This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

March 28, 2001

Nuclear Renaissance

Talk with the futurists...this Friday. See details at end of Trend Alert.

Earth's demands for energy will continue to grow. Our world population is growing. Technological development requires more electricity. Man will continue to search for viable fuel alternatives---ways to produce power with minimal negative impact on the planet's environment.

The nuclear power industry has been downsizing for the past decade. Plants were built in the 1970s with an expected 40 year life. Professional management of these facilities has improved output and driven costs down. They're operating in the neighborhood of 85 percent capacity, a pretty high mark considering the need to take plants off-line periodically for refueling. The 103 operating plants in the United States produce one-fifth of the nation's power. Surveys show that over 60 percent of the population favors nuclear power, particularly in light of the increasing costs--financial and otherwise --of competing fossil fuels. Relatively speaking, nuclear is a bargain.

We may be on the threshold of a renaissance in nuclear power. A resurgence of interest in the use of nuclear energy to meet our needs is stimulating significant discussion. A Nuclear Energy Institute task force is even considering new construction, something we haven't seen in over twenty years. Expectations are that new facilities will be built on sites already in use for nuclear power generation, rather than developing new sites.

Proponents of nuclear energy point out that this energy alternative is more safe, efficient, and economical than ever before. And nuclear power generation doesn't contribute to global warning. A 600-megawatt plant, small and fast to build, can furnish power to 500,000 homes. And once that electricity is funneled into the power grid, it can be sold anywhere, including power-short California.

The common argument will be to build the nuclear plants anywhere . . . except in my backyard. There is still a fear of this technology, despite statistics that show plants are safe. With tight regulation, safety is strongly emphasized. Environmentalists, torn between opposing drilling in environmentally sensitive areas and supporting alternative forms of energy production, will reluctantly support a nuclear renaissance. With improvements over the years, perhaps the time has come for this alternative fuel.

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