I have had the opportunity this weekend to engage in two rewarding online discussion threads about the future of nuclear energy in Minnesota, a state that currently has a law on the books that is viewed as an effective moratorium on new nuclear power plants. Though Minnesota is a bit too far north for me and my wife to consider as a potential residence, I have enjoyed a visit or two. I also have thoroughly enjoyed friendships developed with people from that cold, but beautiful and progressive state. No matter what you might think of the rather liberal politics that prevail there, it is hard to disagree with the way that the people in Minnesota converse with mutual respect.
One site, MinnPost.com, hosting an article and conversation about nuclear energy titled Minnesota and nuclear power has a rather rare commenting policy; the terms of service require people to provide their real names and the site posts those names on each of the comments. I have been an active member of the online community of pro-nuclear activists since 1991 when I first adopted the handle of “atomicrod” on America Online. It is always a pleasure to find people willing to use their real name; it tends to keep the conversation away from flame wars when people take responsibility for their words.
Aside: As I posted that, I realized that I just passed my twentieth anniversary as “atomicrod”. I created that name in early January 1991. End Aside.
Another Minnesota-related site hosting a conversation about nuclear energy did not have the “real name” posting policy, but it still attracted a rather civil crowd full of people who were honestly willing to read and learn from others. That conversation took place in response to Franken backs nuclear power as Legislature mulls more plants. I got attracted into that conversation when I saw a tweet indicating that Franken credited a conversation with Al Gore for turning him into a nuclear advocate. That was an intriguing announcement.
I was copied on an email sent to Minnesota legislators from one participant in that comment thread. That email is evidence of a tiny step forward in a continuing effort to share enough nuclear knowledge to convince people that the technology is worth developing. Here is a copy of that email, with the addresses redacted.
Rep. Roger and Sen. Tony,
(Hello Rep. Bill and Sen. Scott!)
CC: Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights
It so happened that the Minnesota Independent recently posted a short article saying Senator Al Franken “has changed his mind and now backs nuclear power.”
Franken backs nuclear power as Legislature mulls more plants
I participated as “Lane” in the discussion thread to this article. As it turned out, I was able to move the discussion beyond the usual, non-productive snarkfest into a rather meaningful dialogue. What Rod Adams, Ken Johnson and to a lesser extent John Farmer said has caused me to re-consider my opposition to lifting the moratorium on new nuclear power plants in Minnesota. Mind you, I do not have the expertise to evaluate their assertions which basically are that modern nuclear power plant designs are such that the nuclear pile shuts down automatically if something goes wrong – loss of coolant, human error, enemy attack, whatever – as well as current technologies and know how allowing us to re-process spent fuel, of which we have a 1,000 year supply already here in the United States. Right now, the United States does not re-process spent fuel. If what they say is true, then my main concerns of Chernobyl/Three Mile Island contamination risks and nuclear wastes seem to no longer be as valid.
Unfortunately, I am not able to accurately summarize what all is going on much less have the necessary expertise to do so, but I wanted to bring this to your attention on the chance you might want to skim the discussion thread focusing on comments by Rod Adams and Ken Johnson and see where that might take you as you legislators discuss whether or not to lift the moratorium.
Some links from this discussion thread:
Atomic Insights: http://atomicinsights.com/
Atomic Insights Blog: http://www.atomicinsights.blogspot.com/
U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Policy: Road to Nowhere: http://www.masterresource.org/2010/07/spent-nuke-fuel-policy-5/
Joseph Gonyeau’s Virtual Nuclear Tourist: http://www.nucleartourist.com/
Robert Stone’s project “Pandora’s Promise”: http://robertstoneproductions.com/pandoras-promise/
Again, if modern nuclear power plant designs are truly failsafe and there is a truly working, effective process in place here in the United States to re-process spent fuel to the point where the remaining fuel requires only 300-400 years of storage to decay beyond normal background radiation and there is a way to ensure taxpayers and ratepayers are not left dangling with billions of dollars should “something go wrong,” then I see no reason to continue the moratorium. I hate the oil exporting countries, North Dakota coal and inefficient corn ethanol. I also hate that we are storing all that Prairie Island waste next to the politically powerless Indian reservation. This is a matter of common sense where party ideologies and entrenched anti-nuclear interests have no role, and at the same time, we need to keep a close eye on the nuclear industry that no doubt is salivating at the opportunities that the lifted moratorium would offer.
As always, good, solid information is power – and doesn’t necessarily corrupt like ideology and self-serving agendas …
Thank you for your attention.
There was one more Minnesota-hosted conversation about nuclear energy at the PostBulletin.com as a result of an editorial titled Editorial: End nuclear moratorium, keep options open. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in that one because I am having technical issues with the validation step for my profile. However, that thread resulted in a follow-up as the editorial of the week because it generated the most interesting set of responses. Readers respond: Should Minnesota build more nuclear power plants?.
Bottom line – civil conversation is worthwhile and one of the reasons that I really like being an American living during the online era. Let’s all try to make sure that the conversations can continue.