President Obama addressed energy policy with four (4) themes for American energy policy:
• Building new nuclear power plants
• Exploring for oil and gas off-shore
• Investing in clean coal technologies
• The need for a comprehensive climate bill
There were some good points in the bill, but also some notable exclusions. The most encouraging was the need to build new nuclear plants:
“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”
Nuclear power currently produces about 70% of our clean energy. Most of the rest is produces by hydro power with a very small percentage coming from wind and solar sources. Nuclear power plants have been operating successfully in this country for over 50 years. Nuclear power plants are being constructed all over the world. It is about time we started building them in this country again. We have the technology, capital, unused industrial capacity, and available workers to build these plants. We certainly could use the hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs that building a large number of these plants would create.
New designs for nuclear plants, based on over 50 years of operating experience, are much safer designs featuring features like passive cooling so they are less likely to suffer from catastrophic accidents. The core meltdown at 3 Mile Island showed that the containment vessel worked to contain the dangerous radioactive material inside the reactor. Some short-lived radioactive gas was released but has been shown over time not to have caused any injuries. New designs have filters that can contain these gases.
I am hoping that his words are not political double-talk. Do these new plants really get approval or do they get held up until the industry can figure out how to eliminate nuclear waste for example. My own view is that we should recycle nuclear fuel and store the short lived radio active material until it decomposes into safe materials. Most radioactivity would be eliminated over 500 years or less. This is considerably less time than the Ancient Egyptians store there mummies so you would think we could figure out a way to store nuclear waste.
We could see the government take action by approving standard reactor designs so one approval could be used for a large number of plants. Develop protocols and laws so that approvals for plants can be done quickly. This would require the elimination of serial lawsuits designed to prevent plants from being built by keeping the approval process holed up in court long enough to effectively keep the plant from being built. Some strong leadership and commitment from President Obama should get enabling legislation through congress to get new nuclear plants going.