Follow the Swedes?

by kespeland on February 6, 2009

According to this recent story in the British paper the Guardian, Sweden has decided to lift a ban on new nuclear power plants. Apparently, the country wants to replace 10 older reactors.

A ban has been in place since 1980, but officials decided nuclear power could be handy in the fight against climate change. Nuclear plants emit no carbon, although there are other wastes, of course!

Kentucky officials are considering the same action: lifting a ban on new nuclear power plants. The idea is to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and become less dependent on coal.

Many environmental groups believe nuclear power is less than ideal. First, there’s the sticky problem of where to put the radioactive waste. There’s the difficult engineering decision about where to site a plant. There’s the extraordinary cost to build a new plant. And there’s the amount of time that would elapse before a new plant ever came online – from financing to design to permitting, etc. Some also point to the energy expended to get the necessary uranium out of the ground, and the amount of water used at a plant.

Still others insist we should be investing resources in renewable energy, not handing out loan guarantees to nuclear power giants. One slight problem with the most obvious renewable energy sources here in Kentucky, however, is that we don’t have huge wind or solar resources. Some technological innovations could perhaps help improve our ability to harness those sources, though.

Supporters of nuclear say it’s clean and efficient power. They also believe it’s much safer than people might believe, especially with the most recently designed reactors. Last but not least, Kentucky is home to the nation’s only uranium enrichment plant, which means transportation costs – and the resulting emissions – wouldn’t be as high as they might otherwise.

What do you think? Should Kentucky pursue nuclear energy?

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