Want a Hydrogen Economy? Then Get Ready to Build 4,000 Nuclear Reactors in Our Backyards

If the US wants to be 'energy independent' it may have to accept nuclear power as the price.

Published: 03-Feb-2005

's the conclusion of research by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, according to a recent article in the Financial Times.

An EV World reader sent me this article and I have to tell you that it sent shivers down my back. There are but 103 operational nuclear power plants in the United States, two of them within an hour drive of where I live. The youngest US plants are 20 years old, the oldest are 40, which is the design limit for these plants. So, sooner or later, we're going to have to start decommissioning these brittle, radioactive facilities, one-by-one. Unless, of course, the power plant operators can persuade (and I am being charitable here) the NRC that their particular plant can be safely operated beyond its engineered lifetime.

Is that a problem? Maybe, maybe not. We're still flying B-52s built over 40 years ago and JPL's twin rover's on Mars are continuing to operate -- mysteriously, it appears -- well beyond their designed life expectancy. But taxpayer-funded refurbishments and upgrades of aging bombers isn't quite the same as a nuclear power plant, many of which are operated by investor-owned utilities who aren't looking to sink more money into a plant that the NRC could shut down at any time. It's like driving a tired, old used car. When do you stop spending money on it and trade it in for something newer.. or just walk away from it, abandoned on a street somewhere and leave it for the community to deal with?

We still haven't found a way to safely and cost-effectively store the hydrogen, much less the spent nuclear fuel rods that will make it. But nuclear power proponents, including respected scientists, are saying that this is the only way society can go if we are to get beyond the petroleum age that will end sometime in the first half of this century.

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