Thursday, January 23, 2014

The ongoing debate on nuclear power and climate change | GreenWorld

On January 8, 2014, 311 mostly grassroots organizations from around the world sent a letter to four climate scientists, including the well-known Dr. James Hansen, in response to their November 3, 2013 open letter to the environmental movement calling for our support for new nuclear power as a tool to help address the climate crisis these scientists have so ardently brought to public attention. Our GreenWorld post about the January 8 letter can be found here, and it includes links to the letter itself and the November 3 scientists’ letter.
The January 8 letter was spearheaded by NIRS and the Civil Society Institute and essentially argued that nuclear power is not only too dangerous and presents too many problems ranging from radioactive waste disposal to the environmental devastation caused by uranium mining and processing, but that it is uniquely ineffective at addressing climate both for economic reasons and because the “safer” reactors the scientists’ advocate don’t exist and, even at a best-case scenario for the concept, won’t exist in any meaningful time frame–e.g. the time frame these same scientists effectively argue is necessary to drastically reduce (or, as we’d prefer) essentially eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity sector.
Our letter also included an invitation to debate these issues with us in a public forum.
That’s the quick background. Read the previous post for the details. Well, we’re still waiting (not exactly with bated breath) for a formal response–a response that is actually to us (and we did include our contact information) from the scientists.
But one of the scientists, Dr. Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, did respond to an e-mail requesting comment from Grist. While we appreciate the indirect feedback, it seems to us that Dr. Caldeira missed the key points of our position even while casting some tacitly snide aspersions on our motivations and expertise.
For example, as reported by Grist, Dr. Caldeira begins his e-mail this way, “It is time for people to rethink their positions on nuclear power, and make arguments based on facts rather than prejudices.”
Actually, as someone who collaborated on the letter and with nearly 30 years experience on nuclear power issues, I kind of resent the implication that our arguments were not based on facts. Indeed, it is precisely the facts that lead us to the conclusion that nuclear power not only will not and can not be useful in making any substantial reductions in carbon emissions, but therefore spending limited resources on trying to make nuclear power succeed would divert those resources from much more effective technologies. That would make nuclear power actually counterproductive as a climate strategy...

more > The ongoing debate on nuclear power and climate change | GreenWorld