Why the U.S. Needs More Nuclear Power

City Journal

Your typical city dweller doesn’t know just how much coal and uranium he burns each year. On Lake Shore Drive in Chicago—where the numbers are fairly representative of urban America as a whole—the answer is (roughly): four tons and a few ounces. In round numbers, tons of coal generate about half of the typical city’s electric power; ounces of uranium, about 17 percent; natural gas and hydro take care of the rest. New York is a bit different: an apartment dweller on the Upper West Side substitutes two tons of oil (or the equivalent in natural gas) for Chicago’s four tons of coal. The oil-tons get burned at plants like the huge oil/gas unit in Astoria, Queens. The uranium ounces get split at Indian Point in Westchester, 35 miles north of the city, as well as at the Ginna, Fitzpatrick, and Nine Mile Point units upstate, and at additional plants in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.

Can the Terrorists Turn Out Gotham’s Lights?

Who stayed lit after Gotham's lights went out during the blackout of August 2003? Batteries and standby generators kicked in to keep trading alive on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. But the AmEx failed to open; true, it had backup generators for the trading-floor computers, but it depended on Consolidated Edison to cool them, so that they wouldn't melt into puddles of silicon. Banks kept their ATM-control computers running at their central offices, but most of the ATMs themselves went dead. With their robust backup generators, Verizon's wireline switching centers smoothly handled traffic volumes three times above normal, but cell phone service deteriorated fast, since soaring call volumes quickly drained the cell tower backup batteries. Traffic lights went out, but backup generators kept the city's Traffic Management Center alive enough to re-synchronize about half of them quickly when the power came back on. The dedicated fiber line that links City Hall to the city's broadcast media went dark when a Time Warner hub lost power. The radio communications system for police, fire, and other emergency services progressively lost capacity as the backup batteries for many radio repeaters ran down. Power from a satellite truck, though, allowed Katie Couric and Lester Holt to broadcast the Today show from Rockefeller Plaza.

Critical Power

The New York Sun

It will happen again. The mayor, the governor, and congressional committees will all hold hearings, and point fingers, while the engineers will, soon enough, find a technical explanation for what caused the massive August 14 black-out. There will be all sorts of sonorous pronouncements about how utilities ought to be regulated differently, and a raft of truly silly calls for more solar and wind power, and more conservation to take the strain off the grid. Very few people, however, will get around to acknowledging the few key realities.

Critical Power White Paper

Electricity occupies a uniquely important role in the infrastructure of modern society. A complete loss of power shuts down telephone switches, wireless cell towers, bank computers, E911 operator centers, police communication networks, hospital emergency rooms, air traffic control, street lights, and the electrically actuated valves and pumps that move water, oil, and gas, along with…