Friday, March 23, 2007

USA Today: "Some rethinking nuke opposition"

From today's edition:

Other environmentalists say the need to address global warming means taking a harder look at nuclear.

Besides Pew, at least three leading environmental organizations — Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense — say they are willing to consider nuclear power as part of a long-term solution to global warming.

Bill Chameides, chief scientist for Environmental Defense, says his group's position "has evolved."

"Global warming is the environmental issue of our generation," he says. "Clearly to solve this problem we need to have all technologies on the table. Therefore, nuclear energy … needs to be considered."

However, he says a big expansion of nuclear power would be "foolhardy" until a solution is found for where to put nuclear wastes.

Christopher Paine, senior nuclear analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says his group is also willing to give nuclear a look.

"Our position is that nuclear is not off the table as an energy source, but we believe there are cheaper, cleaner and faster ways to reduce pollution and provide reliable energy than nuclear power," Paine said.

Even the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has been sounding alarms about nuclear safety since before Three Mile Island, said in a position paper revised this month that nukes "should be considered as a longer-term option if other climate-neutral means for producing electricity prove inadequate."
And some folks like to make it look like Patrick Moore is the only one coming to this sort of conclusion.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters has some related thoughts:
Nuclear power has proven itself more reliable, less damaging to the environment, and safer than coal for creating energy. Dozens of miners die every year retrieving coal to produce our electricity, but no one has died from operating a nuclear power plant in the US. The worst accident we had, Three Mile Island in 1979, killed no one and resulted in only a short, small release of radioactivity outside the plant. Although older plants have operated for decades since then, the US has not built another reactor since Three Mile Island, just as we have not built an oil refinery since before that.

We have to start getting realistic about our energy needs. We need to start tapping our own oil resources for national security purposes as well as economic health; we send far too much of our money outside the US for oil. We need to expand our refining capability to meet the expanding needs of our population, at least in the short term. If environmentalists believe these to be dangerous, then they need to allow for the use of nuclear power as a replacement for coal, at least.


Joffan said...

It is a shift by these groups, and as such to be welcomed, I guess, but the shifts are small and grudging (like my reaction!).

Saying "you have to try everything else first" is still effectively saying "no nuclear", but in a way that sounds more reasonable. I like the new Environmental Defense position best.

Hopefully this is a transitional step, to ease followers over to a revised position, and not merely posturing.

Anonymous said...

Union of Concerned Scientists responded:

"Nonetheless, our position - which is not new - includes some major caveats that the article glosses over. Yes, the United States should be re-examining all low- and zero-carbon energy options, but expanding U.S.
nuclear power capacity anytime soon will present the same serious
liabilities that the Union of Concerned Scientists has been pointing out
for years...

There are faster, safer and cheaper ways to meet our energy needs, including renewable energy sources and cogeneration technologies, which
combine heat and power."

gunter said...

Thanks for finally taking comments on the March 23rd USA Today editorial claiming major environmental groups were rethinking the role of nuclear power as a solution to rapid climate change.

In response, Aldon Meyer of UCS wrote in a letter to the editor disclaiming nuclear power in the near term as a solution to global warming because of the well recognized risks including the industry's abysmal economic track record and the untenable and unresolved hazards of nuclear weapons and nuclear waste. Given the fact it takes an excessive long lead time its a increasingly risky gamble to offer it up as even a solution in the "long term" given just how long we continue to delay in addressing rapid climate change.

In addition to UCS, NRDC's chief scientist Chris Paine added his organization's clarification to the USA Today's misguided cheerleading for nuclear power. In another letter to the editor posted April 6, Mr. Paine reiterates the many hazards and drawbacks that make "Nuclear Energy Not An Answer To Global Warming."

The historically exaggerated claims of the nuclear industry and its puiblicists are evermore dangerous as time runs out on implementing an aggressive energy policy to avert global disaster.

gunter, nirs