By Scott Tibbs, June 10, 2008
Environmentalists in Indiana are riled up about a plan by Duke Energy to build a coal-fired power plant in Edwardsport, southwest of Bloomington. Duke (and its supporters) argue that the plant is an environmentally responsible use of a fairly abundant resource, while critics question the environmental impact and contend that Hoosiers will have to pay for a plant that will supply electricity to other states. I have not deeply researched the issue, but from what I have read it does not seem like a bad idea.
My main problem with a new coal-fired power plant is we're still building up fossil fuel infrastructure instead of directing the money where it needs to go, which is building more nuclear power plants. The reason Duke's proposed coal plant in Edwardsport is being praised is the efforts made to reduce pollution, but with nuclear power you do not have harmful emissions that pollute our air and water. As the Heritage Foundation's Jack Spencer points out, if we're serious about preventing climate change, we need to move toward nuclear power.
The biggest problem with nuclear power is dealing with nuclear waste. Stored and secured properly, nuclear waste can be safely disposed of and allowed to harmlessly release radiation over time. Both Barack Obama and John McCain should call for Congress to quickly remove roadblocks to storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain and promise to press the issue if elected President this November. The risk of a terrorist attack or a nuclear meltdown is very small, but the damage done by creating more pollution with coal power is real and growing.
Nuclear power is not a panacea that will solve all of this nation's energy problems. But, combined with other technologies to produce power and finding more ways to conserve energy, nuclear power is a key piece of the puzzle. The challenge of providing the energy this country needs is only going to increase over the next four years, and the next President needs to embrace nuclear power as a critical part of the solution.