In endorsing hazardous energy option, longtime watchdog blinks
I have always looked to the Union of Concerned Scientists for guidance on issues relating to nuclear power and weapons. Therefore, it saddens me to read of the group’s promotion of nuclear power as a so-called alternative to greenhouse-gas-emitting technologies (“Saying yes to nuclear power,” Editorial, Nov. 10).
First, are radioactive waste and small leaks from power plants any safer than fossil fuel emissions? With nuclear power, are we not trading one hazard for another?
Second, but no less crucial, it is true that up-and-running nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, but according to the US Energy Information Administration and other sources, the nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to transportation, and plant construction require large amounts of fossil fuel energy, resulting in significant carbon emissions. How many plants will be needed to meet current US energy requirements?
Finally, given the duplicity of the industry, on costs and on the amounts of radiation accidentally leaked, how can it be trusted to serve as an alternative to fossil fuels?
I realize that the consequences of global climate change are closer than is generally realized. But that should not frighten venerated institutions into promoting equally hazardous solutions.
‘Nuclear power carries risks’ — um, yep
I read your editorial rationalizing nuclear power on the basis of the danger of global warming, but found no specific reference to the nuclear waste problem, or to the volume of water the industry contaminates, or to the degree to which it does, in fact, contribute to global warming. Rather, there was only the vague admission that “nuclear power carries risks.”
NRC can’t be counted on to hold the line on safety
We must combat climate change but not through dangerous nuclear power. In their book “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” Union of Concerned Scientists authors share the sobering truth: “It is the saga of a technology promoted through the careful nurturing of a myth: the myth of safety. Nuclear power is an energy choice that gambles with disaster.”
The group’s new report identified one action that challenges the premise of required regulated safety. Financial support only for plants that meet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “highest safety standards” is countered by the fact that the Nuclear Energy Institute is pressuring the NRC to change its standards — something that the Union of Concerned Scientists states would “effectively render the rating meaningless.”
For example, the NRC has already approved exemptions for mandated post-Fukushima safety improvements and cybersecurity upgrades. Thus, one can expect that safety ratings will be eased so that plant operators are eligible for subsidy. Nothing changes.
Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change. We need strong renewable energy and efficiency standards, not promotion of nuclear power and toxic waste that threatens our communities and the planet.
Time to reconsider nuclear in clean-energy mix
I was pleased to see the Globe editorial concerning the reconsideration of nuclear power as a way to help reduce emissions. Since the late 1990s, there has been a consistent rejection of putting nuclear power into the mix among clean energy sources. Yet, along with hydropower, it is one of the only sources of consistent noncarbon-producing energy sources, and unlike hydraulic power, it is not limited on where it can be produced.
I worked in the nuclear industry in the 1960s, and we produced the reactor cores for the nuclear submarine that went around the world (the USS Triton). Imagine the amount of energy that took, and yet we have overlooked this potent source in the recent past.
Yes, there are technical difficulties, but there are such difficulties in all great scientific developments, and overcoming difficulties is what science is usually about. It is time for nuclear to be included in the clean-energy equation.
Kenneth G. Fettig
Industry’s record fuels rightful skepticism
The Globe’s editorial “Saying yes to nuclear power” makes a point that merits serious consideration. But in my view, the American public should be doubly cautious before accepting nuclear power as a solution to the climate change problem.
Those who have opposed nuclear power plants hold widely differing rationales. Some simply believe that the technology has too much destructive potential to be used on a large scale at all. Some question whether the capitalists running energy companies and utilities can ever be trusted to put public safety ahead of profits and stock prices. I reside in the latter camp.
One only needs to look as far as the Columbia Gas crisis here in Massachusetts to see that energy companies can be lax in protecting the public. The current hostility toward regulation shown by many politicians and businesspeople, along with the pernicious influence of big money in our public affairs, only serves to fuel rightful skepticism regarding safety. The energy industry as a whole has had a troubling record in recent decades.
While it may be tempting to turn to nuclear power as part of our climate change solution, we can only reasonably do so in an atmosphere of meticulous and forthright safety oversight that does not exist at the present time.