Nuclear power

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Power plants that don't burn fossil fuels to generate electricity abound. In the northwestern U.S., hydroelectric plants produce much of the power consumed in that part of the country. Wind-power production is growing quickly, even in northern Missouri where the mostly rural terrain is dotted with huge towers of wind generators.

Since the 1950s there have been nuclear power-generating plants. While this technology produces nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity, including AmerenUE's Calloway County nuclear plant, it is even more widely used in Europe. France and Lithuania generate more than three-fourths of the power for those two countries. In all, about 16 percent of the world's electricity comes from nuclear-powered plants.

AmerenUE, which serves much of eastern Missouri and Illinois, anticipates that demand for electricity will require the utility company to have a major new generating plant in place 10 years from now. One option is another nuclear plant. Last week, Ameren filed an 8,000-page license application with federal regulators for another nuclear plant. The company hasn't yet decided it will build the nuclear plant, but it wants to be ready in the event it decides to go that route.

Nuclear power has its detractors who rightly worry particularly about safely storing waste from nuclear plants. But the advantages of nuclear power in the face of the shortcomings of other power sources need to be seriously considered.

Ameren is still a long way from making a final decision on another nuclear plant, but it has prudently taken the first steps in a drawn-out process.

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