|Golden Gate Bridge with light-brown photochemical smog behind it. NOx gives the smog that color.|
Wikipedia photo by Aaron Logan
Nuclear energy makes no smog.
The Question: Your Five Best
In early February, Suzanne Jaworowski, Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy, sent an email to selected people. She asked the recipients to send her "your top five most motivating facts about Nuclear." Another part of the letter asked "What facts do you tell people and they are surprised?"
Dan Yurman blogged about this letter; his post is DOE wants ideas to educate the public about nuclear energy. His post includes the entire letter, as well as his ideas for DOE's future actions.
Okay. I am a little late about blogging about this. Jaworowski wanted input by mid-February, and I sent my input quite promptly after after reading Dan's post. Alas, it took me a while to get around to putting my Five Best things on my blog.
Please comment or share your Five Best with me!
The Five Best Things About Nuclear, by Meredith Angwin
1) Economic: Nuclear plants are great sources of jobs and taxes for a community. They have jobs for people with advanced degrees and for high school graduates. Plants often have very liberal policies to encourage continuing education for their employees. Wages are usually higher than other local wages, and they hire good people at all education levels.
2) Safety: Living near a nuclear power plant exposes you to less radiation than you would get by 1) living in the mountains (cosmic radiation) 2) living on granite bedrock 3) taking some cross country airplane flights. People who live near nuclear plants do not have excess deaths from cancer.
3) Clean air. This is my favorite, and not because of carbon dioxide. I hate NOx, which is formed in all modern high-temperature combustion-power processes, and only partially cleaned up. NOx is the precursor of acid rain, smog, etc. Very bad stuff. In NOx, the air burns itself: the nitrogen in the air is burned by the oxygen in the air. This happens at the high temperatures in modern gas and coal plants. Also, the good thing about talking about NOx is that talking about CO2 raises issues with people. Many people do not buy into man-made global warming. Mentioning CO2 is audience-specific, while "nuclear plants don’t make NOx" is straightforward. Nobody likes acid rain and smog!
4) Surprising fact: What a half-life actually means, People keep hearing that something has a half-life of thousands of years (or whatever) and this is presented as showing that the substance is very dangerously radioactive. Then I lead them through what a half-life is, and what a long half-life actually means (few atoms decaying at any one time, not much radioactivity). A long half-life is low radioactivity. This is almost always a surprise.
5) Surprising facts on the big accidents: Nobody died from radioactivity at Fukushima, and few or no cancer deaths are expected. The sister plant (right next door) to Chernobyl was staffed and producing power until about 2000, over a dozen years past the day of the accident.
I spend a great deal of my time writing about energy and about nuclear power, yet this "five best" exercise was very helpful for me! I hope you will comment on this post, hopefully with your own "five best." I will be posting Howard Shaffer's list within the next few days. If I get some great lists as comments, I plan to post them as blog posts.
I look forward to reading your comments.