Letter: Reliable nuclear power supplies battered coastlineAs Hurricane Sandy’s devastation plagues the Northeast, we need to acknowledge the work of the scientists at NOAA who correctly predicted for a week the unusual path and extent of this storm.
By: Rolf Westgard, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
As Hurricane Sandy’s devastation plagues the Northeast, we need to acknowledge the work of the scientists at NOAA who correctly predicted for a week the unusual path and extent of this storm.
The storm’s size that far north and its westerly turn were unprecedented. One storm does not make a trend, but those same scientists and others are telling us this could be the norm as global warming continues. Warm air holds more moisture with the potential for more intense disturbances.
If we add Sandy to this year’s record shrinkage of the Arctic ice cap and the northward march of plant hardiness zones, we are glimpsing the future. It is time to get serious about the billions of tons of greenhouse gases we annually emit to the atmosphere.
Our 104 U.S. nuclear reactors provide 20 percent of our electric power with no greenhouse gas emissions except for water vapor. Thirty-four of those plants along the East Coast were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, but none was seriously affected by it.
While seven were shut down at the time for maintenance, 24 plants continued to operate safely. Two others were shut down during the storm due to transmission grid damage: Indian Point 3 and Nine Mile Point 1. Salem 1 was shut down due to storm conditions affecting the non-nuclear side of the plant.
More than 8 million people lost power from the storm and utilities face a recovery effort larger than for any other storm, including last year’s Hurricane Irene, which led to major reforms in storm planning and response. Durable nuclear power will be available throughout this difficult recovery period.
“The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the global commercial nuclear market at $500 billion to $740 billion over the next decade. U.S. exporters could create or sustain up to 185,000 American jobs if they were able to capture just 25 percent of the global market,” said Richard Myers, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs.
Worldwide, 434 commercial reactors produce 14 percent of all electricity. Sixty-eight reactors are being built, five in the U.S., and another 160 ordered or planned.
Rolf Westgard recently taught the Global Warming: Real or Myth class
for the University of Minnesota’s Lifelong Learning program.