Friday, May 2, 2008

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom

You can take this with a grain of salt, but it looks like a rising star in the Democratic Party is about to take ownership of the nuclear power issue and push for an expansion of it in Maryland:

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley voiced his support for the expansion of nuclear energy within the state yesterday at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, where construction of a new reactor could begin by the end of the year.

O'Malley (D), Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and other state officials toured the Lusby generating facility, where Constellation Energy, the plant's owner, wants to add a third reactor. The governor said the new reactor would help slow rate increases for electricity customers amid rising global demand for energy.

"It is a huge moral challenge and it is a moral imperative given what massive new burning of coal will do to the planet if we don't develop better and cleaner technology, including safer and cleaner nuclear, which is what is . . . planned and talked about in terms of the third reactor," O'Malley said.

Michael J. Wallace, vice chairman of Constellation, said the utility is working on "an aggressive schedule" that would allow the company to break ground on the third reactor by the end of the year. The project has been proposed by UniStar Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between Constellation and EDF, a European energy group.

"If we break ground in December of this year, by the end of 2015 or early 2016, we plan to have a unit online," Wallace said. "That would be the first" in the United States in about 30 years, he added.

We already know that anything that keeps a coal-burning plant from being built helps the environment. We already know there are tremendous risks from nuclear power and from the disposal of the spent fuel and fuel rods. Is a return to building and expanding the nuclear power industry the answer? I think the conventional wisdom on this is going to have to be challenged. Nuclear power is not the complete answer, but it could be a step towards energy independence if it was combined with rapid expansion of solar and wind generating power.

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