As the United States struggles to find ways to combat climate change by reducing its emissions and ease its dependence on foreign energy, Greenpeace and countless other Environmental Idealists are a barrier to a cleaner, greener America. They demand a perfect form of energy – one without risk, without fuel, without waste, without pollution, without emission, without environmental drawbacks. In doing so, they take the perfect and make it an enemy of the good.

For over fifty years, the United States (and the rest of the world) has had the magic bullet that would solve its energy needs and reduce its emissions. Yet, because of misinformed voters, television and print smear campaigns, a plethora of science fiction literature, and Environmental Idealists, we are still afraid of the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable form of power the world has ever known: Nuclear Energy.

But how can nuclear energy by the cleanest form of energy? What about all that nasty radiation? Well, it turns out nuclear plants are incredibly well-sealed. In fact, living next to a nuclear power plant for your entire life wouldn’t expose you to much more radiation than your smoke detector will.

Coal power belches tons of Radon, sealed in most carbon-based fuels, into the air every year. To put things into perspective, a nuclear power plant produces one-hundred times less radiation per watt it produces than a coal plant.

There is one byproduct that everyone is concerned about, and rightfully so: Nuclear waste. Here in America, we have a very inefficient system for dealing with waste – we use nuclear fuel once and then dispose of it. Most countries simply throw it back into the reactor and get another fuel cycle out of it, again and again.

France is a great example of efficiency in this respect (though it hurts me to admit it). They reprocess their waste, getting outrageously more watts out of every piece of Uranium mined than we do. And the end result is much less nuclear waste that, though far more radioactive, is inert within a matter of decades (compared to several thousand years or more standard for U.S. waste).

But even the somewhat inadequate temporary nuclear storage facilities that we are using in the States today are safe and secure. They are shielded from radiation, well-guarded and inaccessible. While we recommend going forward with the Yucca Mountain Storage Facility, in the meantime, we still think it is safe to store nuclear waste in these temporary facilities.

And before we’re swamped with angry letters, no: we are not concerned with a meltdown. The last U.S. meltdown ended with zero (yes, zero) casualties. In fact, almost every nuclear meltdown ends the same way – no casualties, no radiation exposure. Modern U.S. nuclear plant design, regulation, and governmental response procedures make it impossible (read: impossible) for a Chernobyl-like meltdown.

A brief, if controversial, history lesson: Chernobyl was a combination of poor regulatory procedures, a criminally inadequate power plant design, under-trained technicians and a brief Soviet attempt at a cover-up that ended up killing or exposing thousands of people unnecessarily.

Besides, the zero American deaths convincingly linked to nuclear power plants sure sounds better than the tens of thousands of American deaths definitively linked to coal power every single year.

Sure, it’s easy to beat coal power when it comes to being clean and safe. It’s like beating up your little brother (your sooty, carbon-spewing, carbon-emitting little brother). What about solar and wind? Surely those are cleaner and greener!

Think again. Let’s ignore the fact that, for the foreseeable future, wind and solar power are a Hippie’s pipe dream for meeting American’s power needs.

Barring solar and wind power being properly integration into a power grid, something we haven’t quite worked out yet, we still need a way to save all that energy we could get from the sun for a rainy day or wind from a calm, overcast one. That means batteries, and lots of them.

Let’s not go into the chemistry of a battery today – all that is important is that we all know to eat them. Anyone who’s changed an old car battery knows that it’s probably best to keep those fragrant juices off your pants. The reason for that is simple: battery acid is highly corrosive and toxic.

Imagine a network of hundreds of millions of car batteries constantly being charged and discharged to maintain a power grid. I don’t need to point out the chemical waste produced by that endeavor (but I have anyway).

And unless we want to convince the entire state of Montana to hightail it to Wyoming, we’re going to have to find a way to reduce the land footprint of solar and wind power. Simply put, they take up a great bit of land.

Are we saying we shouldn’t keep researching solar and wind power sources? Of course not. When properly integrated into the power grid (a residential model on a roof, or on the side of a skyscraper), they can produce a large amount of energy, if perhaps not so reliably. It is a great way for homeowners and businesses to save a great deal of money on their energy bills.

But integrating them into the power grid to save money and trying to power an entire nation with them are two quite distinct things. Solar and wind power simply cannot, and will not, provide a primary source of power for the United States.

And while we’re spending billions trying to encourage research on renewable energy sources, coal, oil and natural gas plants continue to belch Radon and soot into the air every day, poison our air and our drinking water, kill tens of thousands of people in the U.S. every year, and push us ever-closer to a full-blown climate meltdown. The solution exists: we may not like it, but we don’t have much choice but to take it.

For every Environmental Idealist trying to save the world by painting their house with solar film and strapping a wind generator to their window sill, we need a pragmatic environmentalist who will embrace the clean, safe energy of atomic power. It’s the greenest thing to do.

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