In a recent viewing of The Washington Post’s video “The Future of Energy,” I’m reminded again that the subject of the nuclear option surfaces in most government and industry projections of how to reach Net Zero by 2050, which we must do to survive as a civilization. Rarely mentioned, however, is the uncomfortable fact that nuclear energy is not guaranteed safe on several levels: apocalyptic accidents, waste disposal, uranium mining, and weaponization — of both the technology and the spent rods themselves.
Scrupulously maintaining the existing plants, sealing away the waste as best we can and slowly dismantling and detoxifying the older facilities one at a time as they go out of service is the only acceptable nuclear plan, in my layman’s mind. According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2019 the nuclear share of total U.S. electricity generating capacity was 9 percent (3 percent in Oregon). Couldn’t we make up those percentages with geothermal, wave power, improved battery capacity, community-based gravity storage of wind and solar electricity and smaller, local, high-tech windmills, not to mention smart highways and buildings, triple-pane windows, passive solar, alternatives to cement, massive and mandatory recycling, more shade trees, better mass transit, less cattle ranching, and overall reduced consumption patterns?
The problem, of course, is profits, and profits in the form of money (as opposed to a healthy planet) are better obtained when big industries control all the levers, including the politicians.