Nuclear technology is dying, but not here


Nuclear technology is dying and deservedly so given the high level radwaste it leaves for future generations to deal with (“Nuclear Research Coming to Alameda,” Nov. 16.) Then there’s the meltdowns, accidents that  leave behind huge dead zones and many billions of dollars in losses behind. Fukushima alone will cost well over $1 trillion to “clean up.”

Molten salt fast reactors, modular or otherwise, specifically in the past, have been haunted by their sodium coolant’s chemical reactivity and plagued by rising costs. It’s simply a dishonest fantasy to claim that such hypothetical and uneconomic ways to recover energy or other value from spent light water reactor (LWR) fuel means: “There is no such thing as nuclear waste.” Of course, the nuclear power industry wishes this were true.

Every new type of reactor in history has been costlier, slower and harder than projected. Low pressure, different safety profile, high temperature and potentially higher thermal efficiency come with countervailing disadvantages and costs that advocates assume away, contrary to all experience. No new kind of reactor is likely to be much, if at all, cheaper than today’s LWRs, which remain grossly uncompetitive and are getting more so despite five decades of maturation.

The old, stale and dirty over-centralized model of energy is giving way to the cleaner, more efficient distributed energy production of the future such as solar, wind and the geothermal power that Alameda has been producing at Midland, Calif., for almost as long as the commercial nuclear power industry has existed.

That’s a good thing.

It’s ironic that today we are set to host members of the nuclear power industry priesthood in our little city.


Jeff Gould