Editors note: On June 11, 2015, Eugene Grecheck became the 2015-2016 president of the American Nuclear Society. The following is his vision for nuclear and ANS.
By Eugene Grecheck
Some 25 percent of the world’s population still has no access to electricity, and that number is over 90 percent in some countries.
For the 75 percent of the world’s people who have at least some electricity, close to two thirds of that electricity is generated by carbon-based fuels, with less than five percent coming from wind and solar.
Despite extensive dialog about the effects of CO2 emissions on world climate, the bulk of the world’s energy comes from burning coal, oil, or natural gas, and will likely continue to do so for a long time into the future. Particularly as those nations and areas of the world currently without electricity create the basic infrastructure needed to bring electricity to their people, the most likely and easily implementable way to do so is by the use of carbon-based fuels. Indeed, even as China is becoming the world leader in new nuclear construction, it is still commissioning several large new coal stations each month.
Even as some debate the climate effects of carbon dioxide emissions, the conventional pollution effects of combustion are real. Estimates of annual deaths attributable to fossil fuel combustion are up to 7 million worldwide and 13,000 in the United States. A recent American Chemical Society publication estimates that some 1.84 million deaths have been prevented by the use of nuclear generated electricity.
It is clear that if the world is serious about reducing air pollution and carbon emissions, it needs the baseload contribution of safe, reliable nuclear power. While distributed technologies such as wind and solar have an important role to play, it is simply not possible to replace carbon fuels in a large way, or to head off their continued large-scale implementation in an energy-dependent and starved world, without the use of nuclear power.
Similarly, nuclear technologies contribute to the health and well-being of all of us every day. Whether it is medical diagnostics, or radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis and treatment, these technologies are vital. And consider how many lives have been saved by the application of ionization smoke detectors.
Despite this overwhelming evidence of the present value and future necessity of nuclear technologies, there are those who would prevent their use. We have even seen recent legislative attempts to restrict the availability of health-related radioisotopes.
The message is clear: The world needs nuclear. It is important that each of us, individually, and as part of ANS, do our part to get that message out.
Eugene Grecheck is the 2015–2016 president of the American Nuclear Society. He is a seasoned executive with more than 40 years in commercial nuclear generation, 38 of those years spent with Dominion Resources. He earned his bachelors in physics and master’s in nuclear engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was a licensed senior reactor operator by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.