Climate scientist: It would be 'foolish' not to embrace nuclear power

Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio
Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio | Courtesy of FirstEnergy

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) said recently that the Doomsday Clock, the countdown to humanity’s annihilation, would remain at three minutes to midnight, despite the recent climate talks in Paris.

A BAS statement issued by Kenneth Luongo, founder of the Partnership for Global Security, urged the use of nuclear power to address the daunting challenge of combating global climate change.

During the Paris climate talks, four prominent climate scientists also called for renewed attention to nuclear power as a tool to combat climate change. One of those scientists, Tom Wigley of the University of Adelaide in Australia, said it was nearly impossible to achieve climate goals without focusing on nuclear power.

“These are complex technological, environmental and economic issues,” Wigley said in a recent interview with Power News Wire. “There are a number of books and many scientific papers that discuss the details. There are also a number of important papers that explain why the climate problem cannot be solved with wind and solar alone.”

This echoes comments that former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane made to Power News Wire last April, when she said achieving climate goals without nuclear power would be extremely difficult. The same concern also was the thesis of the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise.

A growing consensus from all scientific realms is saying that without nuclear power, humanity likely will lose the battle against global climate change.

Nuclear power is also getting safer, cheaper and easier to develop, thanks to constant scientific advances in the field, and new technologies are reducing waste produced by nuclar plants as well.

Despite this, some environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, continue to oppose nuclear power, and politicians continue to rally against nuclear plants. The Indian Point nuclear plant in New York filed a lawsuit earlier this month in an attempt to prevent the state from shuttering the plant.

“We are alarmed by people who want to close the door on nuclear, and so that is why we are more outspoken than we might have been a few years ago,” Wigley told Scientific American magazine last month.

For their part, BAS and Macfarlane both said a resurgence in nuclear power does come with responsibilities for regulators and does provide cause for public concern over proliferation and safety. 

“The problem is so large and serious that it would be foolish to deny a role for any form of carbon-free energy," Wigley said.

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