Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Replacing smokestacks with cooling towers? …

   What’s the most extreme locally unwanted land use (LULU) that generates the NIMBY response?  Is it a half-way house?  An oil refinery?  Or, as I tell my students when we read the infamous Supreme Court decision in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, group housing for college students?  In terms of effect, opposition to nuclear power plants has been as successful as any effort.  This is not only because a nuclear plant is a LULU: since the incidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power has been a NULU. 
Nuclear_power   But the confluence of concerns over globe-warming greenhouse emissions (a nuclear plant emits almost none) and high energy costs have pushed many to reconsider the benefits of nuclear power.   Although some groups still oppose more such plants, other environmentalists see nuclear plants as a lesser risk to long-term health and safety
   As part of this potential “nuclear renaissance,” electrical authorities in the mid-Atlantic states are planning new plants.  One of the most advanced plans is for a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs, on the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, and the focus of a famous case in the ‘70s that led to the complex federal environmental impact statement process.  What is most interesting about the approval process so far, according to this report, is the lack of strong and vocal public opposition.   Maryland regulatory authorities are holding public hearings this month. 
  If new plants are approved and are built successfully, it may encourage governments at all levels to look to replacing traditional electrical-generating sources with nuclear plants, with profound effects on land use.  It’s a good bet that, 30 years from now, we’ll see fewer coal-belching smokestacks and more nuclear cooling towers –- as well as giant windmills -– across our national landscape.

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