Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Green Conundrum

Even more green power could be coming to upstate New York:

Federal officials will talk about how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will handle the expected application for a fourth nuclear plant in Oswego County at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Sheldon Hall at the State University College at Oswego.

UniStar, a partnership including Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station owner Constellation, is expected to apply for a license next month to build and operate a new nuclear plant in Scriba.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants communities located near potential new reactor sites, such as Oswego, to know what's being proposed," David Matthews, director of the division of new reactor licensing, said in a news release.

The state's ever increasing demand for energy requires more plants like this, but it's a two-edged sword that, quite literally, will cut right through our area. Upstate is already home to a truly stunning amount of "green", or carbon-neutral, energy production- one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in the world, an ever growing number of wind installations, and the existing nuclear reactors northwest of Oneida County. The problem is that all that pure green energy needs to get to downstate, necessitating an expansion of the state's power grid with projects like NYRI.

And I think we all know how popular NYRI is.

One of the reason's I think the NYRI powerline is unstoppable is *because* of upstate's green power. Our state government has already mandated the purchase of carbon-neutral energy, but it's been amazingly lax in making sure that the plants generating that power are actually located near the centers of demand. In addition to being wasteful, requiring the construction of new power lines that just bleed off energy into the ether, that strategy places a rather undue burden on the residents of upstate. Advanced third and fourth generation nuclear reactors could meet all of downstate's power demands with only minor upgrades to the existing energy infrastructure, but the mere suggestion of siting a reactor there would trigger massive protests.

Unfortunately, the demographics of the state mean that protests downstate automatically drown out protests upstate. While upstate might be home to gigawatts of electrical capacity it's notably lacking in political power- and that's the kind of power that really matters.