department of energy

department of energy

Read & watch this. Share the post "Debunking the Myths About Nuclear Energy" FacebookTwitterGoogle+E-mail Debunking the Myths About Nuclear Energy by Marsha Freeman This article appears in the February 2, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. A

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Read & watch this. Share the post "Debunking the Myths About Nuclear Energy" FacebookTwitterGoogle+E-mail Debunking the Myths About Nuclear Energy by Marsha Freeman This article appears in the February 2, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. As the U.S. Congress debates energy policy, EIR provides this summary review of the answers to frequently raised objections to the only feasible solution to the U.S. and worldwide power shortage, nuclear energy. Q: Aren’t nuclear power plants dangerous to public health? A: In fact, there has never been any nuclear accident in the United States that has endangered the health or welfare of the public. The worst American accident, at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, in 1979, injured no one. Q: What about the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986? A: The severity of that accident was a function of a poor reactor design, and inadequate training of plant personnel. In the United States, oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provides the standards for reactor design and plant operation, which has contributed to our excellent nuclear power plant safety record. The new generation of nuclear power plant designs, already being built internationally, feature passive safety systems, which simply shut the plant down if there is an operator error or equipment failure. By comparison, during 2006, more than 5,000 miners died in China, during the production of the more than 1 billion tons of coal that power its economy. The health of the public in China’s cities is also endangered, by the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. As far as vulnerability to “terrorist” attacks is concerned, there is no public infrastructure that is as well protected as nuclear power plants. There is no scenario under which a release of radiation (which effect in low dosages is, in any case, completely exaggerated), would significantly affect public health. Q: What do we do with the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants? A: There is no such thing as nuclear “waste.” This is a term used in popular parlance by anti-nuclear ideologues to frighten the public, and its elected representatives. More than 95% of the fission products created in commercial power plants can be reprocessed and recycled. The spent fuel from a typical 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant, which has operated over 40 years, can produce energy equal to 130 million barrels of oil, or 37 million tons of coal. In reprocessing, fissionable uranium-235 and plutonium are separated from the high-level fission products. The plutonium can be used to make mixed-oxide fuel, which is currently used to produce electrical power in 35 European nuclear reactors. The fissionable uranium in the spent fuel can also be reused. From the remaining 3% of high-level radioactive products, valuable medical and other isotopes can be extracted. Q: What about the stalemate over burying radioactive spent fuel in the Yucca Mountain geological depository in Nevada? A: This is an irrational program which is a result of the success of the anti-nuclear nonproliferation lobby in the 1970s. The Department of Energy’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership proposes to spend billions of dollars, and more than a decade in research and development, to develop new, “proliferation proof,” reprocessing technologies, under the guise of preventing the spread of plutonium and nuclear weapons, and bury the spent fuel at Yucca Mountain, in the meantime. This delay is unnecessary. Today, Britain, France, Russia, India, Japan, and China reprocess spent nuclear fuel, and technology today can be used here in the U.S. to eliminate the “nuclear waste” problem, in the short term. Q: But if the United States goes ahead now with reprocessing, doesn’t making this technology available increase the risk that other nations will develop nuclear weapons? A: No nation has ever developed a nuclear weapon from a civilian nuclear power plant. If a ...