Clever Green

Florida is starved for electricity. Some eco-renegades are growing their own.

"In the history of nuclear power in the United States, including Three Mile Island, nobody has been killed due to radiation," said Wade. "It's clean, safe technology."

He said that although radioactive waste might be a frightening prospect, it comes in relatively small quantities that can be safely contained and stored. Coal, he added, releases less concentrated toxins than nuclear waste but produces massive waste in the form of emissions, ash, and byproducts of mining that have taken thousands of lives and caused global warming.

Wade's support of nuclear power has made him something of a pariah at the local Sierra Club chapter. Mark Oncovage, a retired music teacher who has devoted more than two decades to protesting nuclear power in Miami, said Wade presents an overly hygienic view. Oncovage pointed out that although nuclear power might not further global warming as quickly as coal, global warming might harm nuclear power. He cited the heat wave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003. France, which relies almost completely on nuclear power, had to shut down or reduce capacity because the lakes and rivers used to cool reactors became too hot to do the job.

rich lillash
rich lillash

Nuclear power's highly concentrated fuel sources also present unique opportunities for terrorists. In 2006 a small hole was found drilled in a pipe in the containment area of a nuclear unit at Turkey Point. The reactor was offline at the time, and the hole was discovered during routine security checks prior to starting the plant up again, but it represented a clear breach in security. A $100,000 reward offered by the FBI has yet to turn up any suspects.

In the words of former state Public Service Commissioner Leon Jacobs, nuclear power is "the epitome of the hot potato." There's the waste: In the absence of a federal dumping site, spent fuel rods have been stored on-site in pools that are now reaching capacity. There's the cost: The average nuclear reactor requires $2.6 billion to build. Added to the initial cost is more money set aside for decommissioning the structure and disposing of its toxic waste.

Then there's the question of how well the county is prepared to deal with a meltdown. A spokesperson for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, which is responsible for distributing potassium iodide in the event of such a disaster, says the county has 305,968 adult doses and 80,000 child doses on hand, enough for one dose for every person within a ten-mile radius.

However, a dose of potassium iodide protects for only one day. Even if the city were able to evacuate residents within 24 hours, unchecked radiation can spread up to 200 miles from the accident.

For Wade the answer to that problem is simple: There isn't going to be an accident. He sees the nuclear naysayers -- like the utopian notion of an electricity-producing victory garden on every rooftop -- as impractical, with their heads muddled in carbon-free clouds.

"Have you seen the number of high-rises in downtown Miami?" he asked while petting Mr. Morris. "Those need electricity."

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