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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Seattle City Council Takes a Stand Against Nuclear Energy

Last year I wrote an article about the failed attempt to mandate biofuel consumption by the Governor of Washington State. To me his failure was an example of why two party political systems work better than one party systems. Bad ideas from either party (and they can both come up with some really stupid ideas) have a tougher time being implemented than good ideas.

An example of this was the Seattle biodiesel craze which came and went. The biodiesel gas stations that had sprung up have all but disappeared along with the once ubiquitous smoke belching Jettas and their biodiesel bumper stickers. Not unlike new hydroelectric dams, existing biofuel technology continues to ravage ecosystems and displace local inhabitants around the world. The genie was let out of the bottle but at least it has been largely, to date, contained here in Seattle.

 Columbia Nuclear Generating Station

In place of biofuel enthusiasts, Seattle now has a member of the antinuclear tribe on the council. So, here we go again:

The measure was sponsored by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who on Tuesday called the resolution a step forward in “taking a stand against nuclear energy.”

James Conca over on Forbes is not a happy camper and I don't blame him. You can read about it here:

But the actual wording of the resolution is not particularly threatening:

A RESOLUTION stating The City of Seattle's support for clean and safe electricity production and opposition to the use of fossil fuels and new nuclear energy in the generation of electricity, and requiring an ongoing evaluation of existing nuclear power generation on the basis of health, safety, reliability, and cost; and instructing that The City of Seattle's City Light Department reflect this position in its policies and interactions with other utilities, federal and state agencies, and organizations of which it is a member or participant.
Considering that the Columbia Nuclear Generating Station is cost effective, reliable, safe, not a threat to anyone's health and is an existing station as opposed to a new one, it should, in theory, have nothing to worry about. This appears to me to be mostly an attempt to block future nuclear power plants but considering that our electricity is already so low carbon thanks to hydro, I don't see this as a big deal. Unlike many states in the Midwest, we may not need more nuclear.

Below is the letter to the editor I took ten minutes to write. Being an old-school newspaper you are limited to 200 words and of course no links to sources to back up anything you say, not to mention you are almost certainly wasting your time writing the letter:

The Seattle City council recently unanimously approved a resolution for the " ...opposition to the use of fossil fuels and new nuclear energy in the generation of electricity." If you do a Google search on the term "fatalities per TWh" you may be surprised to find literally dozens of pages full of links demonstrating that nuclear energy is actually one of our safest sources of energy.

Most Seattleites don't realize that the Hanford superfund site is the result of military nuclear weapons production. It has nothing to do with modern commercial nuclear power stations. Nuclear power is also one of our cleanest sources of energy producing less CO2 on a life cycle basis than solar. The amount of waste generated is trivial. After 32 years of operation all of the waste generated by Washington's nuclear power station would fit in a typical 7-Eleven parking lot. And that small amount of waste may one day be consumed as nuclear fuel.

Given that nuclear power is in reality one of our safest and cleanest proven sources of low-carbon energy, the reasons stated for wanting to eliminate it are irrational. Maybe it's time for climate change to take precedence over old-school antinuclear tribalism.

If you drop into the Seattle Times comment field under the short piece that announced this resolution you'll find maybe 95% of the comments are pronuclear. This phenomenon has become the norm in almost any comment field under antinuclear articles. Could the old antinuclear meme finally be on its way out?

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