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Rick Edmund
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Rick Edmund

Rick Edmund is a United Methodist church pastor in Maryland. He resides on Smith Island, which has been impacted by rising sea-level and in 2007 testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment about climate change and the Chesapeake Bay. ALL POSTS

Nuclear only a partial answer

When nuclear powered plants were first proposed it was predicted that the cost to produce electricity would be so cheap that the electric companies wouldn't have to charge their customers. Alas, reality did not meet those expectations. As we examine the "nuclear option" for peaceful purposes, we must not be cornered into thinking that this will be an unrealistically simple solution to reducing carbon emissions.

The downside goes far beyond the safety issues involving an accident with the reactor. (During the 1979 accident I briefly moved my family from near Three Mile Island.) Other problems are the immense construction costs, CO2 and chlorofluorocarbons generated during enrichment, waste management, on-site storage of spent fuel rods (subject to terrorist attack), and decommissioning costs. Some experts estimate that nuclear will be more expensive per kWh than the other options, while some say it will be the cheapest one.

However, statements by legislators indicate that nuclear plants will need to be an important piece in the climate change puzzle. If we are going to have any legislative movement in the near future, nuclear needs to be part of the equation. However, before proposing nuclear as a viable option we need to look to countries such as France where 80 percent of their electrical needs are met by nuclear power. What are their concerns? What are the unexpected costs? How do they deal with spent fuel rods and other radioactive waste?

Nuclear will reduce oil consumption very little, and a wide range of options will need to be pursued. Ethanol seemed to be a wonderful solution to part of our energy problems, but producing this fuel takes a lot of energy and around the Chesapeake Bay, at least, many outboard motors have been damaged by ethanol. Let's do our homework and be very careful before rushing into what seems to be a viable partial answer to the climate change dilemma.

By Rick Edmund  |  November 1, 2009; 8:55 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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