Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nuclear is looking better

I am following the situation on the generous pensions for state workers in Washington. The Legislature sure is generous with other people's money. And - a light just went on - most of them get state retirement. So they have a conflict of interest. Back on topic: To break this "addiction to oil" we have to.... No. We need action, but not due to that PC talk. When prices go up you look for alternatives. And sometimes when you find an alternative, the price of the original commodity - oil in this case - goes back down. Julian Simon documented many cases of this cycle - shortage and high price leads to innovation, which leads to the price going back down. Glenn Reynolds, the incomparable Instapunit reviews the current situation with nuclear power:
All of this is combining to make nuclear power look more attractive again. In fact, it's starting to build some bridges across traditional divides, as this oped by former antinuke protester G. Pascal Zachary illustrates:
"I don't regret my youthful opposition to Diablo. Back then, nuclear plants were badly run and uneconomical, and the near-disaster at Three Mile Island exposed nuclear regulations as a sham. But much has changed in the past 25 years, and for a variety of reasons I think nuclear power deserves another chance. "So does President Bush, who on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address highlighted the nation's need to boost nuclear power generation. "I know I've lost a lot of readers already, so let me immediately introduce an important qualification: We can only push an expansion of nuclear power, which today supplies 20 percent of America's electricity, as part of a comprehensive program to limit the production of greenhouse gases, promote renewable energy sources, and dramatically raise the cost of burning fossil fuels in automobiles. Expanding nuclear power is only one piece of the energy puzzle. But it is a piece we cannot afford to dismiss."
We burn oil and coal because we don't have anything better. Nuclear power could have been better -- and I don't cut the antinuke protesters quite as much slack as Zachary cuts himself -- but the technology has come a long way, and I'm willing to let bygones be bygones rather than wonder how much mischief Saudi Arabia and Iran could cause in a world where 70% of American generating capacity was nuclear and electric cars were already common. If we'd kept building nukes in the 1970s we'd know the answer, but now it's time to look ahead, and nuclear is looking better as oil is looking worse.
Glenn links to one promising new design named CEASAR for "clean and environmentally safe advanced reactor." Nuclear can cut greenhouse gases. That's what everyone says we must do. Let's explore it.

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