Sun, Wind, and Tidal Power Obviate Need for Nuke Plants


1-16-07, 8:51 am

Although the nuclear power lobby claims 'we need all energy options,' there is no need for the atomic choice when so many safe, renewable, alternatives are becoming economically feasible. Rapid strides are being made to harness the power of the sun, sea, wind, and other natural sources to generate electricity that does not befoul the atmosphere and endanger life on the planet. 'The combination of wind power, tidal power, micro-hydro, and biomass make renewable power ever more practical,' writes Dr. Helen Caldicott in her book, 'Nuclear Power is Not The Answer'(New Press.) 'Windpower and biomass are now almost as cheap as coal, and wave power and solar photovoltaics are rapidly becoming competitive.' Caldicott, the forceful antinuclear champion, cites the findings of the New Economics Foundation that renewable energy is 'quick to build, abundant, and cheap to harvest, and it is safe, flexible, secure, and climate friendly.' What's more, 'renewable electricity generation produces electricity at the point of use, making large-scale grid connections unnecessary' so that 'from an economic standpoint, renewable sources of energy make a great deal of sense,' she writes. Caldicott argues the U.S. has a special obligation to utilize renewable energy. In 2001, the U.S., with just 4.5% of the world's population, accounted for 24% of electricity-related carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Already widely in use in Europe, Caldicott says wind power 'is rapidly becoming the energy of the future.' In 2004, six times as much new wind power was generated as nuclear power, showing that canny investors are well on the road to an option that produces results without perils. Indeed, a study Caldicott cites made by Stanford University's Çhristina Archer and Mark Jacobson of 8,000 wind records from every continent, found a resource of 72 terawatts, 40 times the amount of electricity used by all nations in year 2000. The potential of wind power alone, which currently contributes less than one percent of the world's electricity, is enormous, particularly in America, across the prairie and Great Lakes states. Since the mid-1990s, Caldicott points out, hundreds of wind turbines have sprung up in Minnesota built by large corporations that pay farmers from $2,000 to $5,000 per machine. And John Deere and other farm equipment-makers and local banks, have begun to invest money in wind power farms for their lucrative returns. U.S. farmers are also cashing in other other types of green power including ethanol and soy diesel refineries in southwest Minnesota and anaerobic digesters that convert manure to green electricity. 'With these types of alternatives, money that normally would be paid out to huge energy monopolies stays in the community, local jobs are created, local banks become involved, and communities prosper,' Caldicott said. At the same time, solar power is becoming ever more competitive. Ten to 20 trillion watts of solar power from photovoltaic cells could replace all conventional energy sources currently in use. And a photovoltaic array covering half a sunny area measuring 100 square miles 'could meet all the annual U.S. electricity needs,' she adds. Incentives encouraging solar power use are multiplying rapidly. Thirty states, including California, New York, and Texas support solar initiatives by tacking surcharges onto utility bills. A year ago, California enacted a $3-billion solar initiative to subsidize installation of 1-million rooftop solar collectors over the coming decade. It's past time to take advantage of the green renewable energy alternatives being developed having no dangerous downside. Contrast solar or wind power, for example, with electricity generated by nuclear plants with their routine venting of radioactive emissions into our rivers and skies, their accidental leaks, their threat of perilous, cancer-causing meltdowns, their vulnerability to terrorist attack, and their radioactive wastes that pollute the areas where they must be entombed and guarded for hundreds of thousands of years! Given all these reasons, how long do policy makers and the public have to debate this issue?

--Sherwood Ross is an American reporter. Reach him at