Mar 25, 2011

Nuke it from orbit...

I've seen a few mentions lately of Vermont's state senate voting to not renew the operating license for Vermont Yankee, their major electricity producer for the state*. It's been hinted that this is because it's a similar design to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor that's having major problems since the earthquake and tsunami played with it.

I could *almost* buy into that. It's the kind of reactionary do-something-itis I've come to expect from the wingnuts of the world.

Fortunately, on this here intertubes, verifying information is easy.

Turns out the senate voted to close VT-Yankee two weeks before the Japan 'quake
, "citing radioactive leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials and other problems." ("Other problems" would include a 2007 collapse of a sluiceway supplying one of the cooling towers.)

I understand the fear of radiation many people have. It's not a topic covered in great depth during any high school class. The concept of something that is invisible, tasteless, odorless, and able to kill you - either dramatically and painfully in the short term, or lingeringly and painfully in the long term - is tough to grasp. Germs? Germs we can see with a decent microscope. We can sanitize, sterilize, wipe down, wash up, and otherwise effectively prevent.

Radiation - not so much. People are afraid because they don't understand it. I will freely admit to a deep-seated unease about radiation. I tense up for something as simple as a dental X-ray, and a CT-scan is simply miserable. ("What if they didn't cover ____? What if the machine malfunctions? What if...?")

Of course, the flip side is - we are a power-hungry society. It has to come from somewhere. Wind power on a large scale is a boondoggle**, hydro requires a reliable high-flow water source, coal/gas/oil are finite resources with dirty byproducts (remember the coal sludge spill in Tennessee?), and biomass is a losing proposition. I believe nuclear power is, at the present time, the only long-term viable option. New plants, in places as carefully sited as possible to avoid environmental hazards. (New Madrid Fault - bad thing...)

* - VT-Yankee produces >70% of the energy in Vermont, but supplies only about 35% of their state usage. Not sure where the balance comes from, other than "the grid".
** - large wind farms are a losing proposition, since they only make power (and therefore money) when the wind is blowing. A small (1-5kW) home set to offset an individual utility bill makes a lot more sense to me.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

And no one up there wants to talk about how much the elec bills will go up if they have to start buying from somewhere else... It's NOT going to be pretty.