Smog Trumps CO2

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

                         Maria Korsnick

                        Maria Korsnick

Although Maria Korsnick, the new head of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), told skeptical Wall Street analysts in New York recently that supporting financially struggling, aging reactors is critical to curbing heat-trapping emissions, NEI's federal lobbying is now focused on emphasizing baseload nuclear power to support the electric grid.  NEI, the nuclear industry's representative organization, is adjusting its approach because the Trump Administration is skeptical about global warming.  

I suggest that the industry should put smog back at the top of their agenda because it is still killing thousands of people each year.  And there is no bigger enemy to smog than nuclear power plants.  There is no bigger ally to asthmatics and others with respiratory problems than nuclear power plants.  Unfortunately, global warming has almost completely overshadowed the smog issue as a threat to humans.  Yet it appears that  because the public does not get immediately excited over climate change and because the U.S. and state governments are now primarily controlled by Republicans who do not necessarily care about global warming, the industry is changing its tune.  

I suggest that utilizing reliability as a primary concern will not significantly move the public.  That will only happen in areas where there are blackouts and brownouts.  And with cheap gas, utilities and merchant generators are quickly building natural gas-fired power plants.  In fact, it is cheap natural gas that is running nuclear power plants out of business.  

I stand ready to lead the charge in putting smog back at the top of the agenda as a justification for supporting nuclear power plants.  Join with me.  We need to clean the air in virtually every metropolitan area in the United States.  Again,  thousands of Americans are still dying from smog each year.  More than 5,000 will die in California alone this year from smog.  

Nuclear power plants are a technology that does not need lots of regulation to help in solving the air pollution problem.  Combine nuclear power plants with electric vehicles and we can make our metropolitan air pristine again. 

Maria Korsnick was formerly Chief Nuclear Officer, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

(Science Mag, E&E News, 2/9/2017)