They may be relatively clean, but are they sustainable?
In addition to the high cost and risks, new reactors create another problem, one that is rarely mentioned: they put enormous pressure on water resources. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of cooling water to operate; without adequate water, they cannot produce electricity.
Scientists say that warmer temperatures from climate change will mean a less dependable supply of water. This should be of special concern to residents of the southeastern United States, which is seeing its energy demand grow - and its water resources become increasingly stressed.
While I have (somewhat) softened my stance on nuclear energy, giving credit where credit is due on emissions, this technology still runs up against another of my deeply-held concerns for the future: our reckless approach to the management of our water resources.
Neither our individual habits nor our public policy efforts have come close to addressing this looming crisis, and adding this level of usage:
According to the industry's Electric Power Research Institute, nuclear reactors can consume between 400 and 720 gallons per megawatt hour, while coal consumes about 300 gallons and natural gas less than 250 gallons.
In the Southeast, electric power production accounts for nearly two-thirds of all freshwater withdrawals, or nearly 40 billion gallons daily. (That's as much as all public-water supply customers use in the U.S. each day.)
in the absence of an aggressive policy to assess, reserve and conserve water resources, could prove to be dangerously short-sighted in the years to come.