With global warming pretty much an accepted fact, energy policymakers on both sides of the political spectrum are looking for non-carbon alternatives to creating electricity. And while increasing the use of nuclear energy should be a last resort for anyone who cares about the environment because of the risks associated with nuclear waste disposal, whether underground in New Mexico or anywhere else for that matter but the moon, nuclear is gaining ground.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Dominion Virginia Power (the company lighting my home) said that it had chosen a nuclear generator manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (yep, related to the car company). If completed, the reactor would be third nuclear reactor owned and operated by Dominion in Virginia. In all, nuclear energy accounted for 35 percent of the power generated in the state in 2007. To be fair, even if Dominion did move ahead with the plant, it wouldn't come online for at least five years.
Nevertheless, currently when combined with coal at 45 percent, four-fifths of the state's electricity is generated by either the dirtiest fuel known to man, or possibly the most dangerous. Forget explosions and meltdowns. There is no doubt that the waste from nuclear reactors remains poisonous for, oh... thousands of years!
Nuclear is getting a boost these days because it basically doesn't emit green house gases, and won't contribute to global warming. In fact, nuclear has such great benefits that an exhaustive list can be found right on the Nuclear Energy Institutes's website. The site is so nice, with its crystal clear blue sky background, fluffy clouds and pristine, pine encircled lakes.
No photos of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island on this site.
But before everyone thinks that I believe that nuclear is all bad, I don't. It has a place in our energy policy. My issue is the rapid pace of its ascendancy on the list of the non-carbon alternatives to energy production. According to one report, President Obama has more than $50 billion of federal money budgeted to support the construction of new nuclear power plants. I'm sure that some of that is on the radar of Dominion Power.
Fewer than 20 percent of total federal energy subsidies go to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
But Virginia is forging ahead in trying to increase the deployment of renewable energy, especially wind. Next month, the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative is holding a two-day conference down at James Madison University. Registration is affordable at twenty bucks for one day, and thirty dollars for the two day event. People interested in knowing what's been going on inside Virginia with respect to wind power generation will hear an earful.
Meanwhile, if you care about more balanced energy policy and taxpayer subsidy going to projects that won't make you glow in the dark if they mess up, then sign one of the zillion petitions online and get our Congress and President to make better choices.