"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nuclear Power and Global Warming: A Bad Mix


I suspect that few of us saw anything in the papers (in the U.S. at least) about the shutdown of French nuclear power plants during the recent heatwave at the beginning of July. Temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) forced the shutdown of a third of France's nuclear power plants, and it wasn't only so that the cooling water wouldn't fry the neighborhood fish.
Fourteen of France's Nineteen nuclear power stations are located inland and are cooled by river water. These plants do not have the cooling capacity of coastal nuclear plants using sea water for cooling, and must be shut down before water temperatures become incapable of maintaining maximum safe core temperature. Core meltdowns are not high on the list of desirable events for nuclear power plant operators.

In a hands-across-the-Channel effort, the French were able to keep the air conditioners on by importing electricity from the British. At a time when many nations, some of them in relatively warm regions, are considering or planning to build nuclear power plants, it might be prudent to consider that global temperatures are likely to rise in the future. That, coupled with the fact that uranium is NOT a renewable resource (you can reprocess spent fuel, but that creates a whole set of problems) are good reasons to stop and reconsider nuclear power as a solution to our energy problems (as well as global warming).

It isn't exactly "green" when one considers the mining and processing required to produce reactor grade uranium. Besides the energy required to operate mining and processing equipment (and the associated emissions), it requires a phenomenal amount of electricity to enrich the uranium to be usable as fuel. And of course, there is the inevitable waste to be dealt with once the fuel is spent. So much for your "green" energy source! And don't forget that as some nations - the U.S. has nearly the lowest proven per-capita uranium reserves of any nation - run out of uranium, they will be forced to look outside their borders. For a historical context, just think OIL and the U.S.!!!!!

If you are in the United States and think that nuclear energy is NOT the answer, you might want to let your Senators know! Although the Senate has delayed formal work on its climate bill until September, there is much work going on behind closed doors. Some Republicans are pushing for a climate bill with $50 billion more in taxpayer loan guarantees for new reactor construction, AND a formal Congressional intent to build 100 new nuclear reactors in the next 20 years (the auto industry bailout pales in comparison).

CLICK HERE to send an email to your Senators and tell them if you think this is a bad idea. While you are at it, send an email to President Obama as well (at Physicians for Social Responsibility). To top it off, you can read and sign the Simple Statement on Nuclear Power and Climate Change at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

We need to think of future generations as we consider energy alternatives; how will our choices affect them? Will we be pursuing a peaceful future OR a future dominated by just more energy resource-driven foreign (read MILITARY) policy.

For a Peaceful Future,

Article: France imports UK electricity as plants shut, in the TimesOnline.
Photo Credit: Photo of power plant cooling towers: www.abc.net.au/.../NuclearPower_Getty_400.jpg

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