Howard Kleinhendler: We Need Nuclear Power

Howard Kleinhendler interview tlsWhat’s happening in Northern Japan is tragic. Could it have been avoided;  probably not. The strength of the quake that spawned the Fukushima disaster is unprecedented in recorded history for that region of the world.  Redundant systems were in place; the plant shut down as expected within seconds of the earthquake.  Unfortunately, man is not yet infallible. That doesn’t mean it has to stop advancing toward cleaner and efficient energy sources, of which nuclear power is front and center.

Now that the electricity had been restored to the cooling systems and the worst is over, we can reflect on the lessons learned. First, it’s not a great idea to build a six reactor nuclear plant along a major fault line.  Sure, the designers want to be close to water supplies, but water can be pumped inland; man-made lakes can be built.  Instead of building these things in containment upon containment with the expectation that Mother Nature can be predicted, it makes more sense to move away from the places that she likes to make shake very violently.

Two, update the reactors every twenty years. Fukushima was built nearly 40 years ago. The technology back then was not nearly as good as we have it now. Force the utilities to update their systems with state of the art solar electrical backups (Fukushima had diesels that drowned in the tsunami).  While it’s going to cost more, the cost of the complete spoliation of the nuclear reactors thanks to millions of gallons of salt water, is a far greater price to pay.

Third, move these facilities away from population centers.  Reactors are dangerous. When they break, they leak invisible stuff that makes you very sick. The radioactive fallout doesn’t stop at the nearest county line. It rises into plumes that transverse oceans. It gets into the milk and spinach and water. It hurts people downstream who end up consuming the tainted products.  In short, it’s not readily contained.

However, one thing is certain, we can’t dump nuclear power. It’s efficient, relatively cheap, has a very good safety record and there is no comparable alternative. Coal is messy and hurts the environment through green house emissions. Besides, the chances of getting killed in a coal mine are far greater than turning into a glowing Martian from nuclear poisoning. Fossil fuels are expensive to extract, destroy our natural resources, and also contribute heavily to global warming.  And, to top it off, most of the people that sell us the stuff are unstable. 

If anything is emerging from the domino effect of regime change in the Middle East, it’s that the long-time OPEC dictators, whose backroom handshakes could be counted on, are not going to be around much longer. Electronic media is lifting the curtain of silence from populations that have been suppressed through deprivation of information, the brutality of totalitarian regimes, and the lies and misdirection plays of dictators who could not deliver the bacon for their people. Even the crazies that try to blow themselves up are having second thoughts.

Let’s not panic or rush to ditch nuclear power. Okay, we can slow down construction of new production plants a bit while we take stock of what just happened to our friends in Japan. But after all the fancy and expensive studies are in, we need to maintain our efficient and productive uses of nuclear power. Until someone comes up with a cheaper, more efficient, alternative way to supply our insatiable appetite for gadgets and everything else that runs on electrons, nuclear energy remains among the best and reliable sources out there. TLS.

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  1. I am amazed at the lack of knowledge of these issues that is demonstrated by someone who is supposed to have a thorough education and wants to be involved in local politics.

    “Now that the electricity had been restored to the cooling systems and the worst is over” — the worst is not nearly over, as there is a potential for leaking plutonium and lack of adequate assessment on the levels contamination. Etc Etc Etc.

    “Third, move these facilities away from population centers.” Would be very interesting to hear your suggestions where that would be. NOBODY wants to have them in their backyard, even if they are a village, not a population center.

    “there is no comparable alternative.” There is. It is called NATURAL GAS. Not exactly a new alternative.

    “Fossil fuels are expensive to extract, destroy our natural resources, and also contribute heavily to global warming. And, to top it off, most of the people that sell us the stuff are unstable. ” I am sorry, but do you even know what particular “fossil fuels” you are referring to? Must be ones that we use to produce power gen. Please publish the list. Also, have you heard that “global warming” has been recently completely shot down as a scientific theory?

    “Even the crazies that try to blow themselves up are having second thoughts” — not that it is consequential to the story you are trying to describe above, but… Did you interview them? How do you know?

    “we need to maintain our efficient and productive uses of nuclear power.” Here is an example for you. Oldest nuclear plant in the US. Located in Toms River. How do you like it?

