Nuclear Power … Too Little Too Late?

By David L. Brown

The development of efficient breeder reactor designs during the 1950s and 60s was followed by a virtual shut-down of construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S. Now, several decades later, President Bush said in his 2006 State of the Uniion address that he plans to take the nation back toward atomic power as a means of reducing dependence on imports of oil and gas.

In our opinion, this is too little, too late. During the last phase of nuclear power plant construction in the early 1980s, it took approximately 15-20 years to build a new nuclear plant, including licensing and site approval. If nuclear power were to be an answer for us today, we should have begun to build new plants 15-20 years ago.

Looking ahead, if we must wait up to 20 years to see any return from new investments in nuclear power, there is no telling what may have taken place by that time. One thing that seems almost certain to us is that the peak of oil production will come far sooner, and may quite likely be taking place right now.

Besides these difficulties, it is a fact that resistance and fear over nuclear power has become ingrained in Western thought, and the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) attitudes would make it extremely difficult to gain approval for new nuclear construction.

Thus, we do not see nuclear power as a viable alternative to our present large-scale energy needs. This is a tragic opportunity that has been squandered and history will shake its head in wonder at our mistake.

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