Jason Ribeiro at Pro Nuclear Democrats a really nice piece of work here. Some experts might have selected a slightly different “top ten”, but this is a useful short introduction you can pass on to help the uninformed get on the learning curve. It is all correct, suffering only from the editorial decisions required to keep it to 2300 words.
Nuclear energy proponents are constantly put in the defensive mode when speaking or writing about nuclear energy. I thought it’s long overdue to come up with a short list of benefits from nuclear energy, not all entirely from nuclear power, that enhance our lives and enable technology that would otherwise never be possible. Some of these benefits require more explanation than I’m prepared to write so I will provide links to sources for more thorough coverage where necessary.
Many people react when I tell them I am a pro-nuclear Democrat. They often say something about nuclear energy that I consider clichÃ© by now like “what about the waste?” or “nuclear is dangerous, why are you for that?”. This list is for them so they can explore the benefits of nuclear energy and discover that many of the most influential supporters of nuclear energy are indeed very liberal. Liberals are labeled as haters of nuclear energy especially by conservatives. This isn’t true, of course, but more importantly as liberals, by the very definition of the term, we ought to be keeping an open mind to new ideas, ideas that sometimes necessitate tolerance while your comfort zone catches up the new information you may be processing. Many people think they know a thing or two about nuclear energy; I thought I did. Researching, taking a college course, and studying nuclear energy over the years made me realize that what I thought I knew was nothing more than second-hand ignorance. If there is one thing a liberal minded person doesn’t want to be; it is intentionally ignorant. Thus is my challenge to all those who have dismissed nuclear energy in the past without much consideration to perform at least the mental exercise of understanding its benefits.
Nuclear advocates ought to promote its benefits first and explain away the profit seeking and ego fulfilling detractors secondly. The nuclear advocacy community should be on a continuous mission to educate the public about the benefits of fission. Some people don’t want this education to spread. Fossil fuel companies and renewable energy advocates fear nuclear energy, not because of any physical threat it poses, but for the financial threat it poses to them.
From the 70’s-80’s, nuclear energy did quite a good job at indirectly eliminating almost all oil-fired electricity generation in the United States, only to have that largely supplanted by natural gas in the 1990’s. Nonetheless, nuclear fission proved that it could kick out a very significant fossil competitor out of the electricity market within 15 years. It did this in spite of all the hurtles of poor project management, cost over-runs, regulatory challenges, and some serious bruising of its public image. In contrast, renewable energy has been given break after break with subsidies, incentives, grants and still hasn’t managed to make a significant penetration into the market. A lot of people play the blame game as to why renewables haven’t made a significant impact or they will define the terms so broadly to make the claim otherwise. The reality is that dilute forms of energy require extremely large energy gathering apparatuses and thus the laws of physics can be very unkind to the laws of economics. Just so you know, I think renewables are fine in certain applications, but many harbor unrealistic expectations for what they can ultimately accomplish.
Fission energy can certainly meet up to any what’s-in-it-for-me challenge. In these grim economic times, people have good reasons to be skeptical. But I believe that nuclear energy, discovered and developed in the United States of America, can deliver these benefits if given the support and opportunity to do so. It will be a struggle, there will be growing and changing pains but ultimately we will be reinventing the energy civilization as we know it. So like David Letterman does, let’s start at 10 and work our way down.