An op-ed in today s NY Daily News by two members of the Manhattan Institute calls for increasing reliance on clean, safe nuclear power for our nation s (and the world s) energy needs. This is a suggestion inspired by the influx of thousands of climate change advocates streaming into New York for this Sunday s march against global warming.
The essay, entitled A climate march with a big blind spot, by Larry Mone (MI s president) and Alex Armlovich, notes that the climate-marchers have agendas to reduce carbon footprints aimed at fossil fuels of all types, and of course promote substitution with renewables such as wind and solar. The authors take issue with that platform: those modalities will not be able to bear our energy burden for the foreseeable future (if ever), no matter what best-case-scenarios green activists swallow and promulgate, whereas nuclear might. Indeed, they assert that if it weren t for the alarmism and hysteria surrounding the confluence of the Three-Mile Island nuclear plant accident (which released close to zero radiation and harmed no one) and the movie, The China Syndrome, in 1979, we would now be relying on nuclear energy for well over the current 20 percent of our energy needs. And that would have brought the U.S. into compliance with the nirvana of the green marchers: the Kyoto Protocol (a treaty in which industrialized countries commit to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).
Concerns about nuclear safety persist, despite the facts: zero fatalities related to civilian use of nuclear energy in the U.S., and even the tragedy at Japan s Fukushima plant in March of 2011 led to zero deaths directly due to radiation (as opposed, of course, to the earthquake and tsunami). The Chernobyl explosion/meltdown in the USSR in 1986 undoubtedly did kill a number of workers immediately and some later from radiation. The number of civilians harmed by the radio-cloud thereafter can never be determined but even so, that was a unique situation, with the supervision asleep at the wheel and Soviet-era safeguards in place, so to speak.
Let s let the authors speak for themselves here:
France has long produced nearly 80% of its electricity from nuclear plants, reaping both lower prices and lower emissions than Germany, which has moved to phase out nuclear power in favor of solar (and has had to turn to coal to ensure reliability). Household electricity costs the French just 21 cents a kilowatt-hour cheaper than what Con Ed charges in New York. France also emitted 87% less carbon dioxide per unit of electrical energy than Germany, according to the most recent data.
What about the allegedly exorbitant costs?
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, utility-scale solar power even with a lavish government subsidy remains nearly 40% more expensive than nuclear. Onshore wind at a small scale is slightly cheaper, but requires nearly 850 square miles (or most of Rhode Island) of turbine-covered land to equal the output of a typical two-unit nuclear plant.
And let s not forget the massive killing of birds attributable to windfarms, added ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross a concern among environmentalists which is often left unsaid in obeisance to the green climate mantra. The myth that Japanese farmland near the Fukushima plant and the entire Prefecture is toxic with long-lived radiation is another myth based on superstition and fear. Yet, I would bet half my fortune that if you asked the climate marchers their opinion of clean, safe nuclear energy, over 90 percent of them would recoil in fear and loathing. Why? I have no idea. They should read ACSH s excellent publication on the subject: it s a bit old but still entirely valid in its essence.