How dedicated should Mass. be to nuclear energy?
Really? More nuclear at Pilgrim? Just when plant’s neighbors can exhale?
Joshua S. Goldstein (“Why Massachusetts should reclaim nuclear energy,” Opinion, May 29) has got to be kidding. Just when Cape Cod and South Shore residents are embracing last week’s closure of the poorly run, technologically impaired Pilgrim nuclear plant, he calls for a reactor complex eight times its size at the same site.
In dismissing renewable energy as an unreliable alternative to nuclear, Goldstein fails to present an integrated picture of what could be achieved by scaling up distributed and utility-scale solar as well as offshore and onshore wind. We’ve barely tapped the potential of these technologies when paired with smart management of electricity demand by commercial, industrial, and household users; ramped-up storage; and a real commitment to energy efficiency.
Goldstein is as far off base in his assertion that nuclear is affordable. Instead of producing electricity “too cheap to meter,” as promised by its early promoters, nuclear is prohibitively costly. There’s a reason why nuclear plant owners are lobbying so aggressively for government subsidies and ratepayer bailouts to keep their uneconomical plants afloat.
Instead of inflicting another half-century of nuclear power on Pilgrim’s neighbors, it’s time for Massachusetts to invest in an affordable, environmentally sustainable electricity future.
The writer, an author on energy policy, was president of the Conservation Law Foundation from 2003 to 2009.
The wind alternative is better than people think
Joshua S. Goldstein bases his plea for more nuclear power plants in part on one commonly held misconception: that wind power will always be intermittent. A comprehensive study at Stanford University found that to be untrue.
The study shows that it is feasible to connect multiple wind turbines along the Eastern Seaboard with transmission lines so as to provide more than enough electricity to power major cities’ needs on the Atlantic Coast. This is possible because there will always be sufficient wind blowing somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard at all times.
Goldstein says that we should invest $20 billion to build four nuclear power plants, and that it would take 10 years to build them. It would be much wiser to invest that time and money in offshore wind. What’s more, since passage of the Electric Utility Restructuring Act, Massachusetts depends on the private market to develop new generation. The Commonwealth has decided emphatically not to invest in nuclear.
While Massachusetts has provided some incentives for wind, it is merely an attempt to level the playing field for a much more environmentally friendly source of power.
One needs only to watch a few episodes of HBO’s “Chernobyl“ and remember the devastation of Fukushima to be reminded of just how dangerous nuclear power is.
Matthew C. Patrick
It is shortsighted to dismiss natural gas as bridge to renewables
In his op-ed “Why Massachusetts should reclaim nuclear energy” Joshua S. Goldstein urges the construction of a quartet of new nuclear plants to provide the electricity lost by the shutdown of the Pilgrim plant in Plymouth.
While he points out that electricity from wind and solar sources would be intermittent, he is wrong in proposing the nuclear solution, for several reasons.
He rightly notes that no battery can provide the state’s energy system with sufficient electricity. But he is wrong about natural gas.
We already have an extensive pipeline system in place to handle the flow of gas. There is no reason to abandon natural gas as a backup fuel on days the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Assuming that the renewables would be offline about a quarter of the time, the atmosphere would be more than able to handle emissions from gas-powered sources at a reduced level.
Finally, while Goldstein addresses nuclear safety, he omits the issue of cost. How many wind turbines could be built for the cost of one nuclear plant? The answer is many indeed. While decarbonization remains our ultimate goal, it is shortsighted to dismiss interim measures that could reduce carbon concentrations to levels that hopefully could begin to pacify our inflamed atmosphere.
Keep nuclear in mix, and look to MIT, UMass Lowell for research advances
Bravo to Joshua S. Goldstein for his op-ed regarding the use of nuclear energy to power our society. He said what I have been thinking for years, but he said it better that I ever could. I would just like to add that we should take note of our two universities that still have nuclear engineering programs and on-campus research reactors, MIT and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. We should look to them for research into safer reactor designs and spent-fuel recycling technologies to make nuclear power even more attractive as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Robert G. Atkinson Jr.