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Embrace of nuclear power ignores its downside: Dangers and disruptive shutdowns

The Millstone nuclear power facility in Waterford, Conn.STEVE MILLER/AP FILE PHOTO

The Globe’s glib embrace of nuclear power (“Conn. made the right call in keeping Millstone nuclear power plant open,” Editorial, March 19) utterly ignores the downsides of this precarious technology, just as it simplistically blames nuclear’s stratospheric cost on a “flaw in the design of the deregulated electricity markets.”

I doubt the 80,000 displaced residents of Fukushima Prefecture or the former inhabitants of Chernobyl’s thousand-square-mile Exclusion Zone would sit easily with the Globe’s notion that nuclear plants are a source of “clean power.” Nor would New Englanders who worry about the 800,000 gallons of radioactive groundwater that have recently been trucked away from the shuttered Vermont Yankee plant. Or the neighbors of the Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth, who have endured nearly a half-century of harrowing mishaps and years of disruptive shutdowns at that misbegotten plant.


As for the cost of nuclear, America’s fleet of civilian reactors has been kept afloat by untold billions in federal support plus vast ratepayer subsidies. Even with this backing, nuclear can’t come close to competing with solar and wind.

Transitioning to low-carbon electricity will demand enormous ingenuity and a fundamental resetting of priorities at all levels of government. To grasp the magnitude of this challenge, we may want to look at what it took to put nuclear power on the American grid.

Philip Warburg


The writer was president of the Conservation Law Foundation from 2003 to 2009.