Argument: Nuclear power dramatically cuts emissions and fights global warming

Issue Report: Nuclear energy


Patrick Moore, a prominent environmentalist and founding member of Greenpeace. “Going Nuclear A Green Makes the Case”. Washington Post. 16 Apr. 2006 – “Nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change. Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions — or nearly 10 percent of global emissions — of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely…And I am not alone among seasoned environmental activists in changing my mind on this subject. British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, believes that nuclear energy is the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the ‘Whole Earth Catalog,’ says the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves from fossil fuels…Here’s why [nuclear is the only viable alternative to coal by default]: Wind and solar power have their place, but because they are intermittent and unpredictable they simply can’t replace big baseload plants such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Natural gas, a fossil fuel, is too expensive already, and its price is too volatile to risk building big baseload plants. Given that hydroelectric resources are built pretty much to capacity, nuclear is, by elimination, the only viable substitute for coal. It’s that simple…The 600-plus coal-fired plants emit nearly 2 billion tons of CO2annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from about 300 million automobiles. In addition, the Clean Air Council reports that coal plants are responsible for 64 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 26 percent of nitrous oxides and 33 percent of mercury emissions. These pollutants are eroding the health of our environment, producing acid rain, smog, respiratory illness and mercury contamination. Meanwhile, the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.”

Max Schulz. “Nuclear Power Is the Future”. Wilson Quarterly. Fall, 2006 – “Roughly 700 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are avoided each year in the United States by generating electricity from nuclear power rather than some other source. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, that is nearly equivalent to the CO2 released from all U.S. passenger ­cars.

The argument that nuclear power should be a critical component in a strategy to deal with concerns about climate change is quite new. Certainly, it was not anything that occurred to Eisenhower when he crafted his Atoms for Peace message for a postwar era. Nor was it much on the radar screen in the 1970s when concerns about global cooling were in vogue. And even those who have raised the specter of global warming most alarmingly by and large haven’t embraced the potential of nuclear energy. Former vice president Al Gore, who has stated that global warming ultimately is a greater threat than terrorism, pointedly refuses to endorse expanded use of nuclear ­power.

Yet some longtime opponents are overcoming their fear of atomic energy. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, recently declared his support for nuclear energy as “the only ­large-­scale, ­cost-­effective energy source that can reduce [greenhouse-gas] emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power.” British prime minister Tony Blair, an enduring critic of nuclear power, this spring signaled his government’s support for expanding nuclear ­energy production.

Today, it is the global climate change argument that clinches the case in favor of nuclear power. If, as Gore asserts, combating climate change is our highest priority, and if the future of civilization itself is at stake, then nuclear power must play a significant and expanded role not just in America’s energy mix but in the world’s.”

Roddy Scheer. “Nuclear Energy: A Bitter Pill to Alleviate Global Warming?”. 25 May 2005 – Some prominent environmentalists–as well as Senators McCain and Lieberman, who back legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions–are supporting further development of nuclear power to serve as an emission-free bridge to an economy based entirely on renewable energy.

“It’s not that something new and important and good had happened with nuclear, it’s that something new and important and bad has happened with climate change,” says environmentalist Stewart Brand, who recently authored a controversial article on the topic in the May issue of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review. Brand has joined a small but growing cadre of environmentalists, which includes Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies dean James Gustave Speth and World Resources Institute head honcho Jonathan Lash, in touting new, cleaner, safer nuclear technologies as a solution to the vexing problem of how to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels before solar and other renewables are ready to take up the slack. Together, alternative renewables account for less than two percent of the nation’s energy production, while nuclear power contributes ten times as much power to the grid today.

“Nuclear power the way to cut emissions.” Sydney Morning Herald. Oct 14, 2009: “About 60 countries are preparing for the Copenhagen climate conference in December equipped with a unique measure of economic assurance and environmental confidence.

About 60 countries are preparing for the Copenhagen climate conference in December equipped with a unique measure of economic assurance and environmental confidence.

They are the nations that have embraced greenhouse-friendly nuclear power as a significant part of their energy policies.
By so doing, they will have ensured low-cost and reliable energy security for their industries and consumers. As well, they will be operating cost-effective emissions trading schemes and laughing all the way to a potential international “carbon bank”. The world is bemused that Australia is not in this group.”