Nuclear: Clean Energy?

There’s a lot of things we’ve all heard about nuclear power, but I don’t think any of them come close to this ad from the Nuclear Energy Institute in the May issue of The Atlantic Monthly. It would appear that advocates of nuclear energy have chosen to capitalize on the United States’ desire to balance its growing need for energy with the public’s desire to protect the environment. But can nuclear energy really be the source of clean air energy? Or is this simply the industry attempting to exploit public’s ignorance of the dangers of nuclear energy?

I doubt most people are unaware of the real threat presented by the by-products of nuclear energy. Just this week, the US Congress voted on the establishment of a centralized storage facility, under the Yucca Mountains in Nevada, for the country’s nuclear waste. Nevada’s governor, Kenny Guinn, is understandably resistant to the idea. I wonder why?

Fact: Though nuclear energy doesn’t pollute the air directly, the by-products of nuclear energy are extremely toxic. For example, depleted uranium, a by-product of enriching uranium for use as fuel in nuclear reactors, has been linked to birth defects and cancer. Depleted uranium can be aerosolized, making it an airborne inhalation risk.

Fact: The NEI’s membership is predominantly comprised of companies from the nuclear energy industry, all of who are attempting to turn the public’s fear of air pollution into cash. Noteworthy members include General Electric‘s Nuclear Energy division, and American Electric Power, two prominent names among the other universities, insurers, and energy-brokerage institutions.

Fact: There are alternatives. Though dismissed by one member of the House of Representatives, alternatives such as wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal energy sources are not only viable, they are also more environmentally friendly. For example, a local Vancouver company, Blue Energy, has created a power generation technology based on tidal energy that has met with the approval of a number of environmental agencies, and offers to many advantages to ignore.

The most telling part of the NEI ad is its tagline: Clean air is so 21st century. It gives the reader the impression of a bored Valley girl commenting on a unfashionable and outdated trend. Is that the message NEI wants us to take away from their ad? That clean air is unfashionable? Perhaps this is a fatal Freudian slip that reveals the NEI’s true intentions.