In his Dec. 15 column, Chris LaForge of Great Northern Solar in Port Wing got almost everything backwards. In accordance with science, the headline on the column should have read, “Solar Projects Are Too Pricey, Too Dangerous” instead of what it did read, which was ”
Nuclear energy is too pricey, too dangerous
The World Health Organization rates nuclear power No. 1 for safety — and that includes Chernobyl, the only accident to cause radiation fatalities, with just 70 to date. In response to climate change, 20 nations are expanding nuclear power, but due to opposition from carbon companies and “green” profiteers, we in the U.S. have to fight to save our nuclear plants.
LaForge’s column should have used government statistics instead of the fear-mongering phrase “radioactive waste-producing electrical generation,” which was repeated in some variation at least five times. A full 95% of that “waste” is harmless U238. In addition, spent fuel casks can be stored on just one football field, and recycling could reduce its volume by 90%. Furthermore, there is enough energy in that stored U238 to power the U.S. for 250 years if used in modern, fast reactors.
The column also claimed that nuclear power has a large carbon footprint. But government statistics reveal that, per unit of electricity generated, nuclear has the lowest carbon footprint.
The fear of radiation began in the 1920s when Herman Miller found mutations in fruit flies by exposing them to radiation equivalent to 1,000 mammograms in just 3½ minutes, which is a huge dose in a very short time. Muller called it a “low dose” and concluded, without evidence, that radiation is harmful down to zero — and cumulative — despite the objections of his coworkers. He agreed to run tests at low levels but never did, and radiophobia began.
We are constantly bathed in radiation. Our smoke detectors and granite countertops radiate, as do bananas and other foods we eat. Airline passengers receive about 10 times more radiation than those at sea level. However, fear sells, and fear is used by those who seek to advance their cause while refusing to learn the science that proves that all life can repair DNA breaks, whether from radiation or the food we eat, which causes about half of the breaks.
Consider this: All radioactive elements have half-lives, meaning their potency decreases over time. Run that backward to understand that life evolved during times of much higher radiation. Life forms that developed repair mechanisms survived. Those that didn’t, didn’t survive.
The column claimed that nuclear power diverts funds from a renewable future. However, the reverse is true. For every megawatt hour created, intermittent, 20%-efficient solar projects have received federal subsidies of $300 for every dollar received by constant, 92%-efficient nuclear power — and most states and agencies also contribute to solar projects.
Furthermore, nuclear companies are required to pay for the eventual decommissioning of their plants, which usually last 60 years, but no such requirement is made of solar projects, which have an average life of 20 years and must be recycled as hazardous waste at a cost of almost $30 per panel because they contain permanently toxic elements. We are taxed to build them and to recycle them — not just once, but three times to match the 60-plus-year lifespan of a safer nuclear plant.
Per unit of electricity generated, solar projects require at least 16 times more resources than nuclear power, which gives solar a higher, not a lower, carbon footprint.
Solar projects are more mining-intensive, especially for the rare earth minerals they require, which primarily come from abroad, where the pollution they cause is immense. Check Lake Baotou pollution on the Web for just one example.
Only 20% of the radiation that falls on a solar panel is converted to electricity. Most of the rest is converted to heat — up to 1 million watts per acre per day. And we claim to care about global warming!
Finally, science reveals that homeowners could help our environment and resist global warming better by painting their roofs white instead of installing inefficient, resource-gobbling solar panels that raise our taxes, add heat to our atmosphere, and reward companies where profit comes first, second, third, and fourth — and science is ignored.
George Erickson of Eveleth is a member of the Thorium Energy Alliance and the National Center for Science Education. He lectures on climate and on environmental and energy issues at colleges and affinity groups. His book, “Unintended Consequences: The Lie That Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change,” can be downloaded for free at tundracub.com.