Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/2/2010 (4473 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's impossible to overestimate the importance of President Barack Obama's plan to finance the construction of two nuclear reactors, the nation's first in three decades. Regardless of the political risks of alienating the anti-nuke wing of his party, the move is the best effort in years to jump-start the nation's long-stalled nuclear power industry.
Obama called for a "new generation of clean, nuclear plants" in his State of the Union address last month and is backing it up with $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees to a power company consortium in Georgia and more dollars in his proposed 2011 budget for nuclear energy.
Nuclear power in the United States has languished as the result of exaggerated fears of meltdowns, waste disposal controversies and financial concerns. As a supporter of nuclear energy, this newspaper hopes the industry will now have the confidence to make the $6 billion to $8 billion investment required to construct a nuclear reactor without worrying that the federal government will pull the financial rug from beneath it, as happened after Three Mile Island in 1979.
The president's decision wisely acknowledges that nuclear power is the most practical way for this country to reduce reliance on dirty fossil fuels and to confront the issues posed by climate change.
Solar and wind power will be part of the solution, but those alternatives can't match nuclear energy when it comes to steady and massive electricity production.
For example, even though there hasn't been a new U.S. plant since the 1970s, the nation still gets more than 20 per cent of its electricity from the 104 nuclear power plants still in operation. Those plants also generate about 75 per cent of all clean energy produced in the U.S., far more than wind and solar combined.
And unlike coal, the nation's main source of electricity, nuclear plants don't emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
Regions like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, which face serious air-quality challenges, could benefit from the expansion of nuclear power in Texas.
The best-case scenario is that the Georgia plant will be approved within two years, construction completed within eight years and that other utilities with pending applications will move forward with less financial, regulatory and political uncertainty.
Public qualms about nuclear power have eased since Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and The China Syndrome stoked fear. Modern nuclear reactors are far safer, and many environmental groups now favour nuclear power as a way to escape the fossil-fuel trap that currently compromises the nation's national and economic security.
Without nuclear power, a national clean-energy policy is largely window dressing. The opportunity is here to show that the United States can build clean, safe and efficient nuclear plants.
Now let's do it.
--The Dallas Morning News