The world today has commemorated the 21st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, prompting a useful assessment of nuclear energy a generation after the accident. (Although…why mark the 21st anniversary? Shall we toast, “Na zdorov’ya?”)
From Marketplace Morning Report, the anti-business business public radio program, comes an interesting report from Corvallis, Ore., where engineering students attending an American Nuclear Society conference appear receptive to nuclear energy.
If this were the ’80s, there might be protesters outside. But times have changed, and Idaho State nuclear engineering major Caleb Robison feels it.
CALEB ROBISON: There’s a lot more buzz about nuclear going on.
Robison says when student groups on his campus got together recently, he met some unexpected allies.
ROBISON: You wouldn’t have ever expected it because the uh, I guess I’d call ’em tree huggers, I don’t know what organization they were from, they came over and you would have thought that we were best friends. They said it was such a great idea and they supported nuclear power and they wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago. They would have been exiled from their own group for having said that.
Having honed one’s sense of editorial exasperation working at the Corvallis newspaper in the late ’80s, this blogger can attest to the fact that times have changed, indeed.
The willingness of young engineers to embrace careers in nuclear energy is important news. (Reported by Reuters here.) Stagnant for nearly three decades, the U.S. nuclear industry has struggled to develop a new generation of specialists, technicians, scientists and engineers, all necessary for the nuclear renaissance to grow. Indeed, steps to encourage that training is included in the NAM’s comprehensive strategy, “Energy Security for American Competitiveness.”
Also marking the Chernobyl anniversary, our friends at Nuclear Notes, the NEI’s blog, have compiled several resources on the disaster, including this fact sheet. A key point: “All U.S. power reactors have extensive safety features to prevent large-scale accidents and radioactive releases. The Chernobyl reactor had no such features and was unstable at low power levels.”
Finally, this week the NAM’s radio program, “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick,” carries an interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about energy policy. Gingrich is a supporter of nuclear power, and sees great damage having been done by scaremongers who exploited fears in the ’70s.
You have, by the way, for those people who say they are worried about global warming, you have the same kind of hysterical emotion caused by the movie, “The China Syndrome” about nuclear power. It turns out – and I think this is a great irony to pose to people like Al Gore — if the United States had followed the French in a clean nuclear strategy, and we were producing the same amount of electricity from nuclear that the French are, we would be generating two billion — not million — two billion, two-hundred million tons a year less in carbon.
The result, he says, would have been carbon emissions 15 percent below the levels required by the Kyoto agreement. Gingrich’s comments are available in an .mp3 file here, and we’ll have the full interview available tomorrow.
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