Posted by: inforodeo | May 13, 2009

The ERROR in BUYING FARMS to BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS

Everyone is looking for cheaper energy with less of an “environmental impact”.  While in the past decades Nuclear Power has been the epitome of “dirty energy” because of its terrifying dangers, modern nuclear power facilities – if we’re to believe those building and promoting them – are much safer, noiseless, and completely clean. 

Why, then, are they always trying to build them in some hidden rural valley, snatching up valuable food-producing farmland in the process?

I listened to a story on NPR today about a small town (Hamet?) where a nuclear company is considering building a plant.  As usual (and for obvious reasons) it needs to be near a water source.  As usual (for less obvious reasons), they are trying to talk farmers into giving up their acres for the plant.  The energy company and government will probably pay the farmers a lot of money to vacate, and may force them out if government officials determine the power plant needs to be there. 

There are a lot of things about this particular plant that don’t make sense, but which are not related to the point i wish to make. (One of them is “in our area we already produce a surplus of energy – so much that we sell it to neighboring states. why do they want to build another plant here?)

America’s farmlands are disappearing.   They are being replaced by ski resports, overgrown houses perched atop hills in wildfire zones, strip malls, and subdivisions.  While i’m sure americans need all of these things too, our lack of farms, partly caused by real-estate issues and partly caused by myopic laws that want to direct more money into “urban centers”, is, has, and will continue to be the collapse of America’s ability to self-sustain.  We have no control over thye laws of the countries that currently supply us with our apples, grapes, beef, wheat, and other foods.  If we continue to assume we can always buy from another country, and continue to waste our own resources, what is going to happen if our supply gets cut of due to war or political disagreement?  What if one of these countries, enjoying the same kind of wealth as we were, begin to sell of their farmland to build malls and subdivisions?   

The Facts

Here are some considerations to make sense of what i am about to say:

* Urban areas are the largest consumer of energy. 
* Urban dwellers are the biggest proponents of building new energy sources out in the country.
* Rural people generally don’t want ANY kind of factories or large-scale projects in their areas because ALL kinds of factories produce some sort of waste, and that waste ruins the land, can ruin crops or render them undesirable on the market, and limit space in which to produce the natural goods that come from farming. Rural people generally don’t like “corporate farms” either.
* Rural land is usually rented for small technological “needs”, like cell towers and wind farms.  There is little impact on farming, because the largest windmill or largest cell tower usually takes up less than half an acre, and they are usually built on the less-usable terrain. 
* America NEEDS farms, America does NOT need fast food, malls, super-sized houses, mega-plex movie theatres, or call centers – at least not as badly.
* Most successful politicians – democrat, republican and green alike- are from urban areas or reside their most of their time. It makes sense – political venues are in cities, and it’s easier to tract your policies in a metropolitan area because you have a wider audience in a smaller area. Unfortunately, this puts even the most “down to earth” politicians vastly out of touch with rural america.

 * While maps (like the one to the left) seem to show vast areas of little or no population, much of these areas are highly mountainous or otherwise geologically unusable for agriculture, most of our national parks, wildlife reserves and “indian” reservations are in these areas, and no such map can accurately portray the tremendous boom in home construction and suburban growth in the past few years.  Most of these maps are based on censuses and other data that is more than two years old. 
* Energy companies and proponents of the proposed nuclear facilities always point to “technological advances in safety” when presenting the idea to under-advertised rural town meetings.  Urbanites also point to the same alleged safety in these plants, while dismissing similar claims by the oil companies (in regard to “environmental impact”) as false.  Either “safe” and “clean” methods of either technology exist or they do not – but the double standard should be dismissed.
* Most air pollution comes from urban areas, from factories, from inefficient coal-buring plants, and from personal vehicles.
* Most cities have pulic transportation of some kind, many of which can or do run on electrical power. Monorails, streetcars, and bus systems are NOT available in rural areas, and few smaller agricultural industries have the ability to conform to “clean air standards” enacted to reduce the emmissions of the metropolitan areas.
* All major cities are built on some body of water – a river, a lake, the coast.
* Nearly all major cities have an existing railroad line.
* Many European countries, particularly France, have transitioned to nuclear power, despite the high population density in those countries (and therefore proximity to the nuclear plants).

The Proposal

What I am proposing is that all future american nuclear power facilities are built in major cities, rather than in rural communities. Most urban areas have sections of town where older factories have failed. These decrepit factories are usually along a rairoad.  Tear them down!  Build the nuclear power plants in their place. The cities use the bulk of the power output by the energy companies, so it makes sense to create the energy in the proximity of the cities rather than stringing thousands of miles of metal wire (which is also toxic to the environment and requires a lot of transportation to maintain!).  Building these plants in the areas that are already set up for their needs will save the energy companies, and government (therefore taxpayers) a lot of money, it will preserve our agricultural resources, and it would (if the companies and environmentalists are to be believed) increase air quality as local (cheap?) power is used to provide more access to public transportation and “clean” hybrid and fully electric cars. 

The only opposition that could come from such a suggestion is that “nuclear power isn’t safe”, to which we must refer back to the double-standard argument:  Either technology has advanced to the point where it is now a safe form of energy, or it hasn’t.  If it has, there should be no threat to urban america, and if it has not, why do you want to poison the people and materials that provide you food?

It makes sense to give the risks or benefits to the people who want the nuclear power plants, and to remove those risks or benefits from the people who don’t.  It makes economic sense to reduce costs by building where the needs are already in place, and where less cost will be involved in transporting the power from one place to another.  It makes sense to the self-sustainability of our nation to protect our agricultural resources – both the area of land and the quality of that land – to infringe on those areas as little as possible, permitting our nations renewable natural resource producers to provide for the rest of us.

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