"Obama Bids Farewell to the Environmental Movement. Urges new nuclear, 'clean coal' and off-shore oil drilling in State of the Union Address." - headline from Beyond Nuclear's Jan. 27 press release.
I'm going out on a limb here by saying there's nothing wrong with nuclear power - if it's managed properly and if it lives up to the promises it makes.
That's a big if, as the near-catastrophes of 1985 and 2002 showed northern Ohioans at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ottawa County.
Nuclear power's not the devil, nor is it as lily-white as it would like you to believe.
Most of the public still doesn't know that half - yes, half - of Three Mile Island Unit 2's reactor melted in March of 1979 at the nuclear plant south of Harrisburg.
The trade-off between electricity and greenhouse gases is quite good with nuclear power. But nuclear is not a greenhouse-gas-free technology, as the industry would like you to believe. Tons of carbon is expended in the mining of uranium and production of nuclear fuel, not to mention the enormous slabs of concrete and steel that are used to make nuclear plants and the transfer of its waste.
The United States has 104 nuclear power plants, each designed a tad differently. They are getting up there in years and facing wear-and-tear issues that baffle engineers. How long can the metal reasonably last when reactors operate at temperatures as high as 605 degrees and at upward of 2,200 pounds per square inch of pressure, causing contraction and expansion of the metal upon every shutdown and restart?
Forty years? Sixty years? Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission admits nobody knows.
Is it good enough in 2010 - 56 years after the modern era of nuclear power began with President Dwight Eisenhower's famous 1954 "Atoms for Peace" speech - just to be able to say that more people have died on U.S. soil from Texas oil refinery explosions than from nuclear accidents? Will that always be the case?
Nothing in this world comes without risks, even when you're a high-spending Democratic President appealing to Republicans while promising the world something other than politics as usual.
Eight billion dollars. That's what those financing the private construction of two new reactors at an existing nuclear complex in Burke, Ga., said they need from the federal government to make the project work.
That is hardly unprecedented. The nuclear industry is notorious for its subsidies. The Price-Anderson Act, first passed in 1957 and renewed by Congress several times since, is the mother of all insurance policies. It protects the nuclear industry from billions of dollars of liability should a catastrophic event ever occur.
Peter Bradford, one of five NRC commissioners during the Three Mile Island saga and now a board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists who teaches nuclear power law, wonders when the nuclear industry will be able to stand on its own.
An improbable run: Former Sandusky County Clerk of Courts Warren Brown got himself a nice promotion on Jan. 4, when his county commissioners installed him as Sandusky County's first full-time county administrator in some 25 years.
Not good enough. He's scheduled March 3 as the date in which he'll announce his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Brown is making an improbable bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican George Voinovich, saying he will gather 5,000 signatures and run as an independent without pandering to special interests for campaign contributions or making promises of any kind to those who donate.
A father at the forefront of eastern Sandusky County's childhood cancer outbreak, Mr. Brown said he is running as "the common man with common sense" who simply wants to redirect federal priorities away from Washington Beltway politics and more toward ordinary people.
"This is not the grieving cancer victim's father who is running," said Mr. Brown, whose 11-year-old daughter, Alexa, succumbed to cancer in July.
Alexa's ordeal prompted state health and environmental officials to look harder, first in the vicinity of Clyde, Ohio, and then at the broader eastern Sandusky County area.
They concluded it was no fluke that 20 eastern Sandusky County children have been diagnosed with cancer since 2001, the cause likely being a short-lived chemical pollutant in the environment.
Mr. Brown and his wife, Wendy, went to Washington in November to push for more government-sponsored childhood cancer research. He said Thursday that they came back with mixed emotions, feeling that some officials and their staffers took them seriously. And that some were just politely disingenuous.
Mr. Brown's frustration with Washington politics began before Alexa got sick, but he admits he wouldn't be running if her death hadn't inspired him.
What happens if he loses?
"I will have followed what my soul is telling me to do and what the spirit of my daughter is telling me to do," Mr. Brown said. "I have to live up to what my heart is telling me to do."
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