Newclear Energy

Your favorite extra-N US Congresswoman and mine, Michelle Bachmann, has been doing a lot of talking about energy in the past few months. “Two dollar gasoline!” she shrieks, “Babies as cheap food!” Yes, Mrs. Bachmannn, very good. Too bad it’s all total bunk. And even if it wasn’t, too bad you’re aiming in the opposite direction from the rest of the world. Gasoline? Seriously? Welcome to 1900, Mrs. Bachmannnn.

But, even besides returning to the womb of gasoline, she’s started pushing for nuclear energy. Nuclear energy! Honestly.

True, nuclear power produces no harmful emissions (only steam), it does produce mountains of what is known as “nuclear waste.” This waste is not like C02 emissions, where it’s plausible to excuse humans of generations past by saying “How were they to know?” No, it is very much known how dangerous nuclear waste is. Disagree? Ok! Let’s put the nuclear waste in your back yard.

So, when Michelle Bachmannnnn asks us to support nuclear energy in Minnesota (even though a nuclear plant hasn’t been built in the US since the 70s), you can imagine I’d be a little skeptical. MnIndy has my back, yo: Blinky the Fish

While pro-nuke evangelists like Bachmann preach that nuclear power can stand on its own without subsidies, they conveniently fail to mention the Price-Anderson Act, which limits the U.S. nuclear industry’s liability in the event of an accident to a total of about $10.5 billion. After that, the taxpayers pick up the tab—and that could conservatively run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Estimates of the value of the Price-Anderson subsidy to the industry vary widely, from $237 million to $3.5 billion annually. However, it’s clear that the subsidy insulates the industry from much of its risk and unfairly distorts nuclear power’s competitiveness in the energy marketplace.

I am not going to get into the hundreds of billions of reasons why I am uncomfortable with nuclear power. But I’m also not going to sit here and complain like a commonplace hippie without suggesting something better. Something better we can do here in Minnesota.

Geothermal? Not only can we do it, they’re already doing it in Iowa. At my cousin’s middle school, in fact. Iowa! The backwards, backwater-bumpkin of the Mid West. Ethanol? Well, ok. Corn is a horrible energy-sucker when it comes to making ethanol (and we have a huge ethanol corn growers lobby). But there are all sorts of grasses we can grow that will produce way more energy right here in Minnesota. Feel free to add your own source to the list. There are many more.

But wait! Don’t we live in Minnesota? Aren’t we supposed to be one of the most innovative states in the country, and therefore in the world? Our governor has been a spectacular leader on the alternative energy front (and I’m not too concerned about digging about to figure out why–who cares!). I think his established leadership on the subject could produce discoveries and innovations that would render nuclear waste obsolete. No: not only could it, it should.

What do you think?

3 Comments so far

  1. Justin Heideman (justinph) on August 25th, 2008 @ 9:37 am

    Normally anything Bachmann agrees with is something I should probably disagree with. But in this case, she’s correct about Nuclear power. It is a proven technology that is clean. The newer nuclear reactors (pebble bed) are incredibly safe. The way nuclear fuel is stored on site at most plants is not, but storing it in the desert in one of the most geologically stable areas in the world is safe.

    Geothermal doesn’t scale the way nukes do. That’s pretty much the bottom line. When’s the last time you saw a geothermal plant putting out 1200 Megawatts?

  2. tipper on August 25th, 2008 @ 10:02 am

    Ethanol isn’t going to power or heat homes and businesses and cannot be cited as an alternative to nuclear power. The amount of land and energy inputs required to grow grasses for ethanol is just ridiculous, anyway.

  3. Erica M (ericam) on August 25th, 2008 @ 11:07 am

    We’re not doing all we could be yet with wind, so I’d like to see more on that front.

    But I’m not opposed to nuclear. You make a good point about the liability in case of an accident. I suppose the intent is to keep a company that suffers an accident from going out of business. (If you’re in the business of nuclear power and you have an accident, maybe you should go out of business.) So as long as we’ve done the due diligence on the waste issue, I don’t see why nuclear shouldn’t be on the table.

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