Like that brand new $2,000 BMW on Ebay, if something is too good to be true, it usually is. –
But that’s the phrase William Tucker, author of the forthcoming book Terrestrial Energy, uses in his article on the NY Times Freakonomics blog.
It all seems too good to be true. People conjure up all kinds of nightmare scenarios just to compensate. Yet the reality remains: nuclear energy is the most environmentally benign discovery ever made.”
Wait a minute. Just because we have 104 reactors providing 20 percent of America’s electricity without emitting an ounce of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere doesn’t mean that nuclear energy is “too good to be true.” (And yes, I know that the construction of the reactors emits CO2, but so does construction of everything else on this planet – it’s just the way the world works right now. Singling out nuclear makes no sense.)
Getting back to the fundamental question: Is nuclear too good to be true to meet America’s rising energy demands and environmental concerns? Is nuclear a silver bullet? Before we start calling it that, there are some issues to address, namely bad government policy. Undoubtedly, the biggest obstacle is nuclear waste. Heritage nuclear expert outlines the problems, and more importantly, the solutions in his paper, A Free Market Approach to Managing Used Nuclear Fuel. The primary steps include:
• Create the legal framework that allows the private sector to price geologic storage as a commodity;
• Empower the private sector to manage used fuel;
• Repeal the 70,000-ton limitation on the Yucca Mountain repository and instead let technology, science, and physical capacity determine the appropriate limit;
• Create a private entity that is representative of but independent from nuclear operators to manage Yucca Mountain;
• Repeal the mil, abolish the Nuclear Waste Fund, and transfer the remaining funds to a private entity to cover the expenses of constructing Yucca Mountain; and
• Limit the federal government’s role to providing oversight, basic research, and development and taking title of spent fuel upon repository decommissioning.
High energy prices are giving people the world over a reason to reexamine nuclear energy- and rightfully so. Nuclear power has proven to be safe and secure for years. Even the zeitgeist of Three Mile Island is finally starting to fade away. The reality is that it should never have been an issue to begin with. Yes, the reactor malfunctioned at TMI, but all the safety mechanisms worked as they should have and that is why no one was injured, much less killed, as a result.
For more information on TMI, you can read about The Heritage Foundation’s trip there that took place in February. In the forthcoming weeks, The Heritage Foundation will release a paper that goes into more detail about TMI, including the safety and technological improvements since the near-accident about 30 years ago. The paper will also include a section about Chernobyl and why an accident like that is physically impossible here in the United States. Keep your eyes peeled.