As we strike for climate, we must strike nuclear power from our energy plans
By David Kraft, NEIS
The Fridays for the Future Climate Strike on September 23 called out tens of thousands of people worldwide – over 300 in downtown Chicago — to protest the inadequate governmental response to the Climate Code Red, and identify the many corporate criminals who are responsible for the bulk of the crisis.
While it is necessary to identify and hold accountable those who are the source of the problem, if the Planet is to survive the predicted catastrophic temperature rise and resulting environmental impacts, it is equally important to identify real and viable solutions to the crisis, given the limited amount of time left to act.
On that note it cannot be stressed more emphatically that nuclear power is not a viable climate solution.
Why is this the case? With eight years left before the IPCC’s 2030 deadline to literally reinvent and implement a climate friendly energy infrastructure, nuclear power serves as a drag and barrier to reaching that target. It is too costly; to slow to build out to the levels needed; displaces less atmospheric carbon per dollar spent than cheaper and quicker alternatives; and not only fails to solve its current list of unsolved problems (for example, nuclear waste disposal), but adds to this list the threat of increased nuclear proliferation and accidents, especially in war zones like Ukraine, and potentially elsewhere (India/Pakistan; China Taiwan; Iran/Saudi Arabia, etc.).
Worse, money spent on bailing out the economically failed nuclear power plants we have is money not available to be spent on real climate solutions we already know work: more renewable energy, more energy efficiency, improved transmission/distribution systems, and energy storage.
Who says so? Only: two former CHAIRPERSONS of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; former public utilities chairs and utility CEOs from the states of California, New York, and Maine; energy experts and scientists like Amory Lovins and Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, and Dr. Andy Stirling of University of Sussex.
Cost analysts at Lazards demonstrate that nuclear (both the present old generation, and the proposed “next generation” of so-called small modular nuclear reactors) is too expensive compared to renewables and other alternatives; while those at Moody’s point out that reactors will be at severe risk of operating safely in a climate disrupted world without extraordinary added expense to enhance safety – again, money that won’t be available for real alternatives.
Environmental justice activists loudly label nuclear power as a false climate solution. Statements by the Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and even the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (WHEJAC) have declared nuclear power to be a false solution to climate change. Scores if not hundreds of environmental organizations nationwide share the same sentiment.
Who else? Mother Nature herself. The heat wave experienced in France this year (and in previous years) shuttered 32 of 54 French reactors due to lack of river water to cool them and make steam – precisely when they were needed most. The laws of physics state that reactors will also produce less electricity the warmer the water they take in to make steam. And climate induced swarms of jellyfish, mayflies and other creatures have led to reactor shutdowns on multiple occasions. These will only become more frequent with the worsening climate disruption. These incidents have led former Union of Concerned Scientists staff scientist and NRC consultant David Lochbaum to sardonically ask, “And what will save nuclear power from climate change?”
Finally, the war in Ukraine has forced to world to examine whether nuclear power even belongs on a planet where war seems omnipresent. Nuclear power plants are now targets in war. Do not think this will be the end of it. The war and what has happened at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine now forces the nuclear industry, military planners and governments of the world to face what they have long avoided and refused to discuss: nuclear power plants are gigantic, pre-positioned radiation dispersion devices. The thought of sprinkling literally thousands of so-called “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs) worldwide like fairy dust — without containment buildings and with reduced emergency planning/response zones and plans, as nuclear proponents eager to market their new techno-toys currently suggest — almost seems to be the quintessential confirmation of Einstein’s admonition that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
Regrettably. powerful nuclear lobbies, the Biden Administration, and nuclear supporters in Congress have ramrodded legislation (the 2021 IFA; the 2022 IRA) through Congress worth as much as $70+ billion dollars to bail out this false climate “solution.” This is one time when trying to jam a square peg down a round hole will not work. You can’t build an energy future by bailing out the past.
Today’s demonstrations make two very important points: we are out of time; and we must declare a climate crisis – and act like it is a crisis, to paraphrase climate activist Greta Thunburg. We do not have the time or money for “all of the above”, business as usual false solutions like those proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Chuck Schumer. We must act now to implement real energy solutions.
Nuclear power is simply a false solution to the climate crisis. Anyone who says otherwise is as much a “denier” as those who still falsely claim that climate change does not exist.
This article also appeared as a September 23, 2022 press release from Nuclear Energy Information Service, a non-profit organization committed to ending nuclear power and advocating for sustainable ecologically sound and socially just energy solutions.
Headline photo by fridaysforfuture/Creative Commons
The opinions expressed in articles by outside contributors and published on the Beyond Nuclear International website, are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Beyond Nuclear. However, we try to offer a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives as part of our mission “to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future”.
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