Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nuclear Power: "Endangered" by Drought?

An AP story has been circulating declaring that nuclear power in the southeast is "endangered by drought," and that the current situation is "becoming a crisis." It quotes North Carolina's homegrown antinuclear group, NC WARN, in claiming that "Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel." Since I'm currently living in North Carolina, I'd like to offer my take on the situation.

The genesis of the problem, in my view, is neither the existence of a drought, nor some inherent shortcoming of nuclear power. It is true that the existing plants in the region were not designed with these circumstances in mind. But all this was known, and it should have been included in the water management practices of the region. The real snafu was in the failure to manage the region's water resources more conservatively. It's only been relatively recently that many of the local municipalities have tried to rein in water use. I believe this was due in part to an expectation that the hurricane season would replenish the water reservoirs, which didn't happen. Because of the lack of coordinated action and the wishful thinking of our state and local leaders, we are facing some dire consequences that will hit the poor especially hard. If conservation measures had been in place earlier and energy infrastructure had been prioritized in water outlays, we would be in far better shape overall. Instead government incompetence and irresponsibility has left us in a situation where we stand to lack for water and electricity.

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