04262018Thu
Last updateThu, 26 Apr 2018 2pm

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Nov05

Fighting Climate Change with… Nuclear Power?

BY KATE KUNKEL

Nuclear PowerThere was an interesting article in the Washington Post Monday, and since quite a few VMA members supply to the nuclear power industry, I thought you might like this piece of good news.

According to a story by the Associated Press, “Some of the world’s top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won’t be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they’re asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.”

Now it will be interesting to see the response from the environmentalists. I for one am not particularly hopeful that it will be rational, especially after listening to an interview on Canada’s CBC last week. After the third railcar derailment in as many months in Canada, the question was raised, yet again, about why new pipelines were being stalled while thousands more rail cars filled with crude oil were traversing the nation. A Greenpeace activist was asked, “Wouldn’t it be safer to just build the pipelines?” His response was, “Neither is safe. We have to replace fossil fuels with renewables.” When the interviewer asked him how he thought renewables were going to replace fossil fuels right away, he skirted the question and repeated, probably half a dozen times, “We have to replace them with renewables.”

I wanted to jump through the radio and shake him. And ask him if he was going to stop flying or driving to protests or raising funds on the net with his Powerbook, because unless everybody does the same, there is no way that is a viable solution.

Everybody involved in the energy business knows that it is going to take decades, and it may in fact never happen, for our growing energy demands to be filled by wind farms and solar arrays. So wouldn’t it be safer to have pipelines to convey oil to wherever it needs to go? But I won’t get into that again here. I’ve covered it probably too many times in previous blogs.

The point of this missive is nuclear energy. On this, for once, I actually agreed with the climate scientists when they said in an open letter to environmental groups and politicians that “Those energy sources [renewables] cannot scale up fast enough” to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs, and “we cannot afford to turn away from any technology” that has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases.

The letter signers were James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, and Tom Wigley. While I personally don’t believe there is irrefutable proof as to the actual cause of climate change (after all, we had ice ages and periods of global warming long before man started burning fossil fuels), these guys are right to say that the opposition of most environmentalists to nuclear power isn’t realistic.

Of course, terrible accidents like the one at Fukushima, have made this a difficult sell, but I for one believe that nuclear is a viable choice to help meet the energy demands of the future. What I haven’t heard yet is a way to deal with much of the waste generated from nuclear power generation, but I’m sure there are plenty of smart people out there working on that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on climate change generally and if nuclear power is a viable response to its threat.

Kate Kunkel is senior editor of VALVE Magazine. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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