Monday, April 17, 2006

Nuke or not to Nuke

A month or so ago, girlfriend and I were out rock hounding up along the Columbia River past the town of St. Helens. There was a road cut on our map that looked interesting although we figured it had probably already been well picked over considering the cut was done about 10 years ago. When we got to the area, we realized that it was right across the road from Trojan nuclear power plant, which has been closed now for some years. The shadow of the huge cooling tower loomed over us as we stopped to take a look. We decided to see how close we could get, and the front gate was open, so we drove in and went all the way to the tower where there was a bunch of construction equipment assembled. I remembered that they were getting ready to disassemble the tower, the last large component left, the core having been removed a while back.

And it made me think, what a bummer. All the technology and work that went into this plant and here it was being taken apart. I realize these things having a fairly short life span, especially the earlier designed plants like most in the US, but Trojan was shut down about 20 years before it's time because of a deal struck between the utility that owns the plant and the groups that were pressing to get rid of the plant. There were some problems with the plant, and it had a small accident in 1992, but it could have been fixed. Mainly, it was just that environmental groups that finally did it in. Also, here in the Northwest we generally don't burn coal for electricity because we have a system of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia river. So, Trojan wasn't "technically" needed. But, even the hydroelectric dams have their detractors and their problems (silt build-up, fish passage) and eventually will need to come out. So, what's the long-term solution?

I thought this was an interesting opinion piece by one of the founders of Greenpeace that is now advocating nuclear power. He is picking the lesser of 2 evils when looking at global warming and nuclear power. And nuclear power has certainly got its own problems like where to store spent fuel and how to build the safest plants possible. But, I think he's right. Ultimately, we need a long-term source of electric power that does not choke the planet (or heat it too much).



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