By The Gazette Editorial Board
Patrick Moore once opposed nuclear energy. But after 15 years of environmental activism as a founding member of Greenpeace, he broke with the international group in 1986, because, he said, it was moving away from a science-based focus. The Canadian scientist also eventually concluded that nuclear energy can play a major role in a clean-energy future.
Today, Moore is a consultant (see www.greenspirit.com/home.cfm) and member of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which claims nearly 3,000 members across diverse public and private sectors. He stopped by last week, aiming to clear up misunderstandings about nuclear energy. It reminded us of MidAmerican Energy’s controversial request for state legislation to allow the company to recover costs as its proposed nuclear power plant project unfolds, instead of the traditional rate increase requests the state utilities board considers after a company’s project is completed. MidAmerican argues that the change is needed because of the high costs of regulatory requirements and constructing nuclear plants — at least $1 billion. Critics say it places too much risk on customers. We’ve been skeptical, too.
Moore counters: Taking out huge loans to build nuclear plants increases consumers’ costs in the long run. Also: Nuclear plant fuel is a much smaller, less volatile cost compared to gas or coal-fired plants. Technology exists to recycle virtually all radioactive waste (see France) and can provide dependable fuel supplies for hundreds or thousands of years. And disasters such as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi event are very unlikely here because of more effective regulatory oversight and better infrastructure and response plans.
The ratepaying legislation wasn’t debated on the Iowa Senate floor last session. But if it’s revived, Moore’s message adds fuel to the discussion.
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