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January 10, 2008

Britain To Go Nuclear

Britain has endorsed nuclear power as a solution to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. They will encourage new facility construction with an eye to having the next generation of stations on line by 2020. The environmental lobby, which has pushed the global warming issue, did not respond positively to this development:

The British government on Thursday announced support for the construction of new nuclear power plants, backing atomic energy as a clean source of power to fight climate change.

Business Secretary John Hutton told lawmakers that nuclear power "should have a role to play in this country's future energy mix, alongside other low-carbon sources." He said nuclear energy was a "tried and tested, safe and secure" source of power. ....

Environmental groups condemned the decision, saying nuclear power was dangerous and would divert resources from developing renewable energy sources.

"We need energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and state of the art decentralized power stations like those in Scandinavia. That's the way to defeat climate change and ensure energy security," said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace.

The problem with the Greenpeace approach is that it won't generate the energy levels we already have now, let alone what we'll need in 2020 and beyond. The only way to produce the energy needed to keep the global economy going and to maintain and improve the standard of living is to add nuclear power to the mix. The rest of these technologies cannot produce enough energy to allow for a zero-loss transfer from our reliance on fossil fuels.

Britain realizes this, and also realizes that nuclear power -- contrary to the shrieking of Greenpeace -- has a remarkable safety record. It has only had one real disaster, in Chernobyl. That occurred at a facility with known and significant design flaws that would only have passed muster in a Communist nation. The meltdown happened when the engineers turned off all of the safety systems in order to run a demonstrably stupid and useless test, and the explosion became inevitable. Otherwise, the few near-misses that have taken place resulted in no loss of life and little release of excessive radiation, including Three Mile Island.

France derives most of its electricity from nuclear power. Japan generates a healthy percentage of its power the same way, even on an island known for powerful earthquakes. Britain and the US needs to start paving the road for nuclear expansion in order to help move farther towards energy independence while continuing to encourage development in other renewables. That might even include fusion, if recent advances hold in that technology. While these mature, we need to use existing technologies to bridge that gap.

Of course, maintaining current standards of living and energy production levels may not seem important to groups like Greenpeace. They have pursued global warming as a plague on Mankind for its insult to nature, and their professed solutions suggest that we should do penance for these secular sins rather than propose serious alternatives to maintaining the progress made over the last few centuries in longevity, prosperity, and rationality.


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