Yes in My Backyard


When I was a kid, I vaguely recall reading an article about “NIMBY” which stands for “Not In My BackYard”. The idea is that people wanted things like manufactured goods but they didn’t want to have to hear the sounds of actually making them or smelling the smells. It’s like people who love beef but can’t stand the smell of manure.

Thankfully, it seems for at least the people living in the Tri-Cities area, they are willing to live next to the nuclear power plant that would give them cheap and plentiful energy, all with zero pollution.

As for me, I know nuclear power, I know how it works, and I know its risks. I would be perfectly fine raising my kids in the same water source shared by a nuclear power plant, downstream even. I know that there is absolutely no risk with modern nuclear techniques, and I know that there is zero contact between the outside water supply and the nuclear material. I also know that we all live in the middle of radioactivity, and as far as we can tell, low levels are completely harmless. Of course, living near a nuclear power plant would not have any effect on radiation levels at all, since it is completely isolated from the outside world.

I know the jokes on The Simpsons that make it seem like nuclear power creates mutant fish, or they have to dump buckets of glowing green liquid in the water in order to keep the plant running. If you can’t see that The Simpsons is fantasy, I can’t help you. But for the sake of those who can’t shake the feeling that nuclear power is somehow dangerous, let me assure you of some things.

  • The byproducts of nuclear power production are not liquids. They are rods or rather pellets.
  • The byproducts are stored in massive pools buried under thick layers of concrete. Divers regularly dive into these waters to make sure the water is circulating properly. The water is completely safe unless you are very near to the byproducts.
  • The byproducts would glow a deep blue, not green. This is due to the Cerenkov Radiation due to particles traveling faster than the speed of light in that material. It is an ethereal, dim light.
  • The amount of nuclear byproducts produced by a nuclear power plant are minuscule compared to the amount of power produced. We haven’t yet settled on where we want to store these products so each power plant simply stores it on location — behind thick concrete walls in deep pools. We have no concerns about running out of space any time soon. There is no ticking time bomb, there is no rush, and we’ll likely figure a way to use the radioactive byproducts to make more energy. (The inert byproducts are useless in terms of nuclear energy — and harmless aside from whatever chemical properties they naturally have.)

I can’t wait until the United States, and the rest of the world, embraces nuclear power en masse. Having such a limitless, abundant supply of electricity could potentially end our dependence on oil, especially if it is combined with some new technology like supercapacitors (as transporting power in smaller quantities is still not easy.) I don’t know how much total uranium the planet Earth has, but we have plenty of proven supplies today and it’s not very hard to find more. Honestly, leaving the uranium in our crust probably does far more harm to the environment than using it for power generation. (The same for crude oil. I’d much rather have CO2 in our atmosphere than crude oil in our soil.)


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