Nuclear Power & Vacations

This morning I got to the chapter of Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger on nuclear power and have been chasing those ideas around in my head for over an hour. That’s a long time to stay in one place for my brain.

nuclear power

Growing up, the only ideas I have about nuclear are “cold war,” The Simpson’s, and seeing San Onofre on our frequent drives to San Diego. Speaking of that, I looked up San Onofre to see if it was still operational. My sons surf there often and recently sent me a picture of a pathway sign that read “Beach Access” and “Nuclear Power Plant.” They laughed, “We could use this for the opening scene to a nuclear holocaust movie!”

San Onofre isn’t operational now. They shut it down in 2013. All I know is what is written in a Wikipedia article, which is usually a good start.

“The plant was shut down in 2013 after replacement steam generators failed; it is currently in the process of decommissioning. The 2.2 GW of electricity supply lost when the plant shut down was replaced with 1.8 GW of new natural-gas fired power plants and 250 MW of energy storage projects.”

Skeptical and grumpy as I am about humans at the moment, I grumbled to myself, “Probably a great idea, but we can’t seem to get people to consistently flip burgers, put stickers on books, or reliably deliver mail to my house right now. I don’t trust us to do anything right.”

Yeah, I know, that’s a terrible attitude. I’m not saying nuclear engineers are stupid. I’m saying with the way things are, inflation, politics, and all…it’s making it very hard for anyone to do a good job at anything. And I know a few engineers that would agree with me.

I didn’t come here to grumble though. I’ve heard some great things about nuclear power over the years and I’ve been curious as to why we aren’t pursuing it as an answer to the world’s energy and environmental problems. Fear and superstition seem to be the biggest problem, along with power and money, after my extensive research. That’s sarcasm.

Maybe I should say those are the problems I’m seeing right now, knee-jerk and emotional reactions to the information I am currently being presented with. I wouldn’t make any major decisions based on it and I certainly wouldn’t join any campaign to make a law or regulation, but it has piqued my curiosity and I’m inspired to investigate it more.

I trust Michael Shellenberger’s viewpoint because he doesn’t seem so alarmist and reactionary. He seems willing to see other people’s points of view and change his stance when given new information. He doesn’t seem like a revolutionary fanatic. But all I know is this book and two interviews.

Nuclear energy was a theme of a vacation we took with the kids a few years ago. It didn’t start out that way, but most of our vacations end up with some sort of over-arching theme after a few weeks. We head out in one direction, find an RV park, and then look for places to explore and experience. The time we headed toward Tucson, Arizona to visit family and then on New Mexico, with the hope of getting to San Antonio, Texas (which we never did), was the vacation we named the “Nuclear Tour.”

We visited the Titan Missile Museum, The White Sands Missile Range Museum, along with the White Sands National Park. We saw the Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, New Mexico. And then ended the tour with a visit to The Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Oh, wait! AND we visited the Ice Caves on the way back to California. That has nothing to do with nuclear power, but I loved it and more people should see it.

Years later, my youngest son read about The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, which we loaded up and headed out to see immediately, along with touring the Hoover Dam. He’s always been fascinated with energy and engineering.

Along with those places, this book, and the Environmental Progress website, that is the extent of my research. It seems to me that if we really want to help the environment on a grand scale, nuclear is the way to go. It’s not 100% safe, nothing is, but it also doesn’t look to be as crazy dangerous as we are led to believe.


  1. I was unhappy about them shutting down San Onofre. They were having problems with some replacement water pumps that they had installed. The pumps were supposed to be built to certain specs, but after a few years of constant problems, (and shutdowns) they finally found out what the flaw in the pumps was. They were all set to have another company build them new pumps to the proper spec when the State of California pulled the plug on the power plant. What a gigantic waste of money that was to decommission a perfectly good nuclear power plant. Plus modern nuclear reactor technology is so much better and safer than it was in the past, we should be building more nuclear power plants. As you know, wind and solar aren’t able to provide us with 100% of the electricity that we need now, much less what we will need in the future when California eventually phases out natural gas, gasoline and diesel powered vehicles and equipment. Without nuclear power, we’ll have to use more fossil fuel to generate all that electricity.

    • And it turns out we did that to help out the Brown’s and Newsom’s investment in oil. Yay!
      It also directly raised out electricity rates and continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.

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