Written By: Mike Straub
How about that earthquake? For the first time in more than 60 years, North Carolina to Canada felt a 5.8 magnitude quake centered 80 miles from Washington, D.C. A few days later, Hurricane Irene blew through the east coast, knocking out power to more than a million people. There’s been substantial flooding from the Carolinas to Vermont with some sitting in the dark for five days. Perhaps most shocking – news that nuclear power plants shut down. During the quake and the storm, when Governors spoke out about the latest news in their state, each mentioned the status of nuclear facilities.
The most discussed site was the North Anna nuclear plant, located miles from the epicenter in Virginia. The plant lost power, relied on three diesel back-up generators, and a fourth generator failed. Nuclear plants run on back-up power when needed – one of the key reasons for Japan’s Fukashima plant disaster was the failure of back-up generators.
How would you feel if you lived near the North Anna plant in Virginia and discovered three of the four generators were down? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is so concerned about North Anna’s ability to withstand quakes that they plan to perform a seismic risk assessment on the plant. (It’s important to note that the NRC will be conducting similar inspections on 26 other plants across the U.S.).
Across the country, multiple communities debate both sides of the nuclear power debate. Proponents argue that it is cleaner and more efficient than coal. However, many east coaters near power plants are concerned about the potential effect that a (minor) quake could have on the reactors. Wouldn’t you be worried?
The bottom line:
Millions are wondering if nuclear power is worth the stress – It’s no fun living in fear of your local power plant. There are too many valid, yet unanswered points. For example, the U.S. remains unsure of the danger of nuclear waste and how to properly store it. More importantly, how will today’s decisions impact future generations?
This is how I see it: We have to commit to building clean, renewable solutions that will help even when a natural disaster strikes. Let’s face it – dialogue and education are important in this discussion. Solutions currently exist, including Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion that is primed to play a role in cleaning the world’s energy. OTEC offers a base-load, 24/7 power that can serve millions living in tropical areas. It’s time to use wind, solar, wave, and other emerging technologies today because they are poised to change the world tomorrow.