If you’ve heard me discuss nuclear power often on my morning radio show on New Jersey 101.5 FM and our nightly Fox TV show, Chasing News, then you know that I love it. It’s clean, efficient and enables America to keep up with its continuous demand for energy.
Let’s start with efficiency. One of the most important measurements of energy generation, as reported by the federal government, is capacity factor. It’s how we measure the ratio of actual energy generated compared to a power plant’s potential output over a period of time.
Not sure what that really means? More simply, higher is better. Nuclear comes in at a stellar 92 percent capacity, compared with about 33 percent for wind and between 22 and 29 percent for solar.
Wind and solar facilities require more land. And, more importantly, more time than not is spent not producing any energy. In layman’s terms, the sun only shines half the time and the wind isn’t always blowing.
Bill Levis, president of PSEG Power, brought me, my producer, Chris Swendeman, and my Chasing News colleague, Jessica Nutt, along for a tour of the Salem County site of three of New Jersey’s four nuclear reactors – Salem 1, Salem 2 and Hope Creek. (New Jersey’s fourth nuclear power plant is Oyster Creek in Ocean County.) We spent time in the control room simulator, on the firing range (yes, right there on the site to train security personnel) and touring the protected areas of the station, observing security and safety measures in place to prevent a Fukushima-like disaster or terrorist attack.
During this highly educational tour, we came away with a strong understanding of just how professional and well-trained the teams are who provide our nuclear power – which accounts for as much as half the electricity generated in New Jersey. We saw how hard they train to make sure they are able to keep the lights on through terrible weather or a deliberate attack.
Although there was a law passed in the 1980s directing nuclear waste to be transported and deposited to a site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, that hasn’t happened. Because of political posturing and fear-mongering, each nuclear power plant across the nation is responsible for storing its own spent fuel. At the Salem site, spent fuel rods are stored above-ground in concrete and steel casings weighing 180 tons apiece.
After decades of generating power, the spent fuel didn’t strike me as taking up much space, but the weight is explained by the incredible density of uranium.
Nevada’s Yucca Mountain site is situated between a desert and an old nuclear weapons test site. Yup, the middle of nowhere. Although considering the dry cask encasement, security and the remote location of the South Jersey site, the waste is fine where it is.
It does beg the question, however, of why a nation that relies on nuclear power for 20 percent of its electricity generation hasn’t been able to come together to pick a waste disposal site that will keep the spent fuel safely separated from the population. They had one job … pick a site already.
Either way, nuclear is among the cleanest sources of energy, it’s incredibly reliable and some of the best security forces and technology are in place to keep our nuclear sites safe. It’s time to expand our nuclear energy capacity. In France, more than 75 percent of electrical generation is from nuclear.
Nuclear energy is cheaper for consumers, better for the environment and able to handle America’s energy needs. Let’s stop wasting time and resources on wasteful, inefficient “alternative” energy sources like solar and wind – which operate only with huge subsidies from taxpayers. Nuclear and natural gas are the future of American energy independence and a clean environment.
For a behind-the-scenes look at the Salem nuclear power plant, click here or watch the video below.
Bill Spadea – New Jersey 101.5 FM