Nukes battling a green headwind?

Aiming to head off a budding bipartisan move in Congress to boost nuclear power, environmentalists took to the streets - and the Internet - to dismiss atom-splitting as too slow and costly to help fight climate change.

Environment Maryland released a new report Tuesday (Nov. 17) arguing that it would take a decade or more and cost upwards of $600 billion to build 100 more nuclear plants, as some have advocated to ease planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The group argues that the time and money could be better spent promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy such as wind and solar.

Advertisement

"Nuclear power would actually hurt our ability to stop global warming,'' said Mike Sherling of Environment Maryland.

The report, which you can read here, comes as two senators, Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, introduce a bill that would funnel federal funds and loan guarantees into reviving the nuclear power industry as well as promoting renweable energy.

"If we were going to war, we wouldn't mothball our nuclear navy and start subsidizing sailboats," Alexander said. "If addressing climate change and creating low-cost, reliable energy are national imperatives, we shouldn't stop building nuclear plants and start subsidizing windmills."

To highlight their objections, Environment Maryland and other activists staged a press conference (pictured above) outside the downtown Baltimore headquarters of Constellation Energy, which has applied for a permit to build a new, third reactor at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant. The press event drew a few lunchtime spectators, but the growl of traffic on busy Pratt Street often drowned out what they had to say.

(It should be noted that not all environmentalists oppose nuclear power.  Locally, the Maryland Conservation Council has endorsed Constellation's bid for a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs.  The group is concerned about industrial-scale wind and solar projects gobbling up land and wildlife habitat, and argues that nuclear power is safe and least expensive, for the amount of power generated.)

By coincidence, wind energy advocates were huddled nearby at the Pier 5 Hotel, conferring on how to boost the prospects for turbines atop mountains and offshore in the Mid-Atlantic region.  They have issues to overcome as well, including public resistance in some locales, and the inadequancy of high-tension transmission lines to convey the power from where it's generated to where it's needed.  This is an issue already in some western areas, but one of the speakers at yesterday's meeting said it was likely to be a concern in the East as well as more turbines get built.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement