Letter to the Editor: Why revive a dead horse?

Dr. Samuel Hoff made what I would say is a “very soft conclusion” in his DSN (March 29) Commentary.

He said we should be thinking about continuing the support of nuclear power generation (meaning some kind of tax-based subsidy or other business favors). Although he gave some recognition to the problem that nuclear energy is now uneconomical (solar, wind, and other sources are now cheaper) he left out important parts of the whole power grid story.

From a strictly business point of view anyone can go to Wikipedia and read the entry, under the title “List of cancelled nuclear reactors in the United States,” which gives a good history of over 120 reactor orders cancelled in the last few decades. That entry cites a Forbes (not your typical lefty-socialist rag) magazine article saying that the U.S. nuclear program was the “…largest managerial disaster in business history.” And that is the short story. Large cost overruns and large delays before startups are also part of the problem. And it is a fact that nuke electricity is now usually the most expensive.

In several countries, nuke power is either being phased out or further development is being questioned because of its bad history.

Most people do not appreciate the problem of radioactive wastes, which will take 50,000-100,000 years to fade out. Stand next to some of worst storage drums for a few minutes and you will be dead in a few days or less. Less exposure means cancer and other nasty incurable physiological dysfunctions. Beyond that, all transuranic elements are among the most biochemically toxic poisons that exist; they will be around forever.

Long-term storage of radioactive nuke waste is still a big problem.

In the last decade, renewable energy has been catching on fast. Solar panels have already been appearing on rooftops in recent years (and I see a lot in Sussex County). High performance batteries (already here) will take care of nighttime and cloudy days. Both will add to the cost of a house but the frown will come off owner’s faces because there will be few or no more electric bills. In the last two years many corporations have shifted their business emphasis. DSN readers should do an Internet search on wind farms. In some places they are sometimes producing more electricity than their user base needs.

On March 24, Royal Dutch Shell announced a subdivision, Shell Energy, to cover their renewable energy market. They also suggested that by 2030s they would be the largest power company in the world. Three other large European energy companies are als heavily pushing renewables and electricity. They expect 40% of all vehicles sold in 2040 to be electric (see article in Financial Times, 3/26/19, p.15). Readers should notice massive pushes for renewables and electric vehicles in China, India, and even parts of Africa.

To me, “renewables and electricity” is a no-brainer. They represent a faster, simpler, cheaper, and safer solution to the problem of power.

Arthur E. Sowers, PhD
Harbeson

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Sowers worked in the radiological safety division of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, California, “Second Panama Canal Study,” with option of using nuclear explosives (1968-1970).

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