Amazingly, CA only has one remaining plant: a second was shut down not too long ago (of course, New York's Gov. Cuomo has a strong anti-nuclear bent, to go along with his anti-fracking posturings, and has been trying to shut down Indian Point in Westchester for ages, even though it supplies one-third of NYC's energy needs). The article sings the praises of several smallish startups, some of which are being backed by the likes of Bill Gates and PayPal's Peter Thiel.
But not without pushback from the usual suspects. Dig this: "That may all be possible someday, saythe nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, but that day is probably several decades and many tens of billions of dollars away. The sudden excitement around nuclear makes them nervous. They say they have seen this before.
'The people who deny or downplay the risks involved are doing a disservice to the future of nuclear power that leads to complacency, and complacency leads to Fukushima,' said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the organization.
"The nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists"? That's like the porterhouse steak experts at PETA. The UCS's only "concern" about nuclear is how to dismantle all such plants ASAP: anti-nuclear is their raison d'etre.
And then, there's the old reliable Sierra Club: "'There is always such a rosy picture coming from the industry of what it can deliver with these technologies, yet it has such a terrible history with over-promising and under-delivering,' said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's director of international climate programs. The organization would prefer the Obama administration abandon the extremely costly pursuit of advanced nuclear power in favor of greater investment in renewable energy such as solar and wind power." Of course it would! Why would the US government be interested in underwriting a clean, safe method of generating electrical and other power, it's just so expensive (not like all those billions that went down the Solyndra et al drain). The Sierra Club can be counted on to watch over the federal budget like...well, like a hawk I guess.
I am a big fan of renewable, sustainable energy sources — like nuclear. I am glad when I read about billionaires' contributions to green energy, solar, wind, hydro — and nuclear. I just hope such promise will interfere with the federal agencies' rush to dismantle our generations-old standard energy sources before the EPA's ax falls.