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Thread: Dear AEMan
01-25-2005 05:14 PM #1
I'm a big fan of alternative energy also. I agree with alot of what you've written. I wouldn't mind building codes requiring solar cells on every home in the sun belt. I also think it is much more scenic to see large wind mills off our coasts than to not have them there, as others would say. Unfortunately, I think we would disagree on the nuclear power thing. I know this isn't the forum for a nuclear power discussion, but you set the precedent.
Nuclear power will never be necessary in our lifetimes because there is so much energy to be saved on the demand side. Nuclear power has essentially lost in the free market: no nuclear plants have been built in decades. The reason is that they are too expensive, too risky, and that there are other, better, economic solutions to power generation problems and to global warming.
First, if they were economical, they would have been built. I know that a lot of environmental groups get the blame for stopping nuclear power, but the fact is, environmentalists protest a lot of things that still happen. If nuclear power were economical, plants would have been built. Besides, even protests are part of the free market.
Even with their massive subsidies for research, mining, security, waste disposal, insurance, etc., they still are NOT economically worthwhile. To put things in perspective, consider that a nuclear power plant will cost about $5-10 billion--I think the last one I heard of was estimated at $2 and came in at $5 billion--but don't quote me on those numbers. (I used to work for Babcock and Wilcox, who designs power plants of all types.) If we as a country would spend that same amount of money on near-zero-energy homes, we would negate the need for that nuclear power plant altogether.....forever.....! And....we wouldn't have all the associated problems either.
Just recall California's energy problems in 2001. The immediate problem wasn't solved by building new power plants within days, it was solved by millions of people conserving. Conservation is immediate, with an immediate pollution and global warming benefit.
It is always cheaper, more effective, and more immediately amenable to the bottom line to buy efficiency, rather than energy. (That's why I own a Prius.) By eliminating the need for nuclear power plants, we don't just eliminate very expensive power, we eliminate the need for strip mining, nuclear waste disposal problems, tax-payer paid security, proliferation dangers, exposure risks, meltdown risks, terrorist plots, tax-payer paid insurance, etc. ad nauseum. By the way, if the true cost of nuclear-provided electricity were in the actual electric bill of the customer, then I would be all for it. No corporation would ever propose building one if that were the case.
The nuclear salesman may be reappearing on our doorsteps, but we don't have to talk to him--we should sic the dogs on him! Nuclear power is not only a bad idea, but it will also make global warming worse. By sinking hard-earned capital into a very expensive, inefficient solution, that capital is not available for the more economic solutions. I believe I read that a dollar spent on energy efficiency displaces 7 times as much CO2 as a dollar spent on nuclear power. It is better for our country as well as our savings accounts to go after the best buys first.