published Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Nuclear energy provides for power needs

Ronald Eytchison

With the “war on terror” dominating the news, few Americans are likely to recall that 60 years ago President Dwight Eisenhower laid the foundation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in an historic address to the UN General Assembly. His speech, delivered at the height of the Cold War in 1953, helped change the course of world events.

After all these years, it is important to remember that nearly six decades of experience with nuclear energy has not lessened the wisdom of Eisenhower’s proposal to mount a program of international pooling of nuclear technology and fissionable materials for “the benefit of mankind.”

His “Atoms for Peace” vision clearly resounds today. Nuclear medicine has become indispensable to health care, playing a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. A great achievement.

Radiation is widely used in modern industry, as, for example, in the inspection of metal parts in jet engines. Nuclear generators supply the power for virtually all space missions. And nuclear energy has become a source of electricity for more than a billion people globally.

Eisenhower’s address foreshadowed the production of nuclear-generated electricity with fuel derived from nuclear weapons stockpiles in the United States and Russia. Under a disarmament agreement, nearly 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from former Soviet warheads have been down-blended into low-enriched uranium currently used at U.S. nuclear plants to supply power for American homes and businesses. The “megatons to megawatts” program has been a great success.

Now, with the growing concern for global climate change, the case for expanding the use of nuclear energy has never been greater. Nuclear energy is among the cleanest sources of “base-load” electricity, a great help in protecting public health and the environment.

James Hansen, a climatologist who headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for many years and who was the first atmospheric scientist to warn Congress about the danger of global warming in 1988, recently completed a study on the importance of nuclear energy in protecting our planet. Hansen determined that over the years global nuclear energy has prevented more than 1.8 million deaths from air pollution and 64 billion tons of greenhouse-gas emissions that would have resulted from the burning of fossil fuels. By 2050, nuclear energy could prevent as many as 7 million deaths and avoid 240 billion tons of greenhouse emissions, he said. His study, which appears in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, confirms nuclear energy’s benefits globally.

Around the world, 71 nuclear plants are being built, and 150 plants are planned and another 340 are proposed. That’s in addition to the 437 operating nuclear plants, including the U.S. fleet of 104 plants. Here in the Southeast, five new reactors are under construction — two in Georgia, two in South Carolina and the Watts Bar reactor in Tennessee.

If any one energy source will be vital in the years ahead, it is nuclear power. The fact that even OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia plan to build nuclear plants should tell us something.

Retired Vice Adm. Ronald Eytchison, had 45 years’ experience in Navy nuclear power and the commercial nuclear power and nuclear fuels industries.

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nucanuck said...

it's difficult to give any credibility to a writer who fails mention the downside of nuclear energy. This is a puff piece for the nuclear industry, nothing more. Free advertising from the CTFP.

Two years on Fukushima is still a raging disaster. Enormous amounts of radiation are still pouring into the ocean and atmosphere. The technology to clean up the mess does not yet exist. Unit No 4 is so badly damaged that it remains a threat to collapse and irradiate the entire Northern Hemisphere with enough radiation to impact every living thing in ways we do want to contemplate.

We may someday know how to use and dispose of nuclear energy, but we are not there yet.

You can bet that the Vice Admiral is on some payroll that influences his pro-nuclear views.

May 7, 2013 at 2:51 a.m.
Leaf said...

I always find it strange that there are nuclear "believers" or "nonbelievers." Same with solar or wind or coal. It's not religion, it's technology. Each has its plusses and minuses. Nuclear is arguably cleaner than fossil, but not as clean as solar. Solar doesn't generate electricity at night, etc. etc. When nuclear goes bad, it does so spectacularly - fossil plants just kill us all slowly but they're easy to ramp up or down to meet demand.

Then there are the costs - ALL of the industries are effectively subsidised by the taxpayer in various ways so we have relatively cheaper electricity but higher taxes. It's difficult but not impossible to compare costs.

But most people don't like to think, and they like money, so we get lobbyists and shills who represent industries like coal and nuclear, and maybe even a couple of low-paid ones representing renewables, who do our thinking for us. They trick the rubes into "believing" in their industry and pay the lawmakers to subsidize them.

May 7, 2013 at 10 a.m.
nucanuck said...

A telling fact about nuclear is that it could never be built without government imposed taxpayer guarantees. No insurance company would ever insure a nuclear plant. That should tell us something.

May 7, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

I wonder, with all the security and safety needs, what the true cost of nuclear kW hours is compared to solar or wind. The biggest argument against renewable energy is the cost.

May 7, 2013 at 10:53 a.m.
Leaf said...

And let's not forget you have to mine that uranium from somewhere. I think it comes mostly from Canada. What if those crazy Socialists decide to withhold it? We'll have to invade them, and that's expensive.

May 8, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
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