Friday, May 29, 2009

unclear on nuclear?

In 1977, while I was a student at the University of Wisconsin,  I wrote a paper advocating building a nuclear power plant near my hometown, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.  The paper was well written, punctuated properly, well argued and complete with attributions.  It took me over a month to complete.  I got a D.


I argued with my professor on  all of the above points.  She argued that nuclear energy was not a “good” option, a danger to the environment, and the not in my back yard (NIMBY) issue. 

I then asked her if my paper was well written.  She said, yes.  I asked if it was well thought-out.  She said, yes.  I asked why a D.  She said she disagreed with me.  I asked if she would give me another shot to write a paper.  Understanding what we just went through, she said yes.

I proceeded to write a totally opinionated, unsupported diatribe about those who oppose nuclear power, not on facts, but how they feel.  I suggested that these people don’t see the black faces of coal miners who actually work in coal mines, and often die unspeakable deaths, that they are the stupid people who carry their water.  I spoke about how inaction at that time would create major problems later.  I spoke about how nuclear power was something we could produce domestically, ultimately shifting the need for foreign oil.  I got an “A”.  I think she got the point.

But, have we?  Nuclear power produces approximately 20% of our national electric power consumption.  It is clean, still cheap, and uses very few natural resources.  France produces 80% of their power this way.  (I never thought I would use France as a model for anything except food and art)

Nuclear waste can be recycled at a 97% rate.  The actual waste created in all of our nuclear power plants would take up less space than a football field.  And, nuclear waste is not weapons grade.

We have the information to produce nuclear power safely.  We have an obligation to future generations to develop alternative sources of energy that include wind, solar, hydro and yes, nuclear.  The sooner we act, the sooner we can take this burden off our children.   

1 comment:

  1. We have hydro power here. I like the concept of using water to generate power. I'm still leary of nuclear power plants.

    Last summer, I did a lot of research on the tar sands in Alberta for a writing job. We definitely need to move away from oil -- the damage being caused by the tar sands project boggles the mind. And the worst thing is, there's undeniable proof of the damage it's causing, but nobody will stop it.

    Kelly @ DesignTies