Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Power and Disasters

Let me start this post by saying that I have supervised the operation of nuclear power plants and consider them safe. However, today's events in Japan illustrate a weakness of nuclear power that is lost in the concern over radiation safety. By their nature, nuclear power requires the centralization and concentration of the production of electricity. This is an inherent weakness from a safety and security perspective. Any untoward event, whether an earthquake such as in Japan, or a terrorist attack, takes a large percentage of the electrical generating capacity off line. This further complicates the recovery efforts.

It would seem more prudent to have a much more dispersed generating capability. The electrical grid itself has many of the properties of the internet in terms of its reach and scope, but is much more vulnerable to the centralization of production. Unfortunately, since electric utilities are regulated monopolies, the incentives to innovate are few. As the true cost of solar power drops, it may become a real alternative to the traditional model of production. However, I would like to see businesses who have a need for secure power be allowed to run their own micro-generators and sell back power to the grid. Economic incentives are needed because such a model is not advantageous to the power companies, who are government monopolies.

We had some bad experiences with attempting to bring competition to power generation, mostly because of the perverse incentives built into the legislation, such as prohibiting the transmission companies from buying long term contracts. But the idea of introducing more competition deserves further consideration because it would diversify production and enhance security.


  1. I don't know how your would get them to reliquish the monopolies. I think that genie is too hard to get back in the bottle. But I get your point.

    I do wish you would blog on the radiation saftey and possible or likely fallout.

  2. I am not expert on these types of reactor.

  3. Couldn't agree more. If we really want to go "green" and protect security, the old paradigm has to change (not that I want to see nuclear abandoned at all, hell, we need more,...lets just have all of the above).