Vail Daily letter: Make nuclear energy safer |

Vail Daily letter: Make nuclear energy safer

Ryan Bowers
Avon CO Colorado

The strongly anti-nuclear-energy media are busy pushing the stories about earthquake damage to nuclear reactors in Japan. If the reactors do fail spectacularly, it will certainly be a big deal. But if they don’t, the media will still have had their impact.

What this story should be telling us is to modernize and upgrade our nuclear facilities to newer technology. Nuclear engineers have made many design improvements in the years since the mid ’70s, when environmental extremists effectively shut down the breeder reactor concept. Breeder reactors would have recycled nuclear waste, making our nuclear resources last longer, with lower environmental impact when it finally was spent.

Today, new reactor designs eliminate many of the earlier risks, and are safer and simpler, compared to older designs which require complex electro-mechanical devices to stabilize them. A natural disaster, such as an earthquake, can interfere with these safety devices. A pebble bed reactor, to give just one example, will simply and automatically reduce its output to safe levels if it loses coolant or containment. It can’t melt down, and it can’t explode, and it doesn’t require any complex devices to control it. It can also be refueled while in service – not a safety feature as such, but still very nice to have.

Nothing is perfectly safe, and high energy always entails high risk. High voltage, high speed, high pressure, high heights, powerful springs, strong chemicals can all kill a person, or persons, instantly. Our current aversion to any and all risk is unrealistic. Instead of frightening people about nuclear energy, the media should be using this event to promote safer, more sustainable (and greener) nuclear energy.

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