San Antonio Express – Sept 16, 2009
Nuclear Investment part of a viable energy portfolio
By Patrick Moore – Special to the Express-News
Web Posted: 09/16/2009 12:00 CDT
Now more than ever, Americans are seeking new ways to shape a sustainable future. There’s a growing public awareness that energy policy is central to this challenge, and that by employing the right energy technologies, Americans can have a profound positive impact on their environment.
Nuclear energy is an excellent case in point. Many once deemed nuclear technology simply too risky for America.
In fact, that was my own thinking back in the 1970s, when I helped found Greenpeace during an era in which many young people like myself were concerned about the prospects of nuclear war.
Times have changed; today’s industry has decades of safe operation to its credit and is now among the safest in the country, providing reliable electricity 24/7.
Meanwhile, climate change is deemed to be a threat by many, especially in sprawling Texas cities where ozone season is year-round and surging populations are compromising air quality.
Nuclear energy is already doing a great deal in America to meet the sustainability challenge. Each year, the 104 reactors in operation around the country supply almost 75 percent of the country’s clean electricity. Four reactors in Texas prevented 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere last year, the equivalent of taking almost one million cars off the road.
It makes sense to use nuclear energy in combination with renewable technologies to create a sustainable, clean energy portfolio to meet rising electricity demand while reducing carbon emissions. Many states, including Texas, are already doing it. And two proposed reactors at the South Texas Project are among plans for more than 25 new reactors throughout the country.
The independent Electric Power Research Institute recently concluded the nation will need another 45 more nuclear power plants — to meet growing electricity demand and achieve a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That’s in addition to aggressive investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency and conservation measures.
These new power plants will create thousands of new jobs at a time when state and local communities badly need them. The South Texas Project will create thousands of construction jobs — and hundreds more once the reactors are up and running.
In addition, each reactor would bring an estimated $430 million a year in total output for the surrounding communities. Adding the two reactors would amount to a big economic shot in the arm for a state that lost 80,200 manufacturing jobs in just the past 12 months.
Understandably, nuclear’s environmental and economic benefits attract a diverse coalition who increasingly see a role for nuclear in America’s energy mix.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup this year said they support nuclear energy to meet the nation’s electricity needs. Others who recognize nuclear energy’s clean-air benefits include the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, the Environmental Defense Fund, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Gov. Rick Perry and San Antonio’s own state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
The growth of Texas’s wind industry will provide benefits down the road. But it’s going to take more than the wind or sun to power Texas’ electricity needs years or even decades from today.
Investing in new nuclear plants now is part of a viable clean-energy portfolio that will grow the state’s economy and protect the environment for generations to come.
Patrick Moore is co-chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a national grassroots organization that supports the expansion of nuclear energy. He is a co-founder of Greenpeace.