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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

February 4, 2010


Maine Public Broadcasting - President Obama is calling for $54 billion in loan guarantees for a "new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants." His administration also announced this week that it is dropping plans for underground storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. . .

There are currently five nuclear power plants operating in New England: two in Connecticut, one in Massachusetts, one in Vermont and one in New Hampshire. Second only to natural gas, nuclear power is a major supplier of electricity to New England -- so much that a 2006 report found that nuclear plants could supply all residential households in the region excluding Massachusetts. . .

But Ed Lyman of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists says a doubling or tripling of nuclear plants would have to occur before nuclear power could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, and Lyman says government subsidies should not be used to get them off the ground.

"The expansion plans in the 1970s fell of their own weight because of massive cost overruns, and taxpayers and ratepayers ended up having to bail out many projects," Lyman says. "And the economics of nuclear power is no different today than it was then. The fact is that without the loan guarantees and other subsidies, there would not be a single new nuclear plant built in this country."

And then there's the thorny issue of disposing and safeguarding nuclear waste. For more than two decades the federal government has been trying to find a suitable place for a central repository for highly radioactive spent fuel that is a byproduct of nuclear power. Nevada's Yucca Mountain had been investigated and debated and rejected and finally recommended for licensing as an underground storage site.

But this week the Department of Energy moved to withdraw the application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the Obama Administration eliminated funding for the site. Anti-nuclear activists cheered the move.

Patrick Dostie takes a dimmer view. "Well, what it means is that Maine Yankee down in Wiscasset now becomes sort of a defacto storage site for high level waste."

Dostie is the state's nuclear safety inspector who has seen the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power plant through its operating, decommissioning and storage phases. Before the plant shut down in 1997 because it was no longer economically viable, it was Maine's largest source of electricity. Today, Dostie says it has 60 casks of high-level spent nuclear fuel on the site as well as several that contain the cut-up guts of the internal reactor that were too radioactive to send to a low-level waste site.

Maine had hoped to safely dispose of some of this waste at Yucca beginning in the next ten years. Dostie says the delay is a reflection of the nation's political will. "It certainly puts a wrinkle in the so-called Renaissance. Obviously, you kind of always have to ask questions: Is it appropriate to build nuclear power plants when who knows how long it's going to be before we resolve the issue?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peak Uranium - Is the world's uranium supply running out, making reactors dead in the water?

A few links:

February 4, 2010 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this era of peak oil, and peak uranium, shouldn't we be trying to both use less energy, and produce more of it on site, so that large scale generation projects don't need to be built.

Why isn't there an aggressive program to get solar hot water heaters installed in most homes? It's one of the most affordable and effective solar devices available. Just that alone would reduce energy use noticeably. The more power generated on a small scale translates to less need for large scale expensive projects.

The old power plants could be coupled with newer sources of fuel, like biomass composters which take manure and plant wastes and compost out the methane, which is captured and then can be used for fuel.

Nuclear power is the road to ruin, and we should only go there if we want to die from radiation poisoning.

February 6, 2010 11:57 AM  

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