Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Overlooked Environmental Issue--The End of the Nuclear Option

Nuclear Power Plant outside of New York City.
Click for photo credit.
Given that it is the close of the year, I am reserving this week's posts for issues that were largely overlooked by the media and environmental community.

I wrote about today's topic in a blog post some time ago, but it is worth mentioning again.  The nuclear energy option is dead in the U.S., largely as a result of the Fukushima disaster that occurred as a result of this year's earthquake and tsunami.

This is an important development for a number of reasons.  Some environmentalists were praising nuclear energy due to its limited impact on the atmosphere.  Indeed, Brookings Institute in this year's report of the green economy listed nuclear energy jobs as "green" in their compendium.

Yet, I have always been leery of nuclear energy because of the waste issues, the potential for terrorism, and the dangers associated with accidents.  These problems are not just one-time problems.  They last for generations.  Thus the impacts of our decisions today have grave consequences for generations to come.  As a relatively purist in the sustainability field, I find nuclear not particularly sustainable due to the multi-generational impacts of waste and accidents.  How can we ethically trade cheap energy today for a future of unusable landscapes, nuclear waste, and a proliferation of dirty bombs. Is it worth the risk?

At the end of the day, given what one knows about Fukushima and Chernobyl, would you want to live near a nuclear power plant? For most the answer is no.  While there is some hope for new technologies, the current state of nuclear power is problematic.

Thus, I believe that the nuclear energy option is off the table for the time being in the United States.  I doubt that any new plants will be built any time soon.

No comments: