By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
Posted: 07/03/2011 02:00:41 AM PDT
While we're celebrating Fourth of July tomorrow, I'd like to suggest there's another freedom which Americans should strive for: the freedom of not living under a nuclear shadow.
I believe we could be free of nuclear energy hazards if we could get past the politics involved in dismantling the powerful and influential nuclear energy industry. We have available alternative energies that are safer, cleaner and can do the job. It's a matter of utilizing them to their full capacities.
I'm not saying we can eliminate nuclear power plants overnight. However, it's time this country converted to safer technologies in all 50 states. The good news is California is on the right road to achieve nuke-free power.
Many large solar energy projects have been proposed in California's desert area on federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and are awaiting approval. BLM has received right-of-way requests encompassing more than 300,000 acres for the development of approximately 34 large solar thermal power plants that will produce approximately 24,000 megawatts.
For example, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in eastern San Bernardino County, when constructed, will produce nearly 400 megawatts of clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity - nearly as much as modern power plants fueled by natural gas, without the air pollution or carbon emissions.
The project calls for three generating plants, including 346,000 billboard-sized heliostat mirrors focusing solar energy on steam boilers located on solar power towers. The developer and technology provider, BrightSource Energy, modified the project to minimize its impact on the environment. They are a good example of how utility-scale solar power plants can be built in an environmentally responsible way.
One thousand jobs are projected during the peak of it's construction, and 86 permanent jobs are projected. The total economic benefits are estimated at $3 billion.
The project is one of twelve that have been approved and are currently under construction. The $2 billion dollar plan will bring jobs to a struggling economy and is a positive step toward shutting down unsafe nuclear power. Details on this project can be found at “Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.”
Another example is The Blythe Solar Power Project, a solar thermal power station under construction in Riverside County. It has a parabolic trough design. Solar thermal energy will play an increasingly important roll in solving California's energy needs as we back away from the nuclear option.
Right now, we are a country waiting for a nuclear accident to happen. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently released a report examining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the government agency tasked with enforcing safety regulations at U.S. nuclear plants. It said 14 investigations were launched in 2010 in response to “troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings,” according to an Associated Press story in May.
The UCS overview of these 14 “near misses” found that many of them happened “because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems.”
On June 21st an AP investigation reported radioactive tritium leaking from three-quarters of the U.S. commercial nuclear power sites. The leaks were often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping.
The one-year investigation showed that tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to NRC records. Leaks found in 37 of those facilities caused tritium concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard -- sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.
The need to phase out our nuclear plants before we experience a catastrophic event like that in Japan increases every day. We have to stop poisoning our underground water sources with byproducts from nuclear use.
Disposal of spent nuclear materials is another major pollution problem. The toxic stockpiles last thousands of years and states are increasingly unwilling to be the repositories of these radioactive materials.
Europe it seems, understands the need to get away from nuclear energy. There are 11 European countries that are nuclear-free. German lawmakers overwhelmingly approved on Thursday plans to shut the country's nuclear plants by 2022.
Italians recently rejected starting up their old nuclear power plants with a landslide referendum; 90 percent of Italy's voters said “No Nukes.”
It makes sense. We should approach the process state-by-state. Depending upon their unique environments we can utilize different types of clean energy that work best for each state.
Hopefully, California will lead the way to a future of clean and safe energy for all Americans.
As It Stands, wouldn't it be nice to someday say that we're “Nuke Free” in the USA?
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