By Wayne Wagner
One of the most important reasons for the wonderful standard of living in the United States is the cheap abundance of electric power. To get started on the subject, let’s look at three things:
1) Most of what is being said on the subject is by individuals having never participated in a study of electric power production or the design of a major power plant.
2) Some are saying that renewables, namely solar and wind power, have become competitive cost wise. This is worse than a myth, it is simply untrue. Little would be done in either of these sources if not subsidized with our taxes.
3) The most efficient electric power generation is with a steam turbine turning an electric generator. The heat for making the steam is from fossil or nuclear fuels. The reason we are now dependent on fossil fuels is because environmental groups in their ignorance of the subject misled the public and scared the daylights out of them.
Four examples of what was, and is, being done is this regard:
• Three Mile Island plant meltdown. Poorly trained operators overrode the safety control designed to shut the plant down for any problem. Without the operator’s action the plant would have shut down with very little damage.
• Russia’s Chernobyl plant disaster resulting in many lives lost. The plant’s design is without a containment building and is not like any other operating now. This plant also was not being operated correctly. The USA had such a plant in Washington state where the stuff in the nuclear bombs were made, but no longer is in operation.
• Plants in Japan suffered severe damage from a powerful earthquake and large ocean waves. Some minor radiation leaked, no loss of life. Minor burns were suffered by untrained operators wading into radioactive water. This plant’s damage would have mostly been avoided if properly designed. It was to have been sited on higher ground where the large ocean waves would have not reached it. Also, the emergency water cooling pumps were not properly designed to withstand known earthquake events and be reliable.
• What should be done with the spent nuclear fuel? Preparations to buy this spent fuel have run into all sorts of political problems. Since this spent fuel contains much reclaimable fuel, the logical solution is simply to reprocess it into useful fuel.
Currently coal is responsible for a large portion of electrical power generation in this country. Presently there is a vast amount of political propaganda now to eliminate all heat from coal from our steam plants. That in the long run may not be a bad idea, but only if it be replaced over a reasonable time and only if it be replaced with nuclear heat. A 50-year coal phase-out, nuclear in, would be a very tight schedule. This only if the nuclear part be of one design not several different consulting offices or possibly hire France since they seem to have done it right.
Wayne Wagner lives in Independence.