Guest editorial: Affordable, clean energy is readily available in the form of nuclear power
Whether you believe carbon emissions contribute to global warming or that climate change is an existential threat, most agree that spewing smoke into the air is undesirable. Who wouldn’t after seeing a Salt Lake City inversion? Many activists and politicians promote solar and wind as the answer, eschewing nuclear. Science and experience demonstrate otherwise.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no battery storage technology for renewable energy on the horizon that would meet even Park City’s energy needs. In addition to being unreliable — you can’t make the wind blow or the sun shine — neither wind nor solar are environmentally friendly. Though neither produces CO2, wind turbines are the most serious threat to endangered bird, killing approximately one million of them yearly. Solar farms require clearing vegetation and wildlife from large swaths of land. Devastation is inevitable. For one California solar farm, biologists had to relocate endangered desert land tortoises from their burrows. Many died.
Some advocate for solar panels on every building, yet doing so is costly, unreliable and often insufficient. Our Park City home has a microgrid consisting of solar panels and a battery storage system. Even with us keeping the panels cleared of snow, the winter sun and battery backup are not enough. We draw energy from the public grid six months of the year.
Ironically, countries heavily invested in renewables have increased energy costs without reducing carbon emissions. When renewables can’t generate energy, fossil fuel plants are fired up. For example, Germany’s energy costs rose by 50% and their carbon emissions have been flat despite an $800 billion investment in renewables. Yet, because of nuclear, France emits less carbon per capita for under 60% of the cost. When France was pressured to add renewables, at a cost of $33 billion, its emissions and energy costs increased!
Nuclear provides cheap, reliable and SAFE green energy. Nuclear plants drive turbines without combustion and therefore do not emit carbon or pollutants. Scientists have studied nuclear energy since the 1960s and EVERY major study has shown that it is the safest clean energy.
Why aren’t we building nuclear plants as quickly as possible? People are misinformed and afraid. Coal plants release 100 times more radiation than an equivalent nuclear reactor. Living next door to a nuclear plant exposes you to less radiation each year than one cross-country flight. Three Mile Island, the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, released substantially less radiation than a chest x-ray, resulting in no deaths or projected long-term illnesses. Radiation-related casualties/illnesses from Japan’s Fukushima accident are likewise zero. The worst nuclear disaster in history, Russia’s poorly designed Chernobyl plant, contemporaneously killed fewer than three dozen with an ultimate death toll of a few hundred. As tragic as these deaths are, according to the World Health Organization, seven million people die each year from burning fossil fuels and biomass.
France safely recycles 95% of nuclear radioactive byproducts. We and dozens of countries have safely stored nuclear waste for decades. In fact, hospitals store nuclear waste in our “backyards.” A solar farm in a sunny area requires 450 times more land to produce energy equivalent to a nuclear plant. Solar panels and batteries will be an environmental nightmare in 20 years when they reach end-of-life. Wind turbines are killing owls, condors, hawks and eagles at devastating rates. More environmentalists are promoting nuclear over renewables with good reason.
Nuclear already provides about 20% of U.S. electricity. We can efficiently, affordably and safely reduce all products of combustion spewed into the air, including not only carbon dioxide, but toxic pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and particulates by building modern nuclear plants now. Nuclear is a no-brainer!