As global scientists continue to warn about the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a quartet of European and US experts set out on Tuesday why nuclear power should not be seen as a solution to the climate crisis.
“The core message, repeated over and over again, that a new generation of nuclear power will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction.”
While the experts acknowledge in their joint statement that “the climate is warming”, they strongly reject those who argue that nuclear power could be a “partial answer to the threat of global warming”.
With four signatories: Paul Dorfman, former Secretary of the UK Government’s Domestic Emitters Radiation Risk Review Committee; Greg Jaczko, former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Bernard Laponche, former director general of France’s energy management agency; and Wolfgang Renneberg, former head of reactor safety, radiation protection and nuclear waste at the German Environment Ministry: The statement comes as a direct challenge to a nuclear industry trying to market itself as a reliable part of the global transition to cleaner energy. sustainable. system.
“As key experts who have worked on the front lines of the nuclear issue,” their statement explains, “we see it as our collective responsibility to comment on the main issue: whether nuclear power could play an important role as a strategy against climate change.”
“The core message, repeated over and over again, that a new generation of nuclear power will be clean, safe, smart, and cheap, is fiction,” according to Dorfman, Jaczko, Laponche, and Renneberg. “The reality is that nuclear power is not clean, safe or smart, but rather a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm.”
“Nuclear power is not cheap, but extremely expensive,” the statement added. “Perhaps most importantly, nuclear power is simply not part of any feasible strategy that can counteract climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global power generation, up to ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on the design.” of the reactor”.
Given concerns about economic viability, nuclear accidents and hazardous waste, former regulatory leaders conclude that nuclear power is not only “too expensive and risky” but also “too unwieldy and complex” to be a feasible strategy for combat the climate emergency.
Progressive climate groups and other critics have long warned against nuclear power, calling it a “false solution” like gas and carbon capture technology, but lawmakers around the world continue to go after it. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are 439 operational nuclear reactors worldwide and another 52 under construction.
In the United States, lawmakers who support climate action are divided on the issue. When they ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who now chairs the Senate Budget Committee, advocated phasing out nuclear power from USA
A spokesman for the Sanders campaign said washington post in 2019 that the senator “believes that solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency are proven and more profitable than nuclear, even without tax incentives, and that the toxic waste byproducts of nuclear plants are not worth the risks of the technology”. benefit. Especially in light of the lessons learned from the collapse of Fukushima in Japan, we must ask ourselves why the federal government pours billions in federal subsidies to the nuclear industry.”
Despite such risks, the nuclear provisions are included in the Build Back Better Act passed by the US House of Representatives, a sweeping package backed by President Joe Biden but stalled in the Senate due to a pair of right-wing Democrats backed by business.
Last year, hundreds of progressive groups urged top Democrats working on the package to “reject gas and other false climate solutions” like nuclear power, stating that “as we seek to combat the climate emergency, it is crucial that we invest in solutions to support a just energy future.