Myths uncovered


 After reading Friday's column "Busting the myth of nuclear energy," it would seem that someone needs to bust some myths contained in that column.The first and most important is the myth that conservation and renewables are capable of meeting the energy needs of the entire country. Currently, more than 90 percent of the country's energy needs are met by a combination of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Nuclear power alone satisfies one-fifth of the electricity and offsets about 800 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is equivalent to the emissions of every passenger vehicle in the country. There is no state in the union — or country in the world — that has been able to utilize wind power for more than a fraction of their energy needs. That is one of the reasons the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded for several years that any viable strategy to deal with global warming must include nuclear energy, and that is why most of Europe is now pursuing building more nuclear power plants. Renewable energy is nevertheless a necessary part of our future energy needs. With enough research and investment, someday the technical problems of distribution via a smart grid and storage of excess energy to make it available to balance the loads during periods of high demands, or when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, may make it capable of replacing fossil fuels. But contrary to what the column states it's not ready now.As for an accident at any US nuclear plant "dwarfing" Chernobyl in magnitude, this is pure fiction. Chernobyl released one-third of the reactor core and had no containment. In contrast, US nuclear plants have multiple and redundant safety systems, including a containment, that are all independently capable of mitigating an accident. Had the steel liner failed at Davis-Besse in Ohio these safety systems would have done their job and the utility would have lost a multi-billion dollar asset at best. At worst, they would have had a rather large and expensive mess to clean up. But no scenario would have resulted in any grave danger to the public.Finally, I believe that off-shore wind farms should be built, but I also believe it is a myth that New Jersey can build enough wind turbines to supply 20 percent of the state's energy needs. California has been heavily investing in wind power for over 20 years. Conditions there are ideal as far as wind power goes. If California were a country they would have the largest installed capacity of any country in the world. Nevertheless, California's two nuclear stations still dwarf the output of all the wind power in that state and will continue to do so for decades to come. Michael Stuart is a senior nuclear instructor for Dominion Resources Services, Inc.

 


Michael Stuart

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