Earth Day: How this U of M grad saved one billion lives and the planet with science
Today is Earth Day, and there is no better way to observe today than to honor a University of Minnesota graduate who has arguably done more to improve the living…
I’m in an email chain of nuclear power supporters, many of whom live in Minnesota. We span the political spectrum, but I tend to be the most conservative. Sometimes we get into heated debates, but that is ultimately what forces each side to reevaluate its preconceived notions in the pursuit of knowledge. After my article was published, a member of the group reached out to me with this response to my article.
I don’t agree with everything written below, but I think it’s beneficial to listen to points made by folks on the other side to sharpen our own arguments and reevaluate our preconceived beliefs.
(Response to Isaac Orr’s Editorial “This is how we ‘modernize’ the Republican Party”)
Isaac Orr suggests the Republican Party needs to be modernized, I agree! Trump’s last four years proposing to “Make America Great” again was a return to outdated fossil fuel energy that harms public health and the environment. Trump refused advice from experts and dismissed science. So, I agree with Isaac, the Republican Party must reject ignorance and promote science and facts. But the Democratic Party also has to embrace the recommendations of experts and not just large environmental groups who propose wind and solar as the only options for clean electrical energy.
When Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans was released on Earth Day last year, it disappointed many environmentalists because it revealed that “renewables” like wind and solar will not be able to stop catastrophic climate change or meet the growing demand for electricity. Unfortunately, “Planet of the Humans” failed to provide any solutions.
There is, however, a lightly subsidized, cost effective, highly efficient, 24/7, clean energy source that Democrats have avoided due to outdated fear and misinformation generated by the fossil fuel industry and many “greens” – next generation nuclear power. The fossil fuel industry has funded opposition to nuclear power because they know that nuclear power will kill their profits.
Minnesota has received 30% of our electricity from nuclear power safely since the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, the DFL platform hasn’t changed since they supported legislation in 1994, that prohibited permits for new nuclear power plants. Regrettably, the legislation failed to define “nuclear power”. The legislation was intended to prevent additional nuclear power plants (like the two light water reactors at Prairie Island and Monticello) that needed on-site storage of nuclear “waste”. Fortunately, there now are safer, more efficient reactors, that can recycle 90% of this spent fuel, converting it to electricity. However, Minnesota’s outdated law and DFL platform position are obstacles to consideration of these new, safe technologies that are being built in other countries, providing carbon free, cost effective, safe electricity.
Comparing construction and operational costs must factor in replacement and ultimate waste management costs. When opponents to nuclear power suggest they are too costly and take too long to construct, they fail to explain why or use the same factors for wind and solar. Each nuclear power plant is not only subjected to costly long review but must fund the ultimate disposal/management of all wastes from the plant. New modular plants, as are those that power our Navy, can be constructed in factories. Once the design is approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they can be deployed quickly as is being done in several other countries. For every subsidy dollar that nuclear power receives per megawatt hour generated, wind companies receive $18 and solar gets $255. Almost 20% of our nation’s electricity has been generated since 1970 by emission-free, safe nuclear power with no health impacts, thanks in part to environmental regulation by the NRC. Had Russia and Japan built and operated their reactors in compliance with NRC requirements, they would not have failed.
Because climate change will drastically challenge all life on our planet, experts are urging that we include next generation nuclear power as proposed by Dr. James Hansen, the International Energy Agency, and the World Energy Council. New reactors cannot melt down and can recycle 90% of spent fuel stored in casks at Monticello and Prairie Island. And the small amount of nuclear waste remaining will be safe in several hundred years as opposed to tens of thousands required for the existing spent fuel – much easier for future generations to deal with than catastrophic climate disaster.
Allen Frechette – BA, MPH; Retired Environmental Professional- 36 years MN County Environmental Program Manager; graduate courses in environmental radiation; Nationally Registered Hazardous Materials Specialist and Environmental Health Specialist; registered Microbiologist at the Mayo Clinic’s Medical Mycology and Mycobacteriology Laboratories, founding board member of the DFL Environmental Caucus.