It's about time for America to 'go green - go nuclear'
With a national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, jobs and the economy are two issues that are properly getting a great deal of attention. Unfortunately a key component of a healthy economy - energy - has fallen from the table.
Energy must be part of any responsible discussion about our economic future. Connecticut generates 51 percent of its power from nuclear plants while gas, which provides 26 percent of the state's power, is a distant second. It is time for America to recognize what eastern Connecticut - and France and Finland - have long known: nuclear energy is green, safe and efficient.
The Nuclear Energy Institute reports that from 2006-08 Millstone II and III, in Waterford, operated at roughly 90 percent capacity. Eastern Connecticut, which is also home to a nuclear submarine base, understands nuclear power and if I were the 2nd District congressman I would make bringing a new nuclear power plant to the district a major agenda item.
Connecticut needs jobs, and job creation in the nuclear industry can be divided into three categories: pre-construction, construction and operation.
The NEI reports, "Construction of a new, large nuclear plant provides as many as 2,400 jobs over several years; operation of such a plant provides between 400 and 700 permanent jobs over many decades. These 'green jobs' provide electricity that is affordable, reliable, high-volume and available 24 hours a day while releasing virtually no CO2 into the atmosphere."
With a history of nuclear power generation, eastern Connecticut knows how the process works. Bringing a plant online will be a long and tedious process, which is all the more reason to begin now.
America should be a world leader in nuclear energy, but isn't. More than 75 percent of France's energy is generated by nuclear power, and is so proficient that electricity is now France's fourth largest export.
In 2008 Finland was fifth globally for per-capita electricity consumption. Calculating it would have to double its generation within the next 25 years, Finland turned to nuclear energy as a major component of its power strategy. The nation already derives about 28 percent of its energy from nuclear power compared to about 20 percent in the U.S. We can, and must, do better.
One factor blocking progress is Washington's failure to open the nation's spent fuel repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Those of us who comprehend the importance of reducing greenhouse gases should be demanding that Washington politicians follow through with the Yucca project.
The NEI calculates that without nuclear power, roughly 48 million tons of sulfur dioxide and almost 9 trillion tons of carbon dioxide would have been released into the atmosphere since 1995. The longer we delay Yucca the longer we delay increasing our reliance on nuclear energy. That means we will continue polluting the environment we say we want to preserve.
Another way of dealing with spent fuel rods would be to reprocess the material. Today U.S. policy calls for disposing of all spent fuel. This is a tremendous waste of a valuable resource.
America does not have energy to throw away. The Energy Information Agency predicts that over the next quarter century America will have to increase its energy output by about 40 percent. We cannot make that jump by relying on green sources like solar and wind. We should not want to make that jump by increasing our reliance on coal.
America recognizes the value of nuclear power but it has been a while since a genuine effort was made to "go" nuclear. Most of the 104 reactors in operation today date to the 1970s and 1980s and 37 of them are so old that they went online at the beginning of the 1970s.
Eastern Connecticut can be on the cutting edge of a national nuclear renaissance. There's no reason to delay the process.
Matt Daly is a former policy scholar at the Yankee Institute and a Republican candidate for the Congress in the 2nd District.
MOST VIEWED MEDIA
MOST DISCUSSED STORIES