Nukes are being built all over the world while we dicker around.
Ernie Coutermarsh, the
respected head of F.W. Webb’s industrial PVF business, recently forwarded to
our staff some articles related to one of his pet peeves, which I happen to
share. That’s the 30+ year drought in construction of nuclear power plants in
even while they’re going up in various global backwaters. One message in particular
sent this mind reeling. It was a report of an agreement between Russia and
Ukraine to complete construction of Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi Nuclear Power
Ukraine, then under the domain of the former USSR, was the home of Chernobyl,
which in April 1986 became the world’s worst nuclear disaster thanks to outdated
technology and reckless operation. The Khmelnytskyi project was started in 1985
but halted after Chernobyl
blew its top. The now independent government of Ukraine ultimately decided
their need for energy trumps any lingering jitters from a quarter-century old
If the Ukrainians can get over Chernobyl, it’s high time we in the U.S. put to
rest our Three Mile Island bogeyman. That 1979 accident was scary but it killed
or seriously injured not a single person - NOBODY! Radiation leakage turned out
to be trivial as well.
Of course, one could make the case that TMI indirectly caused thousands of
deaths and injuries, in that it led to the suspension of nuclear power plant
construction in this country. That in turn has increased the body count from
coal mine collapses, gas explosions, refinery fires and other nasty accidents
related to increased production and use of fossil fuels to replace nuclear
power plants that were never built. The suspension also led to the spewing of
countless extra tons of greenhouse gases into the
A little good news - some 17 companies and consortia are considering building
more than 30 nuclear plants in the U.S. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
is actively reviewing 13 license applications for 22 nukes.
The bad news is it’s taking them halfway till forever to overcome all the
lawsuits and regulatory roadblocks put in place by anti-nuke obstructionists
and their political allies. In September 2004 I used this space for a commentary
titled “New Life For Nuclear Power?” in which I reported on the first
consortium taking licensing steps. That was six years ago and we’re likely at
least that many years away from the first nuke groundbreaking, if it ever comes
In the realm of environmental catastrophes, TMI and Chernobyl have been overtaken by concerns
about global warming. Nuclear energy can go a long way to alleviate that
problem. Yet at this rate by the time we build enough nukes to reverse the
warming trend, they’ll be growing tropical fruit in Canada.
A total of 437 nuclear reactors are in operation in 30 countries around the
world, with another 55 in the planning stage. Sixteen nations depend on nuclear
power for more than a quarter of their electricity - in France, nukes
provide 75%. In the U.S.
the figure used to be 20%, though that’s now down to around 17% thanks to the
building moratorium. The technology has been around more than a half-century
and designs have continuously improved, incorporating numerous new safety
features since the days of TMI and Chernobyl.
Just guessing, but I’d be willing to bet that industrial and jobsite accidents
in the solar and wind industries have harmed more people than nuclear power
The most cogent arguments against nuclear power, such as waste storage and the
enormous expense and lead time to construct the plants, amount to
self-fulfilling prophecies by the obstructionists. We had a reasonable storage
solution in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain
until it was recently taken away by politicians kowtowing to the NIMBY crowd.
Lead times and expense could be streamlined considerably by getting rid of some
of the regulatory fluff put in place to mollify the obstructionists. Other
countries around the world are able to get nukes up and running much
The case against nuclear power has become more and more juvenile, especially
when you view vocal protests being led by the same people sounding alarms about
climate change. They are like little kids who kick and scream when told to do
something that’s good for them, like eat their vegetables.
The American people have become increasingly fed up with their antics. A Gallup poll last March
found that Americans’ support for nuclear energy has climbed to a new high of
62%. So let’s sentence the brats to a time-out and get busy building them.