Dear Editor:

The indirect costs associated with global warming are enormous and growing. There is a cost and risk associated with every action, even walking out the door. My concern here is the generation of electric power. Electric power can be generated with little direct cost and risk by the burning of fossil fuels, but the indirect costs are huge. The generation of electric power with solar and wind involves little risk but high cost. Wind and solar will never be a satisfactory solution for the power companies for the simple reason the Sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. The power companies will always need a backup. Fossil fuel plants will always have to be sized to meet the entire electrical load. It is relatively easy to adjust the power output of a coal fired plant to the load. Not so with natural gas plants. Starting up a natural gas plant is far more complicated than turning on the stove. The quantity of gas required is enormous. The power company must coordinate with the gas company. Time goes by.

In my opinion small nuclear reactors such as the navy uses might be an option as a backup for solar-wind-natural gas plants. The navy has safely operated nuclear reactors for fifty years. Small nuclear plants could be located in geological stable formations remote from populated centers. They could ramp up and down rapidly to meet power demands. I believe such plants would be a good balance between cost and risk. I also realize I am a voice blowing in the wind.

The American nuclear power industry was killed by the media morons and the gutless politicians thirty years ago during the Three Mile Island incident. Three Mile Island was a classic case of a Montgomery Burns-Homer Simpson operation; stupid management and stupid operators. The American nuclear power industry is one of the nation’s safest; true, Chernobyl and Fukushima have given nuclear energy a bad name from which it will likely never recover. Chernobyl was the result of faulty design and operators in a country that had placed no value on human life; Fukushima was an example of under estimating the power of Mother Nature. I believe these mistakes can be avoided but, of course, nothing is absolutely certain. I believe the nuclear option should still be on the table.

By way of disclosure, I am a slide rule era engineer who spent most of my career working in the nuclear weapons business.

Bob Dungan


This story was posted on June 27, 2013.