  2. “Unfortunately, man is not YET infallible.” What’s Yet Supposed to mean? G-d runs this world. Not man.

    “Coal is messy and hurts the environment through green house emissions.” Green house gasses? You mean CO2? The gas that plants need to survive? I’m not sure why the scoop is obessed with quoting you.

  3. No 5. Electricity is not produced from “oil”. It could be produced from refined products, that are based on oil. Our reliance on this method of producing electricity is NEGLIGIBLE at this time.

    What amazes me is that instead of asking intelligent questions and doing research, people feel like they can just opine on whatever they want — even if they do not understand the issue at hand at all.

  4. A 3000 acre solar field can replace the Oyster Creek Nuclear bomb. Put it in the 1,000,000 acre Pine Barrens ,Won’t impact the environment

  5. Water is made from hydrogen, not the other way around.

    In any event, hydrogen is not a solution. There isn’t any free hydrogen floating around anywhere. Extracting hydrogen is an energy intensive process. That energy would have to come from another source, likely fossil fuels or nuclear power.

  6. Howard has some interesting ideas. We need more nuclear power, like they have in France. George W. Bush was saying this years ago.

    Of course safety has to be a priority, Look what happened at Chernobyl. Three Mile Island.

    #3- I agree with you about natural gas. Unfortunately, the government and non-government entities have not committed nearly enough resources in developing technology to extract natural gas from hydrates. The same that oil companies did not consider drilling for oil in Wyoming because it was too expensive to break through the rocks, they are considering it now. While big oil does not want natural gas, we should want it.

    Therefore, we need more than just nuclear power. We need natural gas. More drilling, including in the ANWR, in an environmentally safe way. We have directional digging.

    We also need conservation. Hybrid cars. Fuel efficient vehicles, etc.

    As far as OPEC is concerned, see the Pachad Yitzchak about Arab control over oil.

  7. Wow. What a thought provoking article. There are so many thoughts going through my head, I’m feeling dizzy. It’s amazing how from the little I’ve read up recently on the subject, I know enough to know you have no idea what you’re talk about. As another reader already pointed out you didn’t even bother to follow current events to know that the crisis is nowhere near a resolution. As a matter of fact the prognosis is nowhere near completion.
    First off, If you’re not aware of what the 800-pound elephant in the room is, I’ll be happy to spell it out for you. You make the point how man is not infallible, but you somehow didn’t address a conclusion a logical person might infer from that statement. In light of the potential catastrophic disasters that can occur and have already occurred any project that is to be planned, designed, executed, and operated by humans has to assume a potential for error. It’s always easy to point to specific disasters and explain why it won’t happen here. But eventually you can’t close your eyes to the reality that there are more variables that cannot be anticipated. And guess what- even when the potentials are anticipated, they can still unfortunately become e reality.
    I don’t understand how under these circumstances, you can justify subjecting millions of people to the unimaginable fallout from any single human error.
    I’m also not sure what you were bumbling about with forcing the reactors to update every 20 years. I can only point to this article
    Also you mention there is no comparable alternative. If you read up any news on any current project, one of the main obstacles nowadays is justifying the multi-billion dollar investment when the cost of natural gas is so cheap
    It’s amazing how you can form such an uninformed opinion on such a serious topic. I only wrote a comment because I think it’s important that nobody accepts you as an authoritative voice on the subject. By the time I finished this comment I’ve already calmed down from my initial reaction to you’re article and I’m happy to notice that at least I’m not the only one that had a hard time with it.

  8. No 12 — I do wonder where you get your information from. Or maybe this is your way of asking questions?

    “While big oil does not want natural gas, we should want it.”

    Big oil is heavily invested in extraction of natural gas in United States and elsewhere in the world. Alongside other large companies, they produce every molecule that is economic (and even uneconomic) to extract. Read up about shale exploration — a phenomenon that has grown exponentially over the last decade.

    We also have plenty of power plants that burn natural gas and can substitute most of the energy that nukes provide. On a large scale that does happen in the spring, when nukes have seasonal maintenance.

    And yes, all of this will be more expensive for you and I — nukes are virtually free to run now, after 40 years in service. Economically speaking, there is no viable alternative to nuclear power in the world. And please, everyone, get a grip — windmills cannot nearly produce what we need, at least at this stage of technological development.

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