Nukes

Interesting piece in the NY Times about how France is doubling down on nuclear power:

Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.

With the wildly fluctuating cost of oil, anxiety over global warming from burning fossil fuels and new concerns about the impact of biofuels on the price of food for the poor, nuclear energy is getting a second look in countries like the United States and Britain. Even Germany, committed to phasing out nuclear power by 2021, is debating whether to change its mind.

One of the nice things about having so much cheap, carbon-free electricity is that you can use it to power industry, transit networks, and more without fossil fuels. It also helps you meet your Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gases. Right now, it’s hard to see any other electricy source that can ramp up to match coal in the short timeline we need to halt the damage caused by global climate change.

But here’s the real kicker:

France has 58 operating nuclear reactors, the highest number of any nation besides the United States. In America, where nuclear construction has been moribund, there is also new interest. At the moment, 19.4 percent of the electricity generated in the United States is from 104 nuclear plants, according to the Department of Energy. [emphasis added]

First, this is a reminder of how energy-inefficient the US is. If we were as energy-efficient as the French, those 104 plants would be providing 30 or 40 percent of our electricity (factoring for the increase in population, but assuming that all plants are equally powerful).

But that’s a small point. The larger point is that the US has 104 nuclear plants. We’re way more committed to nuclear power than we might like to admit. So, why not double down ousrelves? We’ve already got one foot in the water, so we ought to either decide that nuclear power is too horrific and shut down the 104 plants in operation, or dive in and solve our climate crisis.

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