I've been a lifelong outdoorsman, naturalist and ecologist, though I wouldn't classify myself as an "environmentalist". For 40 years I've lived in remote wilderness areas in California and Wyoming where I've raised and trained working horses, cattle and poultry. I'm a certified Wilderness First Responder and have bred and trained dogs for Wilderness Area and Avalanche Search and Rescue. I'm a mountain climber, former member of the US Ski Team, hang glider pilot and technical diver. For twenty years I was involved in endurance horse racing and have completed several 50, 70 and 100 mile races on horseback throughout the western United States.
I suppose I should admit I'm not a Mom, but I do keep one around the house for emergencies. My wife of 35 years and I are both retired engineers; her specialty is Quality Assurance, mine is Reliability, both of us are dedicated ecologists and students of nature. We've been considerate stewards of the property we manage in the coastal mountains of Santa Cruz county for over 30 years and we've introduced thousands of families and individuals to the beauty of Big Basin State Park while running an equestrian B&B there until we retired a few years ago. Together we operated an organic, free range turkey ranch we owned in Star Valley Wyoming for 15 years after we'd both retired from our professions at the turn of the century. We're the proud parents of two adult children and would like to leave them a better world.
I was raised with an aversion to commercial nuclear power, not because I thought it was unsafe or unhealthy, but because my father was involved in the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident Strategic Fleet Ballistic Weapons systems and died of plutonium poisoning after receiving a toxic dose at the Hanford/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1957. My father's exposure didn't have anything to do with civilian nuclear power, but when I was 16 I wasn't able to understand that, only that my father had been killed as a result of being exposed to nuclear materials. I succumbed to the popular mantra of the day, which was that nuclear power (and nuclear weapons) were unsafe and bad respectively.
During the 90's and into the early 21st century I became an advocate of civilian nuclear after extensively researching the subject. My wife and I recently retired to Paso Robles CA, about 30 miles from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant after researching the ecological benefits of that plant. It generates no atmospheric waste and has the ability to provide cheap fresh water to the local area.
Our home in Big Basin is powered by three solar arrays installed in 2008 and is completely self-sufficient, so we have practical experience with the advantages and disadvantages of commercial solar plant operations. We sell power through a grid-tie agreement with PG&E. Solar is an ideal technology in the right setting and we'll continue to promote it whenever it's appropriate, however we're both convinced solar should be used as an adjunct to nuclear power rather than a base load source of energy.
Civilian nuclear energy is still the safest and cleanest form of reliable power known to humans, with a safety record unmatched by any other energy technology. This is a remarkable claim considering very little work has been done to update or improve on the basic pressurized water reactor designs in use since the 1950's, but after even a cursory investigation it becomes obvious coal and gas power systems have much poorer safety records. Even solar is less safe than nuclear in terms of lives lost mining fuel, installing, maintaining and operating those plants. It became obvious to me nuclear power had been scapegoated by owners and operators of conventional fossil fuel based energy suppliers, and the Cold War fear of nuclear weapons had been used to demonize civilian use of nuclear energy to the great detriment of US citizens.
Civilian nuclear power is a technology whose time is come for the US.
This article reflects only the opinions of Scott Cherf.