Developed countries risk complacency in nuclear ring, says physicist

Scott Montgomery
Photo by Jessica Bagdovitz

Since 2007, the investment in the global energy has shifted from the United States and Western Europe to Southern and Eastern Asia, which cause the proliferation of weapons in developing countries. However, it could also benefit the United States, and specifically Oswego County, economically.

On Wednesday, Scott L. Montgomery, a consulting geologist, independent scholar and author and professor at the University of Washington presented his thoughts on the coming age of energy at Oswego State.

Currently, nuclear reactors are concentrated in wealthier countries such as the United States in locations like Oswego County’s Nine Mile Point. There are large numbers of nuclear reactors across Europe and are especially prominent in France, Montgomery said during his presentation.

Now, there is a nuclear renaissance in the developing world. China has 26 nuclear reactors under construction, have 52 planned, with 120 more being proposed, Montgomery said.

“China now consumes more energy that the United States does,” Montgomery said. “It also produces more greenhouse gases. The future control of the energy cosmos has really left the western world.”

With energy consumption shifting into developing countries, Professor Alok Kumar and Montgomery suggest that the United States needs to adjust majorly.

“The U.S. has to invest time and money into nuclear experts,” Montgomery said. “We need to be involved. A lot of nations that will be requiring nuclear power are not that technologically sophisticated.”

The exportation of nuclear power could advance the country economically. Oswego County is a contributor to that exportation.

“The power that’s created here doesn’t stay here,” said Austin Wheeloch, Economic Development Specialist for Operations Oswego County. “A lot of it goes downstate.”

According to him, 350 megawatts of nuclear energy are used in the county per year at most. Between Energy Nuclear, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, and N.R.G., the county produces approximately 2,600 megawatts each year.

The United States can create “new types of reactors that are safer, less capable of being turned into fuel for weapons,” Montgomery said. “They need to come up with new types of fuel concepts so weapons don’t even become a possibility.”

According to Kumar, the American lifestyle is simply not sustainable. With 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 23% of the world’s energy. In the 70s, gas was $3 per barrel. Near the end of George Bush’s administration, gas was $147 per barrel. According to Montgomery, more and more people have been moving toward the cities and fewer people will continue to live in rural areas.

“We have to come up with some new technologies,” Kumar said. “We have to be sensitive to the needs of the planet.”

He also adds that the Green Movement has not been entirely useless. “Four or five years ago, because of the inaction at the Washington level, universities decided they would take care of the issue,” Kumar said. “We are making a dent in that problem.”

Oswego State can make enhancements to help continue the Green Movement.

“University cars could become hybrids,” Montgomery suggests. “Another thing would be using green building techniques and materials for any new buildings being constructed.

Geothermal energy is probably the great under-used reusable resource. Replacing light bulbs with L.E.D. light bulbs is another way. All kinds of materials including different kinds of pavement that reduce the friction between the rubber of the tires and the roads are options to think about.”

The decision to go green is necessary, but also a very gradual process. “It requires commitment, time and research—one solution does not fit every circumstance,” Montgomery said. “Our greatest asset is knowledge. Increasing energy efficiency is a great way to reduce energy consumption.”