Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

Opinion: Nuclear energy is green solution for Missouri

Posted online

Aesop vividly illustrated the foolishness of killing the goose that lays golden eggs. Some of us feel we are observing the modern-day version of that fable when it comes to the Green New Deal.

The GND proposes to decommission all U.S. nuclear power plants within 10 years. In 2018, nuclear power generation accounted for 19.3% of our nation’s electricity.

To further confound matters, the GND calls for the elimination of fossil fuels for both power production and transportation in order to combat climate change. Ironically, nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gases – none, nada, zilch. Additionally, they emit none of the traditional air pollutants, and the trace amounts of radioactive emissions are less than those emitted by coal-fired power plants. As an environmentalist with a lifelong career in air quality control, that sure sounds like a golden egg to me.

It appears the GND backers are putting all of their eggs in just two baskets: solar and wind. Both are intermittent power sources. Solar contributed only 2.3% of U.S. power in 2018. Wind contributed 6.6%, but presents its own unique problem for rural Missouri. The East Coast will soon face a huge energy deficit, but the major wind sources are west of Missouri. Many major transmission lines will be required to move the wind power to the users. The battles over the use of eminent domain to construct those power lines across Missouri already have begun.

Any discussion about the future of nuclear power generation leads to the topic of disposal of high-level radioactive waste. A permanent waste depository has been partially constructed in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. However, funding for the Yucca Mountain project was blocked by former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012. Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid led the fight that doomed the project.

Missouri has one nuclear power plant located in Callaway County. For 35 years, it has provided power for 800,000 households, representing 9.7% of Missouri’s power production. Ameren, owner of the facility, considered building a second unit at the same site, but Missouri’s construction-work-in-progress law prohibiting cost recovery during construction has been blamed for sinking the plan. The Missouri legislature should re-examine that statute.

I believe Missouri Farm Bureau policy on nuclear energy is squarely on target. It calls for expansion of nuclear energy, advanced research on waste disposal and legislative action to allow cost recovery during construction of new power plants.

Electric vehicles, robots, cryptocurrency mining and electric gizmos yet to be invented will continue to intensify energy demands. Nuclear power has to be part of the answer. Fortunately, signs of renewed interest in nuclear energy seem to be emerging.

The U.S. Senate and House both introduced pro-nuclear legislation this summer. The legislation is known as the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. Let’s hope it jump-starts a more serious discussion about the use of nuclear technology to help shape a strong and prosperous future for our great nation.

Ron Boyer is a member of the Greene County Farm Bureau and serves on the Missouri Air Conservation Commission. He can be contacted through the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation,


1 comment on this story |
Please log in to add your comment

The problem with traditional nuclear power is that, while it may not produce CO2 or "GreenHouse Gas emissions," it does create other "emissions" (nuclear waste) which take MILLENNIA to neutralize. That's far longer than it takes for natural processes to break down CO2, methane or other GHGs, and the "emissions" are far more toxic.

If the half-life of a particular, radioactive material is 1 year, it will take about 10 years to get down to 0.1% of its radioactive output (1/2 ^ 10 = 1/1024 = < 0.1%); that's assuming it doesn't decay into something that's more radioactive. One of the more abundant radioactive elements frequently found in nuclear waste, Technetium 99, has a half-life of 211,000 years. I'll let you do the math on that one.

Suffice to say, some of these materials will take longer than the recorded history of mankind for their radioactive output to settle down to safe levels. Any question why Harry Reid didn't want them stored in Nevada?

Where do you propose putting the waste storage site? If you want to expand nuclear power's use in Missouri, the proposed waste disposal site should also be in the state of Missouri. Saying that we want to expand the use here but ship the waste elsewhere is, at best, hypocritical.

that's the problem, when it comes to nuclear power. Everyone wants the power. But the reactors and the waste storage ... put it anywhere, so long as it's Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY). Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer places which aren't in someone's "back yard."

Assuming that we could use one of the myriad nuclear power options which DOESN'T produce long-lived nuclear waste, I'm with you 100%. I was particularly fond of the design for the Integral Fast Reactor, which was tested in Idaho during the Clinton years. You could chemically process a lot of existing nuclear waste, resulting in inert materials (being considerably less radioactive / dangerous) and active materials (which went into the reactor as nuclear fuel). The output could be reprocessed in the exact same fashion, with the active materials going BACK into the reactor. It got a lot more energy out of each 1,000 pounds of nuclear fuel, produced inert waste that wasn't nearly so dangerous AND was engineered to auto-shutdown if it started to overheat (no chance of a Chernobyl or Three Mile Island repeat).

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Editors' Pick
Open for Business: Element Springfield South

Element Springfield South opened; Outlaw Gentlemen Barbershop added a second location; and wellness studio Stretch Zone launched.

Most Read Poll
What kind of housing does Springfield need more of?


View results

Update cookies preferences