Thursday, May 16, 2013

Can You Make an Ethical Case for Nuclear Energy?

Over the course of the history of NEI Nuclear Notes, I've assiduously avoided sharing coverage from the financial press for a variety of reasons, foremost of which is the fact that we shouldn't be in the business of providing investment advice.

But this morning I'm compelled to share a clip from a U.K. publication called Financial Reporter after I read the following passage in a story by James Howard titled, "Ten reasons to go with ethical investments."

1. They can avoid the negatives. Ethical investment ensures their money isn’t supporting companies which engage in activities they might disapprove of, such as animal testing, deforestation, arms manufacture, or nuclear energy.
Now, I don't want to tell folks who have a beef with nuclear energy how to invest their own money, but I do have a real problem with anyone who tries to make the case that investing -- and by extension working in the nuclear energy industry -- isn't an ethical endeavor. In fact, it's impossible not to feel downright insulted at the suggestion.

Better still. thanks to climate scientist James Hansen, I've got the numbers to back up the emotion (thanks to our friends at Energy Northwest for the cool graphic):

And that's just the start. According to Hansen's projections, the widespread adoption of nuclear energy to replace fossil fuels could save up to 7 million more lives in the next four decades. If that's not an ethical energy choice, I don't know what possibly could be.

6 comments:

gmax137 said...

Also, notice the difference in the wording of Item 1 (quoted above) and Item 2:

"2. They can support the positives. They can actively choose to support companies or projects which have positive social and environmental policies in place, such as renewable energy, carbon offsetting, sustainable timber, or poverty reduction."

While negatives are portrayed as a matter of the investor's opinion ("which they might disapprove of...") the positives simply *are* positive ("which have positive social and environmental policies...").

This kind of spin is disgusting and pernicious. "Journalist" was briefly an honorable calling, but not for a long time now.

Anonymous said...

Isn't saying the entire profession of journalism is now dishorable the same sort of insult that the original blog post complains about (labelling nuclear energy as "unethical")?

gmax137 said...

To Anonymous: Yes, point taken. I suppose if I spent enough time looking I could find a journalist worthy of the name, who works honorably in the tradition of the greats in that field.

Andrew Jaremko said...

The mention of ethics in connection with electricity generation options reminded me of a calculation I did some time ago. It's the dark side of James Hansen's arithmetic. Since a lot of my electricity is generated by coal (there's no nuclear power here in Alberta, but some hydro), considering my lifetime electricity use, how many deaths am I personally causing? What am I responsible for?

My answer is that it's about 0.2 deaths. The number would go up if I included the coal burned in creating all of my 'stuff' and my share of the high-energy world I live in. Can I claim to be ethical when I am causing a share of the world's misery?

jimwg said...

Seems to me if one's going to play the ethics game in energy investments then it pays not to be hypocritical than overtly cherry picking favorite pets. I'm afraid most "green" investors would royally fluke this test.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

DV8 2XL said...

Can You Make an Ethical Case for Nuclear Energy? More to the point can anyone make an ethical case against it at this juncture.