NUCLEAR POWER POLICY ANALYSIS
According to a “Policy Analysis Protocol”
The Policy Analysis Protocol proceeds according to the following categorical sequence:
FAITH - For a Christian, the faith foundation for analyzing a secular policy issue is, in broad terms, Biblical theism. Thus, the presuppositions brought to bear on a policy issue are derived from a Biblical perspective. The presuppositions applicable to nuclear power policy will be fairly evident in what follows. With respect to the nuclear power issue, those presuppositions are harmonious with a secular view that refrains from mention of religious principles but respects and defends human and environmental integrity, while simultaneously seeking to promote society’s material well-being.
PRINCIPLES - Man is mandated to take dominion and be a good steward. Man is not authorized to destroy or pollute his habitat unnecessarily. Man has a delegated ownership of property and remains accountable to God. Natural resources are a provision for physical needs and enjoyment of blessings. Abundance for the righteous, not economic scarcity, is God’s plan and intention (without ignoring the need for stewardship and wise planning). Labor is necessary to realize God’s provision. Technology can be good but must be controlled
MOTIVES - The motives that impel this analysis of nuclear power policy are as follows: To provide for energy needs of basic physical existence. To obtain blessings derivable from culture (humanitarian provisions) for society. To provide for long-term environmental care.
METHODS - Use of nuclear physics and engineering is necessary to realize nuclear power benefits. Other necessary methods to use in realizing those benefits, no matter what the policy decision may be, include the following: Application of public power utility economics; Use of technology assessment and safety expertise; Investigation of environmental and human hazards related to nuclear power; Assessment of political and public opinion factors using political science techniques.
MODELS - Radiobiological syndromes (concerning hazards of radioactivity); engineering safety calculations (technology risk assessment); public perception paradigms; nuclear power advocacy viewpoints; environmentalist viewpoints; nuclear accident scenarios; economic cost-benefit models.
ISSUES - Reactor operational safety (power plant design and safety features); decommissioning of power plants; radwaste disposal; worker medical hazards; financing arrangements (through rate structures or private risk capital); operational releases of nuclear isotopes with human and environmental impact; plant siting (geological hazards; human factors); nuclear fuel resource supplies and potential exhaustion; nuclear fuel morical).
DATA - Radiobiological data; nuclear accident statistics and information; nuclear testing activities; utility safety statistics; geography of nuclear power; fusion research information; nuclear fuel supply data; public opinion data; terrorist activities and warnings.
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS - Various recommendations are possible. The main ones include the following (some contradict each other): Develop fusion power; stop further fission reactor construction; build more fission reactors and streamline the permit process; choose deep burial in subduction zones for radwastes; choose salt horizon burial for radwastes; reduce plant emissions; transport radwastes through uncongested regions; require decommissioning cost estimates to be incorporated into cost projections for new plants; prohibit export of nuclear technology; hasten export of nuclear technology to underdeveloped countries.
LAW, PRUDENCE AND POLITICAL EVALUATIONS - To evaluate the general issue of nuclear power further would involve a comprehensive analysis of each of the above issues and recommendations according to the following evaluation categories. For brevity’s sake in what follows, the emphasis will be on only the very general issue of environmental hazards. For each evaluation category, only a sketch of the concerns to be considered is provided.
Biblical lessons - Constrain pollution impacts to those which are reversible within a generation, so as not to burden future generations (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”); avoid consumerism and thereby keep energy demand low, and therefore minimize the need for additional power; avoid energy waste (sloth); choose energy paths in which energy needs are met in accordance with natural principles (the need for low-grade heat should be met via low-grade heat sources such as solar power); protect human rights, with governmental regulation as necessary (civil government is ordained to protect the public from evildoers).
Constitutional issues -
Federal - There is no enumerated constitutional basis for environmental regulation (despite the national habit of federal environmental statutes and enforcement activities); an environmental constitutional amendment is needed. In the present political climate, wherein a properly defined amendment would be difficult to pass, we should avoid this issue and allow federal environmental protection activity to continue, modified as needed according to scientific and economic assessments.
States - The technological and environmental basis for state action varies. The jurisdictional question (what authority each state has) has not been properly settled. Some states have constitutional articles involving environmental matters.
Statutes to consider (examples) -
Federal - NEPA (EPA, EIS), NRC, etc.
States - Hazardous waste siting.
Local - Zoning.
Regulatory environment - NRC role, EPA role, ERDA role, AEC (historical).
Procedural issues - Congressional hearings; decision-making process; public hearings; permit process.
Efficacy - Proven energy source; proven high energy yield; generally high safety record in the nuclear power industry; generally positive environmental hazard regulation activity by government.
Safety - Proven high risk (Chernobyl and other accidents) in major accidents; proven low risk in minor accidents; continuing debate over the injury potential at low-doses, and in particular the long-term dose thresholds for injury.
Costs - Nuclear power involves long-term high cost compared to present costs of other major energy sources; it also involves high front-end costs; high insurance costs; high political costs; high long-term environmental costs with major accidents (cleanup; permanent evacuation).
Tractability - Public opinion is mixed concerning nuclear power; the public is fickle; decision-making is highly political.
Priority - How important is the general
question of nuclear power from an environmental point of view? This
depends on a complete environmental and human hazard assessment as well
as on the tractability concern. Any nuclear power policy decision
is a major decision involving political factors, environmental/human hazard
factors, and energy need factors (including geopolitical balance involving