Blow nuclear power away

Friday, March 7, 2008

According to an Associated Press report on Thursday, a bill encouraging development of more nuclear power plants in this state has passed the Kansas Senate by a 32-8 vote, sending the bill to the House.

Specifically, it would allow utility companies to recover, through increased electric rates, the cost of studying the feasibility of building a nuclear power plant. In addition, it would set rules for depreciation that would encourage nuclear power plant construction.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, is pushing the measure, saying the state needs more nuclear power to meet energy needs in the future.

He said, "We need to be dealing with all kinds of generation and this will be a major player in 10 to 15 years."

He's right about the increasing need for electric power. But shouldn't the safety of Kansans and concern for the environment be a primary consideration? There are better options than nuclear power.

Why should expanding the use of nuclear power -- which creates tons of radioactive waste that must be transported through communities to waste sites hundreds of miles away -- be encouraged when Kansas has one of the highest potentials of any state for generating clean energy with wind power?

It just doesn't make sense.

Some argue that clusters or lines of wind turbines, rising has high as 400 feet, would spoil the scenery. Hawaiians don't seem to worry about that, as there are wind turbines in plain sight on the mountain ridges of Oahu's north shore, and that state depends much more on its scenic areas to attract tourism than does Kansas. Besides, Kansas already has rural water towers and grain elevators dotting the landscape and giant power line towers that aren't nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the sleek, white bladed spires that soar into the sky. To some of us, wind generators are handsome structures resembling kinetic sculptures.

But if spoiling the landscape scenery is really a widespread concern, Kansas could consider flying wind generators, which soar like kites and were developed by Sky WindPower, a company based in San Diego, Calif.

Some detractors say wind generators are noisy and tend to kill birds. Following that logic, we should shut down McConnell Air Force Base, all of the aircraft plants and all of the commercial airports in the state, then ban motorcycles, semi-trucks, trains and loud cars.

There are proponents of nuclear power who say wind power isn't dependable, because wind velocity increases and decreases.

Cristina Archer of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., along with a colleague, has determined that the world's wind energy potential is 35 times the current global energy demands. They have also shown that wind power can produce a stable energy supply.

While the nature of wind is to gust and lull, an article in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology reports that a large network of interconnected wind farms could stabilize the generated energy supply, solving the problem of intermittent production.

Wind power isn't some fad. Humans have been harnessing and using the power of the wind for thousands of years. It doesn't have to be mined, it doesn't pollute the environment, it doesn't produce radioactive waste that endangers human life. It's clean, it's safe, it's easily accessible, it can't be depleted, and it's there for the taking.