The nuclear option

New Hampshire has a nuclear power plant. The Seabrook Station was originally intended to have two reactors, but due to huge protests from the anti-nuclear crowd and economic necessities, only the first was completed. The incomplete containment dome sits next to it, a spectre of what might have been.

But with the increase in oil prices and the steadily rising demand for electricity, some people are looking at that second structure and wondering if the time has come to complete it.

Now, let me make one thing abundantly clear: I am unabashedly pro-nuclear. There have been exactly two major incidents involving nuclear power, and — as the saying goes — Ted Kennedy’s driving has killed more people than Three Mile Island has. The other, Chernobyl, was yet one more reminder of how horrific things can get under socialism and communism, and a government is utterly unaccountable to the people.

That being said, I have to say I don’t think finishing off Seabrook II is such a good idea. In fact, I don’t think Seabrook I was well-advised.

While I believe that nuclear power has proven itself a safe and sound technology (just ask the Navy — they’ve built and used most likely over a hundred in the past half-century, without a major problem), the reality is that under current regulations, there have to be emergency evacuation plans for the areas surrounding nuclear plants — and for political reasons, those plans should have prevented New Hampshire from building a nuclear power plant.

Geographically speaking, New Hampshire really only has one place suitable for a nuclear power plant — and that’s along the seacoast. The Lakes Region was considered, but I believe it was rejected for geographic instability. A reactor needs access to lots of water for cooling, and the Atlantic Ocean suits that purpose quite nicely.

Evacuation plans were drafted by the state, but the problem is that the plans have to cover a certain radius around the plant — and New Hampshire’s coastline is so short, there was nowhere to put it that wouldn’t intrude on either Maine or Massachusetts. And Seabrook’s radius cuts into the northernmost of the Bay State’s seacoast community.

Now, New Hampshire could simply force its own towns and cities to come up with plans, or impose them on the communities. But Salisbury, MA could just thumb its nose at New Hampshire with impunity — and did. The matter finally went to the courts, and Salisbury found itself with a plan it described as impractical, unethical, and impossible — but the plant went online anyway.

So now we find ourselves about 15 years since Seabrook I first went online, and 15 years have passed without incident. So, should we go ahead and finish the second one?

I have to disagree with some of my fellow Granite Staters (some I respect more than others). New Hampshire just isn’t set up to support and host a nuclear power plant under the current regulations and state of the art. Perhaps when fusion becomes practical, it might work, for for now we ought to just make do without.

(A halfway-decent history of Seabrook can be seen here, and the plant’s own site is here.)

The journey of a thousand faces ...
Playing with fire


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