Published: February 23, 2007
INDIAN POINT AN ENVIRO PLUS
OpEd By Dr. PATRICK MOORE
February 23, 2007
As co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, I once opposed nuclear energy. But times have changed, and new facts of compelling importance have emerged – and so my views have changed as well, as have those of a growing number of respected, independent environmentalists around the world.
There are few places where nuclear power makes as much sense or is as important as in New York. Indeed, the state is a microcosm of the challenges America and the world face to have ample, clean and reasonably priced electricity. As such, I strongly support renewal of the license for the Indian Point nuclear plants in Westchester, which provides 30 percent or so of the electricity used in the New York metro area.
Let me explain.
Climate change is now high on the global agenda, and I believe nuclear energy holds the greatest potential to arrest the dangers we face from global warming. It is the only non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power source capable of effectively replacing fossil fuels and satisfying growing demand.
Hydroelectric is largely built to capacity. And while other key renewable energy sources will play a growing role, wind and solar power are unreliable and intermittent. They simply can’t provide “baseload” electricity – especially in densely populated areas like downstate New York.
And with Mayor Bloomberg’s 2030 Commission projecting the growth of the city’s population by 1 million over the next few decades, New York’s power needs can’t be expected to shrink.
Worldwide, nuclear energy is one of the safest industrial sectors. Here in North America, no one has been harmed in the entire history of civilian nuclear-power generation. Indeed, it’s proven safer to work at a nuclear power plant than in the finance or real-estate sectors.
Nuclear energy is already the No. 2 source of electricity in the United States; it accounts for nearly 30 percent of New York state’s electricity.
Another environmental benefit: Nuclear power plants improve air quality by reducing smog.
Downstate New York arguably has the worst air quality of any region in the country, thanks to high levels of ozone and particulate pollution.
The five boroughs and four other New York counties – Nassau, Orange, Rockland and Suffolk – are in violation of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone standards and its regulations on fine particulate matter.
It is well established that this pollution has harmful health effects, especially for children and the elderly. This needs to be addressed now.
Because of the many environmental and economic benefits, dozens of business associations, labor unions, community groups and others support Indian Point license renewal.
Nuclear energy also makes economic sense. The cost of producing nuclear energy in the United States is on par with coal and hydroelectric. That’s a very important consideration in New York, which has the country’s second-highest electricity costs. This impacts the poor and elderly, in particular, and makes it difficult for the business sector to operate efficiently as well.
What about nuclear waste? The notion is misleading. This used fuel is not waste. After its first cycle, spent fuel still contains 95 percent of its energy. Future generations will be able to put this valuable resource to work, powering the country.
Nuclear energy is not a silver bullet – it alone can’t meet all of our energy needs. But the path toward cleaner air lies in the reduction of fossil fuels in favor of a mix of nuclear and renewable energy.
A growing consensus among environmentalists, politicians, industry and labor groups, academics and community leaders strongly supports a move in that direction.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans think more needs to be done to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. I believe nuclear energy is well positioned to help achieve this goal and bring New York in line with the federal Clean Air Act.
The time for fresh thinking and renewed leadership on New York’s energy needs is now.