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Is Nuclear Energy Safer Than Wind?

Posted By Nicolas Loris On February 18, 2009 @ 5:32 pm In Energy | Comments Disabled

The supposition that nuclear energy is dangerous is hardly a new story. Although most of the nuclear fear mongering has been subdued through recognition of facts, the anti-nuclear movement continues to spit the same nonsense.

Nuclear power releases dangerous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. Nuclear reactors are vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Nuclear power results in nuclear weapons proliferation. Transporting radioactive materials exposes people to unacceptable risk. Something like Chernobyl will happen again. Wrong. All wrong. But that’s not the point of this post. Such myths are debunked here [1].

The point here is to highlight the unintended consequences of building windmills. The New American summarizes interesting and alarming findings [2]from the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum:

139 incidents of blade failure. Failed blades have been known to travel over a quarter mile, and that is from turbines much smaller than those being manufactured today. This type of accident has caused some European countries to require a minimum distance of about one mile (2 km) between occupied housing and wind turbines.

110 incidents of fire. When a wind turbine fire occurs, the local fire departments (without 30-story ladder trucks) can do little but watch. This isn’t a problem unless the wind is blowing sufficiently to scatter the debris into dry fields or woodlands — or maybe onto your roof.

60 incidents of structural failure. This includes turbine failure and tower collapse failures. While not now a problem for the public — except having to gaze upon at a bent-over wind turbine — it may well become one as governments, under pressure from environmental activists, encourage marginal- and hastily-sited wind projects in urban areas where such an accident could kill and maim.

24 incidents of “ice throw” with human injury. These data may be a small fraction of actual incidences, with 880 icing events reported in a 13-year period for Germany alone.”

The full report can be found here [3]. It’s ironic the 110 incidents of fire are only threatening if the wind is blowing. The whole operation of windmills is dependent upon that variable; maybe that’s why they tend to operate only about a third of the time.

Does that mean we should stop building wind farms in the United States? Not necessarily. Granted, any loss of life is unfortunate, but car accidents occur every day – that doesn’t mean we should take all the cars off the road or reduce the speed limit to ten miles per hour. Like with anything, wind energy should be based on cost-benefit analysis – an analysis that should be done without subsidies, tax production credits or mandate. All energy sources should have the opportunity to compete in the market, so long as they can stand on their own two feet. Or in the case of wind, a giant, monstrous pole.

It also means the claim that nuclear energy is unsafe is a relic of the past. Yes, nuclear energy must be safe because one mistake would cripple the entire industry, and worse, it could cost a lot of lives. But nuclear’s track record on safety is better than wind’s and better than most. In fact, no one has ever died as a result of commercial nuclear power production in the United States.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2009/02/18/is-nuclear-energy-safer-than-wind/

URLs in this post:

[1] here: http://www.heritage.org/research/energyandenvironment/bg2087.cfm

[2] alarming findings : http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech-mainmenu-30/energy/788

[3] here: http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

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