Skip to main content

The Long Crooked Road to Nuclear Energy

ET112009_Ted_and_Michael Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger and Jesse Jenkins of the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank with an energy focus, weighs in on Japan over at the Atlantic.

Acceptance of, and even vocal support for, nuclear power under such circumstances [Fukushima Daiichi] would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But as many leading greens have come to terms with the potentially catastrophic risks of climate change, they have begun to reconsider the far more modest risks associated with nuclear power. There is no credible path to global emissions stabilization absent enormous quantities of new nuclear power. It is, quite simply, the only low carbon energy technology available today capable of producing large quantities of low carbon baseload power on the scale that the rapidly growing global economy demands.

And the “greens” they are referring to?

… [I]nfluential greens and liberals, from the UK Guardian's George Monbiot to The Atlantic's Josh Green have used the occasion to pronounce their support for nuclear power. Even leading green groups like NRDC and EDF have mostly kept their powder dry in the days since the accident.

The Breakthrough Institute triad are not altogether convinced nuclear energy has a strong future in the developed world, though it has a very strong one in the developing world. I beg to differ, but that’s not the point, really. The point is that logic lead them to nuclear energy.

---

I was interested to see a change of heart on the part of George Monbiat:

Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives.

Uh, what? Oh, here we go:

But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.

Pretty good, I guess, for someone who considers the industry a pack of lying hyenas, but there you are. The logic of nuclear energy and - though the situation in Japan is not yet resolved – its safety, conspire to make arguments in its favor compelling.

It may seem sometimes like a long crooked road, but coming to a last mile marker that distresses you – as it does Monbiat – yet has the qualities you want seems – somehow – liberating.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…