The July 7 article “Nuclear reactions” lambasted SCE&G for its stance on developing nuclear power plants as well as its reliance on coal for supplying a large share of its total power generation definitely calls for a rebuttal. Let’s take a look at what power sources are available:
Coal supplies around 38 percent of America’s total power needs. The downside is that it produces a lot of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.
Natural gas supplies around 30 percent of the total power needs. It produces some carbon dioxide but a lot less than coal.
Nuclear supplies around 20 percent of total power needs. It produces zero carbon dioxide so does not contribute to global warming. The downside is that the reaction process has to be very carefully monitored and controlled to prevent any release of radioactivity.
Hydroelectric plants are mainly limited to the mountains out West and they supply around 7 percent, pollution-free power but can be affected in the event of prolonged droughts. It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in hydroelectric power since most of the easy sites are already being used.
Next is wind power which supplies almost 4 percent — provided that the wind is blowing. For this reason it cannot be relied on for supplying base loads. People living nearby complain of a background hum and the effect on birds is not yet documented.
Solar power comes in dead last at 0.1 percent.
The use of coal continues to decline so even though there is enough coal in America to supply our energy needs for the next 200 plus years it will and maybe should be phased out due to its impact on greenhouse gases.
Natural gas is regarded by many as the way, the only way, to go. This is OK as long as there is enough gas waiting to be extracted. The recent move to “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) wherein fluid is pumped under very high pressures to force the bedrock to split apart and release the natural gas that is trapped therein. This whole process is in its infancy, and there may be some undesirable side effects that could become an environmental nightmare. In other words, what appears to be a bonanza could be a bust.
This leaves nuclear power to shoulder the burden, with France being the clear leader at 75 percent of its total power needs. It is true that nuclear power can cause big problems if the process is not properly controlled but evidently the French have figured out how to harness nuclear power in a safe way. Over the years there have been no reports of problems.
Let’s get real and get serious about building nuclear reactors to satisfy the ever burgeoning need for additional electricity. SCE&G should be applauded for its willingness to invest in the future by going nuclear.