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Jason Holliston
Monday, July 25, 2005  
Nuclear Power is the Future!

If you don't read FuturePundit regularly, you should. He crawls the web for you, giving insights into what the future will look like, and offering his impressively-informed opinions concerning said insights. This one caught my eye, and wanted to pass it along: South Korea Sees Bigger Role For Nuclear Power. Read it, take note of his wrap up concerning the current and future role of coal and nuclear power in the United States in power generation:

If coal plant operators were forced to reduce emissions now then my guess is coal would cost at least as much as wind power and perhaps more. Though emissions control technology advances in the future will reduce the cost of emissions reduction I still expect coal emissions reduction to remain fairly expensive. So far in the United States the coal burners have managed to delay tougher regulatory standards on emissions. But I expect the American public to attach increasing importance to cleaner environments. As living standards rise people place greater value on esthetic and health considerations. So coal plant lobbyists are eventually going to lose against public opinion.

My guess is that nuclear power in East Asia is going play out in a manner similar to the French pattern. The East Asia peoples won't take environmentalist objections seriously and instead will see nuclear as the cleanest, most reliable, and cost effective alternative to fossil fuels. The future of nuclear power in the United States is less clear. While some environmentalists are having second thoughts about their opposition so far coal looks set to meet the bulk of future growth in US demand with wind and nuclear playing smaller roles. At some point the price of photovoltaics will plunge and solar power may become the biggest energy providers. But until then nuclear looks like the most cost effective cleaner alternative to coal.

While no one wants a nuclear power plant a mile from where their kids are playing, it's amazing to me that the environmentalists have persisted in their attack upon nuclear power, especially in light of their loud concerns about global warming. Electricity produced by nuclear power gives off zero greenhouse gases. Zero. They draw these dark possible futures of Manhattan Island underwater and skiers looking up to bare mountains (ouch!), but remain immovable in opposition to a much cleaner source of energy.

Pushing for truly clean and safe forms of energy (solar, wind, and geothermal come to mind) is all well and good, but at the same time, looking the numbers makes it painfully obvious that these sources, with our current technology, has no chance whatsoever of replacing our reliance on fossil fuels for our electricity needs. The problems in the near term (5-20 years), have to be solved by today's technologies, and not tomorrow's breakthroughs. I'm with Mr. Parker in pushing for greater investment in photovoltaics and farther-term, fusion power, but for now, it seems obvious that electricity-generating nuclear power plants should be aggressively built to fill that gap. Even if global warming, as I believe, isn't nearly the catastrophe that some make it out to be, there's a long list of benefits to switching that has nothing to do with warmer summers.

This attitude reminds me of a line out of Mars Attacks!, near the end of the movie, given by the teenager hero, played by Lukas Haas. Standing in front of the destroyed Capitol Building, he says, "...and we should all live in teepees, because it’s better in many ways."

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