Nuclear energy has become a hot topic in the past few weeks. President Obama recently guaranteed $8 million in loans to build two new nuclear power plants in Georgia, and I have heard that the administration hopes to increase this number to $54 million. Authorities have been increasingly turning toward the revival of nuclear energy as a way to meet our nation's energy needs, without contributing significantly to global warming.
The generation of nuclear power creates relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In relation to coal and natural gas, it does not contribute nearly as much to climate change. Large amounts of energy can be generated at one power plant, meaning the actual points of generation can be few and far between.
On the down side, nuclear plants create energy from uranium — a scarce resource which is not expected to be sustainable for more than 60 years. Also, the waste that is emitted from plant production is incredibly dangerous, and according to the EPA, must be looked after for 10,000 years.
So what does this discussion have to do with West Virginia? Nuclear energy, which has for years been banned from production in the state, is now being considered by our state senate as a way to diversify the economy. The WV Senate Energy Committee met two weeks ago, and after much discussion took the first step toward lifting the state's ban on nuclear power plants. The state code has traditionally forbidden nuclear power plants because of the unnecessary hazards they pose to the health and safety of the people of West Virginia. The code also presents the fact that there is not yet an effective method to safely dispose of the radioactive wastes that nuclear plants emit.
The senators who are fighting hard to lift the ban have been constantly referring to West Virginia as "an energy state." The land here has been home to coal and natural gas extraction for generations. If we don't open our doors to nuclear power, than apparently we are disconnecting ourselves from the one thing that West Virginia does best.
I, personally, cannot stand the constant reference to West Virginia as "an energy state." West Virginia is not just energy — it is mountains, rivers and people. This area is one of the most biologically diverse environments outside of the rain forest and is so much more than just a playground for extractive industries. West Virginia already takes on a disproportionate share of the burden of creating our nation's energy. I don't understand why we need to take on one more industry that could gravely endanger our people and our environment. West Virginia is the mountain state, not the energy state.