Solar Energy Out Shines Nuclear Power Everytime

Here’s my response to this recent piece in the New York Times Opinion Pages: ‘To Those Influencing Environmental Policy But Opposed to Nuclear Power.’

When I was a kid, I read a lot of science fiction, and was a believer that nuclear energy was the power that would take us to the stars.

But when I was 21, I got a night job working a security job at the Shoreham nuclear power plant, and saw first hand – as well as heard many stories – about the safety violations, construction, and financial debacles. Suddenly, the nuclear energy that was going to be “too cheap to meter” saw nuclear power plant construction prices go from $300 million to over $7 Billion.

Three Mile Island was a “near miss” that still released massive amounts of radiation into the Pennsylvania (and NY) air. Then came Chernobyl. And most recently Fukushima.

After my Shoreham experience (it bankrupted the Long Island Lighting Company), I did additional research and discovered that besides incredible construction costs, unforgivable safety issues (try to tell any Long Islander that there was a way to quickly get off Long Island in the event there was a nuclear accident at Shoreham – and let’s see how we will evacuate millions of people in the tri-state region if Indian Point ever goes critical), and massive government underwriting (the nuclear industry is subsidized with federal liability insurance that caps their liability when there is an accident) there is the “little problem” of dealing with the nuclear waste.

Unfortunately, I have little faith that my government will be able to ensure the stability and safety of the most toxic and radioactive waste on the planet for 100 years – forget 100,000 years!

While nuclear has always been a “great promise” – until clean fusion is developed (still “another 50 years away” every time there’s a prediction) – the safety hazards, costs, and long-term environmental impacts make it a bad choice.

There IS one nuclear power plant that’s just “too good to pass up.” It’s called “The Sun.” With 1,000 times more power than the world uses, and thousands of times more that earth-based nuclear can ever generate, it’s powerful, clean, efficient – and needs only the re-prioritization of our energy policy to make it a reality for everyone.

It’s funny that the nuclear and solar industry have one thing in common: “storage.” While nuclear has to figure out how to store radioactive waste for 100,000 years, solar has to find cost-effective ways to store the sun’s energy for night time and cloudy periods.

Which one would you bet on?