Saturday, May 15, 2010

Case For Nuclear Power Plants In The US

Nobel Laureate and SLAC Director Emeritus Burton Richter gave arguments on why the US needs to proceed in building nuclear power plants, and why the public needs to get over its fear of it.

On May 5, he discussed the attributes and challenges of nuclear power at the weekly Stanford Energy Seminar. According to Richter, nuclear energy as a source of electricity is growing worldwide and should be a major component of U.S. energy policy as well. "The consequences are 100 years from now, but the most effective time to start working on this is now," he added.

Opponents of nuclear energy cite four main issues: cost, radiation and accident potential, waste disposal and the risk of weapons proliferation, Richter said. But compared to oil or coal, nuclear power produces the same amount of electricity for less money and emits no greenhouse gases. And while concerns over storing radioactive wastes and weapons proliferation are founded, Richter said, it's time for America to go green by expanding nuclear energy.

You may also view part of the lecture here:

The nuclear waste issue is the biggest hurdle against nuclear power plants. But we need to look at what kind of waste being generated by what kind of plants, and how much. Breeder reactors, if we ever get one, will generate so much less waste than current reactors. There were also a lot of research done in transmuting these radioactive waste to generate something less long-lived. But many of these line of studies were stopped in the late 80's and 90's once nuclear power became a dirty word in the US. So the high cost of producing these facilities now is definitely due to inaction, and the lack of interest in solving this problem. And all this was going on while other parts of the world such as Europe and Japan, continue to invest heavily in nuclear energy AND continue to be the ones with the knowledge and skill in this area. As a result, it is taking a huge amount of effort to restart this field right now in the US, especially at various universities.


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