Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nuclear power gets a boost from Obama

There hasn't been a nuclear power plan built in the country since the Three Mile Island meltdown in the 1970's, but today, in Maryland, the industry will get a boost from President Barack Obama.

While many in his party might not like it, Obama will announce a Federal loan guarantee today for two reactors which will be constructed by Georgia Power, a division of the Southern Company in Burke County, Georgia -- and that means a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants.

On the campaign trail, Obama hedged on nuclear power, but said it should be "in the mix" and raised questions about its safety.

Last month, Obama appointed U.S. Sen Pete Domenici to his "blue ribbon" commission to study America's nuclear future.

At the time, Domenici said nuclear energy "has to be a key component of a new American energy policy that moves toward renewable, non-carbon emitting energy sources."

In June 2008, we talked to James Conca, the director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center and Institute of Energy and the Environment, which is operated by NMSU, about energy alternative that will likely be needed by the middle of the century.

Conca has co-authored The Geopolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040 with Judith Wright.

Conca and Wright suggest if alternatives are not brought online quickly, fossil fuel use will also increase and more than double Carbon Dioxide emissions with all it's unwanted health and enviromental side effects.

They say the solutions must be in place by 2010 to be effectively serving the world's expanding population in the next thirty years.

The book suggests by 2040 the world must have:

  • 3 Million Wind Turbines
  • Solar Arrays totaling 3 trillion kWhrs/year
  • 1,700 new nuclear reactors
  • Biofuels from algae, cellulosics and high-efficiency biomass
  • 3 trillion kWhrs/year from other alternatives including wave, tidal and bio gas.
The authors say the increasing efficiency and return from nuclear energy, the small footprint, the lack of Carbon Dioxide emission, the small amount of waste generated and the the ease of handling, has led to a resurgence of nuclear power worldwide.

Today appears to be a good start toward meeting those goals. In fact, just one plant, in Southern New Mexico could replace 52% of coal powered energy.

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