A group of Safe and Green Campaing members attended “The Past Present and Future of Nuclear Energy”, co-sponsored by Dartmouth’s engineering school and the Center for Energy Policy & Finance at Stanford University. A full description is here, with a link at the top to a YouTube of the entire nine hour event. The Rutland Herald has a write-up here.
The symposium was held on the 35th anniversary of Three Mile Island on March 28th, 2014. Dartmouth’s President at the time, John Kemeny, led the Commission charged with investigating the accident and making recommendations.
It was discouraging listening to those at the very top of the nuclear industry, academia and government paint a rosy picture of our nuclear future. Dr. John Kelly, DOE Deputy in charge of nuclear power research and development, started off reasonably enough, saying “we have built complex systems that are beyond our ability to understand.” But he went downhill fast, saying while the “risks to human health are negligible,” it is only the financial risks that are high.
Thankfully, some speakers brought us back to reality. Former NRC Commissioner, Peter Bradford, refuted the oft-quoted line “no one died at TMI” and said “we can be sure only that we don’t know who died as a result of the accident.” Matthew Wald, energy reporter for the NY Times, argued that it was not Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima that has impacted the future of nuclear power, it is the economics. US Representative Peter Welch said flat out: there is no money left for you guys. You get more federal money than any other power source, and after fifty years you still haven’t solved the waste problem. Unlike other industries, taxpayers are burdened with all the risk for building new nukes, and for all the financial and safety risks for your failures. I listen to my constituents, who are against you. In DC, even the Tea Party now questions your relevance.
It was during his keynote address that we heard the news via our iphones: the State Public Service Board had granted a Certificate of Public Good to Entergy. Ironic, as we commemorated the 35th anniversary of the largest meltdown of an American nuclear reactor.
We had to stay for one last speaker: Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute. And we were glad we did. Nuclear power is dead. He compared “the cost, climate protection potential, reliability, financial risk, market success, deployment speed, and energy contribution of new nuclear power with those of its low- or no-carbon competitors.” He disputed the myths about nuclear’s utility as baseload power (too inflexible) and as carbon-free power (there are a lot of cheaper, quicker sources of carbon-free power). His conclusion: “Isn’t it time we forgot about nuclear power? Informed capitalists have.”