Nuclear Power is Still Loaded With Problems

March 4, 2009

Star Tribune, Minneapolis - St. Paul MN, Ken Bradley, Monique Sullivan

No solution to global warming is benign, but some solutions are more cost-effective or safer than others. Times may have changed, but the problems with nuclear power have not.Fifteen years ago, Minnesota legislators understood the long-term burden of nuclear power on future generations and passed a nuclear moratorium. This was a sensible step that says we must not further contribute to a problem that doesn't yet have a good solution.
According to a recent Star Tribune article, a clear reminder of the safety issues occurred last year when a radioactive piece of equipment being shipped to Pennsylvania from Minnesota 's Prairie Island nuclear plant shifted during transport. Radiation eight times higher than safety standards allow escaped by the time the item reached its destination. Shipping and storing one of the most dangerous substances ever created will continue be problem for a quarter of a million years. It isn't responsible to leave this problem for future generations. It's even worse to continue to add to existing stockpiles of nuclear waste.
In 2008, Bloomberg News reported that the most recent estimates for building a new nuclear power plant range from $6 billion to $12 billion. According to Cambridge Energy Research Associates, that cost has increased by 185 percent since 2000. Government subsidies are required for any new nuclear plant. These tax dollars could be invested more effectively in wind, solar, efficiency and other alternatives. The Congressional Budget Office assumes that half of all loans to nuclear power projects will default. Our state and nation cannot afford to take on this liability.
The cooling of nuclear power requires significant amounts of groundwater, and thermal energy production is one of the largest users of water in our state. Our present nuclear plants are located along theMississippi River , where an accident would affect not only the local community but millions of people downstream. The location of plants and the storage of waste has been concentrated near low-income and native communities.
The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group did look at nuclear power as possible solution post-2025 on the condition that safety, cost and disposal issues are addressed. Any reasonable group of people will acknowledge that these issues need to be resolved before nuclear power is a viable option.
Better solutions exist for our power needs -- solutions that do not come with such high prices and such serious risks. We agree with the leaders who came before us: Until concerns about nuclear power can be answered, the moratorium should remain in place.
Ken Bradley is the Minnesota state director for Clean Water Action. Monique Sullivan is an advocate for Environment Minnesota.
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