The fu­ture glows green

Com­bine re­new­ables with nu­clear

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

OH, HOW we wished we’d never lis­tened to the No Nukes crowd back in the 1970s. Re­mem­ber our bet­ters among pop­u­lar mu­si­cians— some of whom might have even had high school ed­u­ca­tions—preach­ing to us about the evils of nu­clear power? Re­mem­ber the con­certs and demon­stra­tions? If any­body asks why there are so many skep­tics of global warm­ing to­day, tell them to Google Jack­son Browne, Gra­ham Nash & Co. The same kinds of peo­ple who tell us to­day that global warm­ing will kill us all told us that nu­clear power would do it first. If we never would have lis­tened to them in the first place, we could have nu­clear plants at ev­ery turn in the river— and clean en­ergy would be the norm. Not to men­tion $50 elec­tric bills.

But despite the ef­forts of 1979 etc., green en­ergy con­tin­ues to grow. So­lar and wind power show great prom­ise. So do gi­ant bat­ter­ies. But mankind still needs to power the grid at night and when the wind is still, the moon is out, and the bat­ter­ies dead.

En­ter nu­clear. It’s tech we’ve had since World War II, and it’s the per­fect pair­ing to go along with green en­ergy. When the sun and wind aren’t around, nu­clear can be right there, ready to pick up the slack.

The prob­lem with nu­clear, at least to­day, is cost. (The No-Nuk­ers have been de­bunked, thor­oughly.) Amer­ica’s nu­clear plants are ag­ing, and we’re not ex­actly push­ing for­ward to build more. In fact, there’s just one un­der con­struc­tion at this time, and it’s in Geor­gia. These plants costs bil­lions of dol­lars and take sev­eral years to con­struct. That’s an unattrac­tive prospect for cor­po­ra­tions, hence the cur­rent lack of nu­clear plants pop­ping up around the United States.

But the pa­pers have car­ried sto­ries of a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion. And it lies in minia­ture nu­clear tech­nol­ogy called small mod­u­lar re­ac­tors or “SMRs.” Coun­tries like Bri­tain and France are look­ing into their prom­ise.

Reuters has more on this tech: “The mini plants, still un­der devel­op­ment, would be made in fac­to­ries, with parts small enough to be trans­ported on trucks and barges to sites where they could be as­sem­bled in around six to 12 months, up to a tenth of the time it takes to build some larger plants.”

The kicker here is these mini nu­clear re­ac­tors are de­signed by an Amer­i­can com­pany called NuS­cale Power out in Ore­gon.

SMRs also have the abil­ity to be set up at ex­ist­ing nu­clear plant sites or at li­censed sites where older plants are be­ing de­com­mis­sioned.

This coun­try, and the world, will con­tinue to im­prove when it comes to green en­ergy. (And we should. Global warm­ing or no, who likes pol­lu­tion?) One of the best ideas to come along in a while might be these SMRs. To­gether they could al­low us to bring a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to in­creas­ing re­new­able en­ergy on the power grid while de­creas­ing pol­lu­tion. Plus fac­to­ries to make these SMRs will need to be staffed, and that’ll bring more jobs.

Eco-friendly power? Jobs? What’s not to like? And to top it off, we won’t have to lis­ten to “Mock­ing­bird” by James Tay­lor and Carly Si­mon.

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