There is No Other Way

1979 was a year of pitchforks and flames. In March, The China Syndrome became sinisterly prophetic when twelve days later its silver screen quotations fell in tune with the alarm bells ringing across America from the hills of western Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island. Six months later a treasure trove of the country’s most beloved musicians gathered beneath the lights of Madison Square Garden to sing out against nuclear energy in what became known as the “No Nukes Concert”. America, reeling from a Cold War’s arms race that threatened to swallow the globe in unholy mushroom clouds, was tired of hearing, seeing, and knowing the word ‘nuclear’. Construction plans for new plants were scrapped as the NRC, under intense pressure from the court of public opinion (who seems to always have a particularly nasty gavel), tightened regulations that made funding nearly impossible—to this date no nuclear facility has been built on U.S. soil since ’79. It was the beginning of a forty-year sojourn to the conversation America is having today in courthouses, in newspapers, and most embarrassingly, in a maelstrom of tweets. We are debating its death.

The New Green Deal implicitly states that nuclear energy is not to be a part of a clean energy future for America. One can see the Pavlovian conditioning from 1979 leeching into these youthful denunciations against the most reliable form of energy humanity has ever wielded. They scream, they beg, they moan for 100% clean renewables—“Save the children!”—but a closer inspection (one that takes into account actual scientific possibilities) reveals this to be a naïve fantasy, at least as our current technological capabilities stand. Renewables (god how we love neat little facile phrases!) are wholly unreliable due to their entire framework being dependent upon nature—wind and solar depend on the disposition of the sun and the wind on any given day—and would need to be supported by impossibly large battery systems that simply don’t exist yet. This would essentially boil down to New York City in the midst of a three-day rainstorm, the world’s biggest metropolis, needing to be powered with a battery. While a lovely idea, until technology can progress to meet this demand, it’s more suited to a children’s book than a congressional debate.

Yet if we can peel back from contentious politics and sensationalist posturing before the mirror—for the real 21st century disease is the unmitigated beauty we find in the sound of our own voice—we see that the Doobie Brothers, Jackson Browne, and the rest of their righteous friends rocking the Garden back then were really using one word too many in their slogan “No Nukes: The Muse Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future”—if they had dropped ‘nuclear’ it would been very much spot-on and a good bit of foresight on their part. For what any climate change scientist, any professor worth his salt, hell—anyone with an honest ear to the ground will tell you, is that there is no future without nuclear energy. The planet is burning up with every carbon emission rifled in to the air—renewables like solar and wind energy will help to reduce these emissions yes, but they will not be able to shoulder the entire weight of America’s energy needs alone, it’s simply too much.

In a recent article for the New York Times, authors Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist, along with Harvard psychologist Dr. Steven Pinker, endeavor mightily to dispel this unfounded notion that we can eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 without nuclear energy. They point to France and Sweden, two countries who rapidly reduced their respective national carbon levels by converting their electrical grids to nuclear power in less than 20 years, as the defining blueprint. France now enjoys cheaper electricity than Germany, who famously dismantled their nuclear capabilities on another naïve outcry from its population—Sweden annually tops the list of the world’s most pleasant places to live with its lush emerald fields the envy of the planet.

Somewhat humorously the article states “This is a real solution to humanity’s greatest problem.” Why then, is America, self-proclaimed superpower of the world, dragging its feet on what France and Sweden discovered over twenty years ago? Again the text delivers it unadorned and true: “economics and fear”. Nuclear plants are notoriously expensive to build in the United States it’s true, but do they have to be? In the article the authors point to the simple solution of standardization and repetition—the old Henry Ford model. What is cantankerous and cost-soaring in one amalgamation can be fine-tuned and molded to streamlined precision in production—we could roll power plants off the production line in soliloquy’s of clean energy should public perception ever align with empirical fact.

Fear seems to be the more insurmountable hurdle. Say the word nuclear to your average American and watch the mushroom rise in their mind. Contrary to the usual irrational humdrum of human lunacy, nuclear power plants cannot detonate into earth-altering explosions like the demonized nuclear bombs, they are not a mere finger flick away from being weaponized, and the waste they produce is not patiently waiting beneath the earth to rise up and mutilate future generations of our children. Nuclear waste management is an extremely regulated and transparent process—in fact, Finland, right now, is developing the world’s first permanent repository for nuclear fuel in massive catacombs 70 kilometers beneath ancient ice-age rock. France has even begun experimenting with the possibilities of recycling nuclear fuel for renewed energy production. As Dr. Pinker points out, our opinions are formed by the cultural tribes we inhabit—until we learn to leave the tribe and march under the banner of our own free thoughts, false barriers will keep us from the truth.

Forty years later we are still waiting to leave the tribe of our own mass hysteria. Nuclear power is the best chance humanity has at erasing the ravages it has laid upon the earth. If we want to protect the environment, if we want to save our children from our crimes, then we will embrace nuclear energy. If we don’t, then we won’t. There is no other way.

Otek is proud to stand with the nuclear industry. We are seeking partners around the world to join in this most important crusade. Our NTM and SSAM product models are specifically designed to this end—the equipment that runs nuclear plants is just as important as the energy it produces—and our contribution is reliable, accurate, and efficient instrumentation that measures up to the nuclear potential. We hope you will join us.

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