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In the debate about solving global warming, the Public is often given a false, misleading choice between continuing with some form of coal -- and nuclear power. Renewable energy is marginalized and not discussed. Misleading statements about environmentalists reconsidering the use of nuclear power abound -- just as fake advertising trumpeting that "Most doctors smoke Camel cigarattes" abounded when the tobacco industry was trying to confuse the public about the health risks of smoking.
What has NOT received sufficient coverage in the media is that we currently possess a great deal of the technological know-how needed to begin creating an energy future that will be BOTH carbon free, and nuclear free -- and by the year 2050 according to Dr Arjun Makhijani of the Inst. for Energy and Environmental Researcy.
You can download Dr. Makhijani's book, order a printed copy, or watch a video of NEIS director Dave Kraft interviewing Dr. Makhijani on Chicago's CAN-TV, on our Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free page.
In an excellent article written July 23rd, 2007, the LA times points out some of the many reasons why nuclear power doesn't make sense as a "solution" for global warming. You can read it on their site, or download a .pdf file from us.
There are lots of reasons you can't 'Nuke' Global Warming. The fact is, Nuclear power won't save us from Global Warming any more than it will be "Too Cheap to Meter" - thats just another overenthusiastic promise from an industry that hasn't delivered on any of its promises. There's a new book - "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer" - in which Dr. Helen Caldicott addresses this very topic.
Nuclear Power sounds like a good solution for global warming, until you realize that the largest emitter of global warming gasses is the transportation sector. Plan to strap a reactor onto your SUV? Automotive fuel-efficiency standards would be much faster, much more effective, much less expensive and much less of a material handling problem than building reactors to crack water into hydrogen.
While its true that we need to take measures to reduce carbon emissions as a society, individuals can take action now without waiting for the corporate/government complex to act. NEIS holds regular "Low Carbon Diet" trainings; check our home page to see when the next one will be. If you like, you can also buy the sourcebook that tells you how these cuts can be made.
While nuclear industry spokesmen are fond of pointing out that nuclear power plants release no greenhouse gasses in operation, they always
fail to point out that Uranium Enrichment accounts for huge percentages of some CFCs released in this country. For example, United States Enrichment
Corporation's sites in Ohio and Kentucky released 800,000 pounds of CFC-114 in 1999. CFC-114 lasts 300 years in the atmosphere, and causes 9800
times more global warming per pound than CO2. So US enrichment activities in 1999 released the equivalent of 3,920,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
In addition to global warming, CFC's in the atmosphere cause another problem. They destroy the ozone layer. CFC-114 is one of the worst substances
know to man in terms of ozone destruction. This is all just more evidence that Nuclear Power is not a clean technology!
Nuclear power plants require water. Lots and lots of cooling water. The majority of water used for any purpose in Illinois - more that 75% -
is used as reactor coolant.
What happens when global climate change results in more hot, dry summers (punctuated by violent storms which create runoff but don't raise river levels for longer than a few days? With increasing electricity demand for air conditioners, higher environmental temperatures and less water in the rivers, the reactors will have to shut down or cook the fish. It has already happened here, and in France in 2005. NEIS has a two-page .pdf report discussing the ways in which Nuclear Power Plants can't operate in a Global warming world.
Read more about how drier rivers in a global warming world make nuclear power unworkable.
The recent heat wave contained two news stories about nuclear energy, one widely broadcasted, one completely ignored.
The first was about the record-setting electricity use, fuelled by the region’s demand for air conditioned relief. Exelon and other nuclear utilities attribute their success at meeting this demand to nuclear power.
The second story barely appeared after the heat broke, when people weren’t paying attention. Both here and internationally, the demand for electricity was indeed met, sometimes by nuclear power. However, in many cases these reactors were either not allowed to run at full power, or, if they were, they were given regulatory permission to exceed safety and environmental standards. In other words nuclear plants were allowed to keep the air conditioners running, but only by risking an accident or damaging an already heat-stressed environment.
In Illinois Exelon’s Quad Cities and Dresden reactors had to curtail power output because the hot water discharged into the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers exceeded EPA heat discharge regulations. This occurred previously in 1988, when then-ComEd reactors had 100+ reactors days of curtailed power output or complete shut down related to excessive thermal discharge. This resulted in millions of dollars of water-cooling retrofits for the reactors. Exelon came close to power curtailment again during Illinois’ 2005 drought.
Exelon’s Limerick reactor in Pennsylvania also curtailed power output. Across Lake Michigan the Donald Cook reactor building overheated on July 29-30, resulting in an automatic reactor shutdown.
Europe experienced similar problems. This year as in the 2003 heat wave, the French government gave permission for reactors to exceed heat discharge and even safety standards at 37 reactors. Germany allowed several reactors on the Elbe River to discharge in excess of thermal standards. One reactor in Spain was shut down completely rather than thermally contaminate the Ebro.
These situations occur in climatic conditions far less extreme than those anticipated in a full blown global warming world. They serve as a warning that nuclear power is ill-suited to help us in a global warming world – unless we are willing to either further destroy the environment, or risk increased likelihood of a nuclear accident.
When nuclear reactors will be wanted most, they are likely to be least available, and then only at greatly increased risk. Contrary to the spin that the nuclear industrial complex is feeding the public, you can’t ‘nuke’ global warming.
Gratefully, David A. Kraft Director, NEIS