Our View: Nuclear power plants needed

Our View

In short: Investment in nuclear power provides a safer, greener energy alternative

When President Obama promised during his campaign to work on weaning the United States off its dependence on fossil fuels, many expected government funding for wind farms and other “green” energy sources.

Obama included another option, a literal “nuclear option.”

Last Tuesday, the president announced that the federal government would guarantee loans for the construction of new nuclear reactors, starting with two in Burke, Ga. Not only would these promote energy that’s not based on coal or oil, but they would also create new jobs and inject money into the economy.

This new power plant would be the first nuclear plant to break ground in the United States in almost thirty years, according to the White House.

Over the past three decades, nuclear power has been on the decline in the U.S. due to the hideous construction costs and the risks involved. Coal is the preferred option, since coal plants are cheap and easy to build and provide a decent return on investment. Wall Street is hesitant to make loans for nuclear power because coal is the much more economical short-term option.

The government’s guarantee of these loans is important for a few reasons.

First, nuclear power is cleaner. This new plant in Georgia will save an estimated 16 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. The value of that clean air doesn’t show up on Wall Street account books, but it shows up in the health and well-being of Americans. Much has been made about the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants, but coal is in no way cleaner. Nuclear power plants are able to reuse much of their fuel, and pollute less because the plant only releases steam from heated water.

Second, nuclear power is more sustainable. As we continue to mine coal for power, the supply is rapidly decreasing. Some may still argue about the validity of global warming, but it is a cold, hard fact that the coal supply is limited. We cannot rely on it forever as it will become scarcer, more expensive and less economically viable. Nuclear power provides an alternative to our reliance on fossil fuels. Breaking this reliance has a political advantage: more nuclear power means less reliance on foreign oil.

Nuclear power also allows for more technological advancement. The United States has been out of the race for better nuclear power plants for almost 30 years, and in that time China, France and even Iran have been picking up the slack. We cannot develop and capitalize on better technology if we avoid it like the plague.

When Americans think about nuclear power plants, images of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl come to mind. Threats of terrorists attacking these plants and using the fuel to build nuclear weapons are all over. If stealing nuclear material were that easy, terrorists would just steal some of our already-made thousands of nuclear warheads still sitting around from the Cold War.

Thanks to these ideas, nuclear plants are judged by the highest standards of safety. Coal plants can pollute entire towns and render areas unlivable, as happened to the town of Cheshire, Ohio, yet nuclear power plants get the bad reputation because Americans are still living in the world of “The China Syndrome.” It’s about time we took advantage of a good alternative.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.