nuclear power: an environmental and international relations necessity

July 8, 2009

Britans controversial Mox Nuclear Recycling Plant (credit: Tehran Times)

Britan's controversial "Mox" Nuclear Recycling Plant (credit: Tehran Times)

As Nature News recently reported, the Obama administration has made the very disappointing decision to cancel plans for a domestic facility for recycling nuclear fuel, as part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), started under the Bush Administration in 2006. This program is meant to give countries we don’t want enriching their own nuclear fuel a place to get it and then a place to give back their nuclear waste, which can be reprocessed and in part used again domestically (see the Nature article for more details).

So, not only does the GNEP help other countries obtain nuclear power, a very clean (despite what people say about the waste), efficient, high-output source of power, but it also helps them obtain it in a way that’s not threatening to us (Iran, anyone?).

Without real US backing, it’s hard to imagine it getting off the ground. Congress has still appropriated $145 million for research into the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste, but given the scale, cost, and political messiness of domestic nuclear power, it’s hard to imagine that R & D leading to any significant groundbreaking in the coming decades.

The most soft-and-fuzzy clean energies — wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, etc — will not meet our global energy demands. We MUST include nuclear power in the pantheon of alternatives to coal, oil, and natural gas. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, the waste issue is tricky. But if we’re going to have any shot at actually changing how we generate power, we need to get nuclear projects moving, since they take a good while to get up and running.

And if we’re going to insist that countries like Iran don’t enrich their own fuel, we need to supply them with an alternative like the GNEP. Otherwise, we’re simply being hypocritical.

One Response to “nuclear power: an environmental and international relations necessity”

  1. wulsinstu Says:

    You know, there’s a proposed GNEP site in Piketon, Pike County, Ohio. It was used for refining but has been basically just used for storage recently (nuclear waste that would go to Yucca, except for political obstacles). A plan has been proposed to use the facility for centrifuges that can further refine nuclear waste to get more use out of the material. As one can guess, it’s extremely volatile politically.

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