Congressman John Salazar has endorsed nuclear power as one way to address Colorado’s energy needs. Coincidentally or not, a recent proposal seeks to build a new nuclear plant near Pueblo, in Salazar’s district.
Nuclear reactors present several problems. First, they are expensive (the Energy Department estimates $9 billion each). No U.S. reactors have been ordered since 1978 because Wall Street stopped investing in them, and utilities have tried unsuccessfully to get Congress to fund new construction.
Second, they take a long time to build. About 10 or 12 years are required to plan, construct and test a reactor before it could produce electricity. Energy needs in Colorado require more prompt solutions.
Most importantly, reactors present a health risk to local residents, creating over 100 chemicals found in atom bomb explosions. Each causes cancer, and is most harmful to infants and children.
Reactors create massive amounts of radioactivity, which must be stored in deep pools of constantly cooled water. Any loss of water, from an accident or terrorist attack, would mean a meltdown, and many thousands would suffer from cancer or radiation poisoning. In addition, some radiation routinely escapes into local air and water and enters human bodies.
Colorado’s only experience with nuclear power turned out badly. The Fort St. Vrain reactor north of Denver lasted only 15 years, and was closed for repairs much of that time. In 1989, the reactor shut permanently, and the local infant death and child cancer rate fell 15 percent and 12 percent in the first two years after shutdown.
Colorado deserves an energy policy that meets people’s needs promptly, inexpensively and safely. Products can be made more efficient, people can conserve more energy, and safe renewable windmills and solar farms can be built quickly.
JOSEPH MANGANO MPH MBA