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Nuclear power still not a good idea Print

by Leslie Glustrom (Letter to the Editor>
Rocky Mountain News
June 12, 2008

Thank you for the balanced and informative story on the frequently discussed possibility of using nuclear power to address future energy needs.

Thanks for reminding readers that nuclear power is expensive and takes a long time to build. Thanks for reminding readers that there still isn’t a viable solution to the highly radioactive waste issue. Thanks for reminding readers of the very serious threats to Colorado’s groundwater if there is a boom in uranium mining. Thanks for reminding readers that the risk associated with nuclear reactors is so large that the capital markets are very reluctant to invest the billions of dollars that would be needed.

Finally, thanks for reminding readers that the last time a nuclear plant was tried in Colorado it was a massive failure and Xcel’s ratepayers have just finished paying for that expensive mistake.

Talk is cheap, but nuclear power isn’t. Nuclear power is a just a very expensive and very risky way to boil water to turn a steam turbine that generates electricity. There are better ways to boil water-starting with that great big fusion plant in the sky (commonly known as “the sun"). While it is 93 million miles away, it is so powerful that if you look straight at it, it will blind you. This big nuclear plant in the sky can be used to boil water using “sunlight and mirrors.” Collectively these large scale solar technologies are often referred to as Concentrating Solar Power.

Concentrating Solar Power, or “CSP” for short, is a low-risk, cost-competitive way to produce steam and generate electricity that is carbon free (other than embodied energy) and which is already close to cost-competitive. Progressive utilities around the southwest are signing large contracts for CSP almost every week. To learn more go to www.areva.com/EN/solar-220/areva-solar.html , www.esolar.com or www.brightsourceenergy.com. For more technical information go to www.nrel.gov/csp/troughnet.

To make CSP work for our country we just need to build a 21st century electric grid and learn to ship the finished product (i.e. electricity) instead of shipping the fuels (e.g. coal or uranium) as we do presently. It is a paradigm shift that isn’t all that difficult to make. Also, these concepts can also be used to help decarbonize China which has a magnificent solar resource.

Colorado has tremendous CSP potential and many CSP developers that are ready to build large “solar steam” plants in the southern part of the state. We just have to have the courage to move past the technologies of the last century and start looking up, not down, for our “new” energy sources.

Leslie Glustrom lives in Boulder.




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