Clean energy has been an increasing concern for the whole world lately, and it’s a concern which grows by the minute. Unfortunately for the USA, we’re not up to the task yet… or rather some of us aren’t. The poster child for clean energy has long been our good friend born of the atomic age, Nuclear Power. Long decried by hippies, but championed by true environmentalists, nuclear energy is the panacea for our energy needs. While much of the US has embraced nuclear energy as the wonderful solution it is, a major part of the country has ignored it and demonized it. Unsurprisingly this problem segment of the nation is that self-same segment that causes problems with everything it gets its dirty little fingers into, yup you guessed it, the Left Coast.
Only for once, it isn’t just the hippies who are causing the problem. We’re also running into problems from the coal burning inland western survivalist types who are apparently too busy building up their own personal arsenal to care about modernizing their power systems. I guess there is one thing to say about this issue, it’s united the nut-job libertarians with the hippies who are afraid uranium might feel pain while undergoing fission, so in some ways the whole issue has brought more understanding to two portions of our political spectrum that, while insane, are insane in different ways.
Long the bastion of ill informed hippies, backwards “new” age thinking (i.e. crackpot crap), and morally bankrupt ethics, the Left Coast is once again proving to be the cement shoes that join the iron ball of politically and ethically bankrupt libertarianism, working together, dragging us underwater and slowing our ability to solve real problems. I submit the following graphic for your perusal (click to enlarge):
As can be easily seen, the West lags the most in nuclear capabilities when compared to the country as a whole. While some of the northeast gets a pass due to small population (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut have low total Megawatt outputs, and produce less nuclear power than Ohio or Wisconsin), it is still clear that while the South, Northeast, Midwest, and some of the plains states have their priorities straight (and let’s face it, the Dakotas aren’t lagging for lack of trying, but for lack of funds), the West needs to follow the nation into the 21st century.
Right now our West Coast readers are no doubt reaching for their keyboards to bang out an angry response about the “Dangers of Nuclear Power™!!!!”, while our survivalist readers are reaching for their rusty old shotguns, but before you waste our collective times let me clue you guys into a secret. Nuclear power involves less exposure to radioactive materials than does coal-fired plants! Our West Coast friends are, no doubt, now toking on their joint with an aura of suspicion, but with hints of interest poking through their drug induced haze (in all fairness the libertarians are beginning to take aim and won’t be won through logic), so for their benefit let me dispel some common myths.
One of the most common myths which persists is that evil nuclear energy results in a lot of radioactive waste which we don’t know how to deal with. This is a flat out lie. First off, we have to understand that radioactive waste isn’t a problem specific to nuclear power. A 1000MW coal-fired plant (the sort of plant from which the majority of our national and world power is produced) burns about 4,000,000 tons of coal every year2. This coal contains approximately 5.2 tons of Uranium, 12.8 tons of radioactive thorium and 0.22 tons of radioactive potassium-402. Want to take a guess where this waste goes? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t sequestered in a closed environmentally safe chamber like it would have been in a nuclear reactor.
If instead of blowing this 18.22 tons of radioactive waste out into the environment, had we used it as fuel in a reactor we could have generated 1.47 times as much energy as was generated by the coal which produced this waste2! So by burning coal instead of reacting nuclear materials we have generated the same amount of radioactive waste, but only 68% of the power we could have had, and blown the waste into our environment instead of sequestering it. While sequestering the waste may not seem like the best long term strategy, it is a good deal better than dumping it into the environment!
The second myth I want to dispel is that somehow Nuclear Energy exposes us to the dark and sinister demon of radiation. Exposure to radiation is far greater due to coal-fired plants than nuclear plants. Your average 1000MW coal-fired power plant produces exposures of 4.9 person-sieverts per year, compared to just 0.048 person-sieverts per year from a 1000MW nuclear power plant3. Amazing isn’t it? That coal fire plant in your area is exposing you to 100 times more radiation than an equivalent nuclear plant would.
So with the rabid arguments of the unwashed hippy masses put to rest (and me ready to dodge the hail of bullets from Montana) it is time for the West to start caring about the environment, and the lives and safety of its people. It’s time to look to the South for a role model and modernize the energy holdings in the Left coast, and the rest of the west. Re-open the West to nuclear power, because that is how the West will be won once more.