Nuclear: Wrong warming reaction

Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste and are both slow and expensive to construct.

by Dan Endreson

In response to the Nov. 17 editorial in The Minnesota Daily, I strongly disagree with the opinion that further development of nuclear power is in the best interest of the public and future generations. In making their case, the Editorial Board provided several inaccuracies regarding nuclear power. First, nuclear energy is not working effectively in Europe. It is true that France has been very effective in generating approximately 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, but France has also been effective at producing large quantities of radioactive waste. FranceâÄôs waste reprocessing program makes this problem even worse, increasing their waste stream sixfold. Finland is currently attempting to construct the largest nuclear reactor in Olkiluoto. This project was supposed to be completed this past summer but instead has run into numerous overruns. The initial cost of $4.2 billion increased by 50 percent, and the completion date is now unknown. According to a 2009 German analysis, of the 45 reactors being built around the world, 22 have encountered construction delays. The fact is that nuclear power plants are expensive and difficult to build. Second, nuclear power cannot stop global warming. Although nuclear power emits less carbon dioxide than coal, it is impossible to build enough nuclear plants to slow the effects of global warming. To make a difference, hundreds of new nuclear plants would need to be built over the next 20 years. Currently, construction of a new plant takes 10-15 years and costs over $6 billion. We do not have the time or the money to rely on nuclear reactors to stop global warming. I do agree we need a solution to the nuclear waste problem. A geological repository similar to Yucca Mountain will be needed in order to deal with nuclear waste. However, one must keep in mind that Yucca Mountain has no timetable for accepting waste due to concerns over tectonic activity in the area. Until then, radioactive waste will continue to be stockpiled at nuclear plants. By 2030, almost 100 casks of radioactive waste could be sitting at the Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing, Minn. According to a 2008 Department of Energy report, even if Yucca were to open, a second repository would likely be needed to store current and future stockpiles of nuclear waste. Back in the early 1980s, when the federal government was selecting waste sites, several locations in Minnesota were considered potentially acceptable to serve as a second repository. If one wants to champion nuclear power in this country, they must also be willing to accept the possibility that Minnesota may one day be a permanent nuclear waste dump. I would urge our policymakers to use our taxpayer dollars to further the development of true clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, rather than nuclear power, which leaves a legacy of radioactive waste and increased costs to ratepayers. Dan Endreson University alumnus Clean Water Action program coordinator