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The Conversation: Nuclear Energy


(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

In a major policy speech on Feb. 16, President Obama said his administration will give $8 billion in loan guarantees for securing the funds for a new nuclear power plant, in a move toward what he calls a “future in which we’re exporting homegrown energy technology instead of importing foreign oil.” Still, nuclear energy remains a coantroversial topic; much debate rages over its cleanliness, its safety and the permanent storage of nuclear waste, among other things. Is this the right step for our country and the world? The wrong one? In this week’s Conversation are Press Environmental Columnist Jaclyn Gallucci, Press Publisher Jed Morey and the Executive Director of non-profit Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI) Gordian Raacke.


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Gordian

We need to solve the climate crisis and I’m inclined to give President Obama the benefit of doubt in that he and his advisors are trying to find solutions to this planetary problem. Trouble is, nuclear power is not really a good, or clean, or safe, or realistic solution. Building nuclear reactors would take a very long time and we don’t have the luxury of procrastination when it comes to our climate.

Jaclyn

I think this is a step back for us, under the guise of a solution. Yes, we’ll cut carbon emissions, but at what cost? Obama’s nuclear policy is like the Atkins diet of climate change solutions. It accomplishes a goal on the outside, but you won’t realize your insides are rotting until decades later, when it’s too late.

Jed

Agreed. Plus, nuclear was much more fun during the Bush administration when he referred to it as “Nookyoolur.” At the same time I believe we are fast approaching peak oil and exploring natural gas reserves in this nation is a toxic endeavor. As energy demand increases the debate has turned to lessening our dependence upon foreign oil and exploring natural resources at home. The problem is that the clean energy conversation thus far has been focused on big, sexy ideas like wind farms in the ocean and massive solar arrays on top of parking garages and landfills. Even if nuclear is the answer, the public simply can’t afford to fund massive projects like these.

Gordian

Finding private sector investors willing to put up billions of their money for what they consider very risky utility sector would be very difficult, if not impossible. And convincing Americans that mining, transporting and disposing nuclear fuel results in neither carbon emissions nor safety, nuclear proliferation, or national security threats, is going to be quite a trick.

Jaclyn

At the same time he’s promoting nuclear power, Obama is also cutting funding for nuclear waste storage. So we’re going to create more toxic materials, which will have a half-life of millions of years, but decrease our ways of dealing with them. I’m not against nuclear power, but splitting atoms comes with consequences and until those consequences are not just addressed, but properly dealt with, I’m not on board.

Jed

During the presidential campaign last year, somehow ideas like “clean coal” (a misnomer and complete fallacy) and nuclear became part of the clean energy dialogue, steering us away from the only valid solution, which is green micro-technology combined with aggressive conservation.

Gordian

The good news is that we have off-the-shelf zero-carbon solutions ready to be deployed instantly, or at least within a few months or years, rather than a decade or more it would take to get a nuclear power generator built.We have the technologies today to build net-zero energy homes, and that means zero carbon emissions from the buildings energy consumption. We know how to combine energy efficient construction techniques with solar panels, wind turbines, plug-in hybrids and smart grid technology to drastically reduce or even eliminate our carbon emissions. And we can do it without taking on potentially enormous risks and without mortgaging future generations that would have to deal with a nuclear legacy we would leave for them.So let’s get real and let’s get to work on real solutions to climate change! Yes, Mr. President, we can.

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