Nuclear - not a solution to climate change

Page - March 11, 2008
Nuclear power will not help stop climate change. Really, we can't understand why anyone (outside of the nuclear industry) thinks that building nuclear power plants is a good idea. Nuclear power is the most expensive and most dangerous means ever devised by humans to boil water.

Doel Nuclear power plant at the river Scheldt in Antwerp, Belgium.

Plus, it still has all of the same fundamental problems it did ten, twenty and thirty years ago - risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, the unsolved radioactive waste problem, nuclear power accidents, security issues, etc, etc. It's time to stop throwing good money after bad.    

Nuclear power remains dangerous, polluting, expensive and non-renewable. More nuclear power means more problems. It also means less resources invested in real solutions to growing energy demands.

Renewable energies, on the other hand, have truly limitless sources, can be more easily deployed in remote, underdeveloped regions, present absolutely no risk to global security and are environmentally friendly.

Wind power, as an example, is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and is now far cheaper than nuclear. For the same investment, wind generates more electricity, and offers more jobs. In recent years, over 6,000 megawatts of wind generation have been installed every year in Europe, the equivalent of two or three large nuclear power plants.

By comparison, only one nuclear reactor has been built in the past six years, and it will take at least another five to build the next. In the US, the last new reactor was ordered in 1978.

Nuclear is not a renewable energy source, as it needs scarce uranium to fuel its reactors. If we replaced all fossil fuels with nuclear power, the world would run out of uranium in less than four years. Currently, nuclear is a marginal energy source, supplying only two percent of the world energy demand, and there is no realistic scenario in which this could be significantly increased.

Studies by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that we would need to build at least 1000 reactors worldwide for nuclear power to have any effect on global warming. This just won't happen as current growth in nuclear electricity is about four per cent and investors aren't keen on nuclear power's uncertain financials. And 1000 new reactors mean 1000 more nuclear threats that we can't guard against.

Because there is only a finite amount of investment available for new energy, any investment in nuclear power is effectively money denied to renewables and energy efficiency. Nuclear power, with fifty years of failure as its track record and still no solutions to its fundamental problems, remains a shockingly poor investment choice. The wise decision then, is to say no to nuclear and yes to renewables and energy efficiency.