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Japan earthquake shows nuclear power fails

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To the Editor:

The nuclear crisis in Japan is a tragedy but as usual the broadcast media is exaggerating the danger in order to play on people's fears so as to enhance their ratings.

Crises such as this are then always followed by a debate about whether the risk is worth the benefit of the supposedly cheap electricity that nuclear plants generate. But that debate frames the problem incorrectly. It assumes that there aren't better ways to generate electricity. There are.

As I like to say, people who advocate nuclear power are either ignorant, corrupt, or exhibiting a failure of imagination. The ignorant simply don't know how expensive nuclear power really is. The corrupt understand precisely how expensive it is, but for them that's a good thing because they want to profit from nuclear energy and they care nothing for the public interest.

The people with a failure of imagination understand how expensive nuclear power is, but they believe there are no viable alternatives. But there are. Just to give one example, high-altitude wind power is apparently just a matter of working out the engineering details and getting the Federal Aviation Agency to cooperate. High-altitude wind power is estimated to be as cheap or cheaper than the understated claims of the costs of nuclear energy and can even provide base load power production. Compared with a nuclear power plant it will be simple to implement.

Germany has decided to eliminate all its nuclear power plants and replace them with sustainable power sources. They are well on the way to doing that and already generate 17 per cent of their electricity from sustainable sources. So when someone tells you nuclear is a necessary part of any energy policy just point out to them that Germany's energy policy suggests otherwise.

Bruce Sanders

Greencastle