A bipartisan way to win energy independence


February 1, 2010 - 12:00 AM

President Obama’s new emphasis on nuclear energy is good news for Burlington, southeast Kansas and the national effort to become energy independent. Taking the last of these benefits first, nuclear power plants offer the United States a certain, relatively fast way to move away from carbon-based fuels while still generating enough electricity to meet growing national needs.
Wind, solar and biomass should be pursued, but few believe the three together can produce more than 20 percent of U.S. requirements within the next 20 years. Nu-clear alone could become our primary source of power within that same time period while reducing the production of carbon dioxide enormously.
A decision to take this route to energy independence also would give Republicans an oppor-tunity they couldn’t re-fuse to join the Obama administration in a ma-jor national initiative: both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lamar Alexandar called for all-out construction of nuclear power plants in their 2008 campaigns for the presidency.
Such a decision could lead to the construction of another reactor adjacent to the current plant in Burlington. Doubling the capacity at Wolf Creek could be done economically because a cooling lake is already in place as are transmission lines needed to carry the power to market. It also should be assumed that doing so would have the support of the public in this area because the plant has operated for a quarter of a century without a hitch — and has pumped millions of dollars into the economy.
Construction of a sister reactor at Wolf Creek would create hundreds of highly paid jobs while the work was in progress and increase the permanent work force. Iola workers and families worked to build the first plant at Burlington and some became part of the permanent work force. Those benefits will bless our economy again when the federal loan guarantees that will be required become available.
By extension, a vigorous nuclear construction program nationwide would create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. Those are future jobs, let us be quick to add, and won’t come soon enough to lift today’s unemployment gloom. Still, economies grow when the outlook for growth brightens. Adoption of a sure-fire energy initiative this year might do quite a bit to encourage other in-vestments, other initiatives.
Looking back, it is never easy to see what it was that changed an economic tide from ebb to flood; from doom to zoom.

DEPENDING ON nu-clear to replace fossil fuels for power generation will cost less and become less controversial if Congress creates a safe repository for nu-clear waste and clears away some of the enormous red tape tangle that slows construction to a snail’s pace.
There is no reason why a nuclear power plant cannot be constructed both quickly and safely. The technology is now well established. France generates the bulk of its electricity in its nuclear plants. The 104 nuclear reactors in operation in 31 states in our country generate 20 percent of our power at present. They have operated far more safely than have coal-fired plants. Only one, Three Mile Island, was ever shut down be-cause of malfunction — and no one was in-jured in that incident.
China is building nuclear plants at a furious rate so that it can move away from the pollution caused by its coal-fired power plants and come closer to doing its share of reducing emission of greenhouse gases.
The road to energy independence through nuclear power has been cleared of its mystery, uncertainty and threat. It is now a well-marked super highway leading to a known destination. We should get on it and go.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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