Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nuclear revival - does it still seem like such a great idea?

So today I'm driving down the road, minding my own business and listening to NPR as all progressives do daily when I hear Michelle Martin of Tell Me More, interviewing Hazel O'Leary, former Clinton Secretary of Energy and current President of Fisk University an HBCU in Tennessee. Incidentally, O'Leary is the first and only woman AND first and only African American to serve as Secretary of Energy. Sec. O'Leary was on the show discussing the use of nuclear energy in light of the recent and ongoing tragedy in Japan surrounding its nuclear power plants.

While Sec. O'Leary had many ineresting and thoughtful things to say and I urge you to listen or read a trancript of the full interview, I was shocked to hear her say that the US has only brought one nuclear power plant online since the Three Mile Island disaster not because of regulatory concerns, but instead because of the inability to obtain financing for these projects. I could hardly keep my car on the road as I realized that the boys under the gold dome in Georgia had managed to find away around the financial crunch of building new nuclear power facilities. You will recall that gem from 2009 - SB 31 - which required Georgia residents begin to foot the bill before Plant Vogel was even under construction.

There are so many ways this blog post could go. I could talk about how Republicans who are all about market forces handing out a sweetheart, welfare-like deal to big business, but that seems to easy.

This might also be an appropriate place to discuss why the burst of development in the nuclear industry seems to be in the South. Apparently 3 of the 5 nuclear facilities underway in the US currently are in the South. I think we can all guess why that is happening, but again, perhaps a conversation for another day.

I also understand the need to diversify our energy sources, turn away from fossil fuels, etc. and Sen. O'Leary spoke about this issue as well. The real issue with expanding nuclear power, as Sec. O'Leary pointed out that we have no real solution for dealing with spent nuclear waste.

Instead, the thing that is forefront in my mind is the disaster unfolding in Japan and longterm effects on that country, her people and even the world. I grew up in the shadow of a nuclear power plant near Crystal River, Florida. Today, more than ever, it is more apparent how a natural disaster, mechanical failure or even human error, could change a part of the country that I love in the blink of an eye and forever. Maybe it is time for us all to stop and think a little harder before we keep blissfully sailing toward the "nuclear revival" that seemed like such a great idea until four days ago.

1 comment:

Amy Morton said...

Why is it that Georgia seems to lead on just the wrong things?