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Nuclear power isn't the answer, expert says

Nov 4, 2009 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Richard Mial La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Former federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford does not believe nuclear power will be a major answer to America's energy issues.

That's because of its high cost, its potential for nuclear weapons proliferation through reprocessing, and the tendency to shift costs from power plant investors to consumers and taxpayers.

Speaking Tuesday night at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Bradford went through a series of what he described as the "myths" of nuclear power.

One is that we are in the midst of a nuclear renaissance, with many power plants being proposed or submitted for licensing in the past decade.

Bush administration officials in 2002 did encourage a rush of nuclear power plant applications by the end of 2008 that drew proposals for more than 30 reactors. But it became apparent not all those applicants were ready to build; about half eventually were either withdrawn or delayed.

Other factors cited include the need to reduce the country's carbon output to reduce global warming and the fact that France gets 80 percent of its electrical output from nuclear plants, "solving" the nuclear waste issue through reprocessing.

But Bradford said the discovery of new natural gas reserves, which produce half the carbon of coal, make nuclear power less necessary.

And France's reprocessing does not reduce the radioactivity, adds greatly to the cost and carries the risk of weapons proliferation, he said.

Bradford's talk was sponsored by the Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.