Coal ash is back in the news. Anyone with a long view can easy assign the ultimate blame for this problem.
As a young economist with the N.C. Utilities Commission in the 1970s, I watched the anti-nuclear movement obstruct the growth in the use of nuclear power to meet our base-load electricity requirements. Its successes, along with the inflationary economic policies of President Carter, ended the certification of new nuclear facilities.
The utilities had no option but to continue to build coal-fired plants to meet a growing economy. Ironically, and irrationally, environmentalists turned their attention to “dirty coal.” The use of scrubbers and other technologies cleaned our skies, while fouling our earth.
Despite Duke’s best efforts, is there any surprise that it would encounter coal ash containment problems after decades of storage?
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So, if we are upset with coal ash spills, do not direct anger at Duke or the governor. The ultimate responsibility for this problem rests with the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s. If we had used nuclear power to meet our growing base-load requirements over the last 40 years, there would likely be no coal ash problem. In this instance, the French got it right!