Quantcast
Energy

300+ Groups Urge Climate Scientist Dr. Hansen to Rethink Support of Nuclear Power

A total of 311 U.S. and international environmental and clean energy groups said yesterday that, while they respect the climate change work of Dr. James Hansen and three of his academic colleagues, they take strong exception to the notion that nuclear power is the solution to global warming.

Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies.

The joint letter from more than 300 groups—including 237 from 46 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and 74 from 44 other nations around the globe, including those on the ground dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster—is being issued in response to a Nov. 3, 2013 statement from Dr. James Hansen and three of his academic colleagues, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel and Tom Wigley. In that statement Hansen and the others voiced their advocacy for nuclear power, an industry plagued by financial, technical and safety issues for more than 50 years.

In yesterday's statement organized by the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), 311 organizations are urging Dr. Hansen and his colleagues to publicly debate the question of climate change and nuclear power.

The statement reads in part:

Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies. We ask you to join us in supporting the phase-out of nuclear power as Germany and other countries are pursuing. It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind. We would be pleased to meet with you directly to further discuss these issues, to bring the relevant research on renewable energy and grid integration to a dialog with you. Again, we thank you for your service and contribution to our country's understanding about climate change.

The full text of yesterday's statement is available online.

"We can admire the important work of Dr. Hansen on climate change, which is his area of expertise, while disagreeing with his advocacy of nuclear power," said CSI Senior Energy Analyst Grant Smith. "In the face of a clear need for swift action on climate change, there is nothing about nuclear power that resembles a solution that can be put into place quickly, much less in a safe and affordable fashion.

"Indeed, Dr. Hansen and his colleagues tout so-called 'advanced' nuclear technology, which is nothing more than regurgitated attempts by the industry to bring tried-and-failed alternative designs such as expensive and dangerous breeder reactors to commercialization. We have clean, affordable, safe, reliable and proven solutions available to us. These safe and clean sources can be brought to scale creating an electric grid that relies much more heavily on increased energy efficiency, variable wind and solar photovoltaic (PV), distributed power, demand response and storage technologies. This energy path can reduce greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly, cost-effectively and safely than any nuclear option. The markets are responding and there is clear evidence that they are catalyzing an unprecedented technological revolution in the power sector."

"What we are saying is that Dr. Hansen has things exactly half right: We need to take action now to mitigate climate change," said NIRS President Michael Mariotte. "Where we are taking issue is with the other half: the mistaken idea that nuclear power is some kind of panacea for all that ails our climate. In fact, nuclear power is the slowest, most expensive, and most dangerous climate 'solution' available. Our sincere hope is that Dr. Hansen will heed the input of literally hundreds of knowledgeable energy and environmental groups around the world. The joint letter puts it best with these words: 'It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind.'"

The Jan. 8 statement from the more than 300 signers reads in part:

Nuclear power is not a financially viable option. Since its inception it has required taxpayer subsidies and publicly financed indemnity against accidents. New construction requires billions in public subsidies to attract private capital and, once under construction, severe cost overruns are all but inevitable. As for operational safety, the history of nuclear power plants in the U.S. is fraught with near misses, as documented by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and creates another financial and safety quagmire—high-level nuclear waste. Internationally, we've experienced two catastrophic accidents for a technology deemed to be virtually 'fail safe'.

As for 'advanced' nuclear designs endorsed in your letter, they have been tried and failed or are mere blueprints without realistic hope, in the near term, if ever, to be commercialized. The promise and potential impact you lend breeder reactor technology in your letter is misplaced. Globally, $100 billion over sixty years have been squandered to bring the technology to commercialization without success. The liquid sodium-based cooling system is highly dangerous as proven in Japan and the U.S. And the technology has proven to be highly unreliable.

Equally detrimental in cost and environmental impact is reprocessing of nuclear waste. In France, the poster child for nuclear energy, reprocessing results in a marginal increase in energetic use of uranium while largely increasing the volume of all levels of radioactive waste. Indeed, the process generates large volumes of radioactive liquid waste annually that is dumped into the English Channel and has increased electric costs to consumers significantly. Not to mention the well-recognized proliferation risks of adopting a plutonium-based energy system.

As to the issue of what represents the best path forward to deal with climate change, the Jan. 8 statement notes:

We disagree with your assessment of renewable power and energy efficiency. They can and are being brought to scale globally. Moreover, they can be deployed much more quickly than nuclear power. For instance, in the U.S. from 2002 to 2012 over 50,000 megawatts of wind were deployed. Not one megawatt of power from new nuclear reactors was deployed, despite subsidies estimated to be worth more than the value of the power new reactors would have produced. Similarly, it took 40 years globally to deploy 50,000 megawatts of solar PV and, recently, only two and a half years to deploy an equal amount. By some estimates, another 100,000 MW will be built by the end of 2015. Already, renewables and distributed power have overtaken nuclear power in terms of megawatt hour generation worldwide.

The fact of the matter is, many Wall Street analysts predict that solar PV and wind will have reached grid parity by the end of the decade. Wind in certain parts of the Midwest is already cheaper than natural gas on the wholesale level. Energy efficiency continues to outperform all technologies on a cost basis. While the cost of these technologies continues to decline and enjoy further technological advancement, the cost of nuclear power continues to increase and construction timeframes remain excessive. And we emphasize again that no technological breakthrough to reduce its costs or enhance its operation will occur in the foreseeable future.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
As more studies affirm the health benefits of nature, doctors are writing it into their prescriptions. Michael H / Getty Images

Natural Medicine: More Doctors Prescribing Time Outdoors

Birdwatch for long-tailed ducks. Search for shells. Sketch some snowdrops.

These are some of the prescriptions you might receive if you go to a doctor in the Shetland Islands of Scotland and say that you are suffering from stress, heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems or other chronic conditions.

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
Enipniastes eximia, aka "headless chicken monster." NOAA

'Headless Chicken Monster' to Help Antarctic Conservation Efforts

Enypniasties eximia—a deep-sea swimming sea cucumber scientists have affectionately called the "headless chicken monster"has been caught on camera for the first time in Antarctic waters thanks to new underwater camera technology developed by Australian researchers.

Footage of the finned sea creature will be used to aid important marine conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Animal Collective performing at The Concord in Chicago on Feb. 2, 2016. swinfinfan / CC BY 2.0

Animal Collective’s 'Tangerine Reef': Myth, Mystery and Subtle Environmentalism

By David Colgan

In a way, you could consider coral reefs the rainforests of the oceans—dense, mysterious and full of life.

Covering less than two percent of the ocean floor, they are home to a quarter of all marine species. But unlike rainforests, a longtime conservation focus, corals have received relatively little attention. The alien-looking seascapes have captivated explorers, divers and others privileged enough to visit, but remained largely out of sight for most people.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Giant Petrel flying over the South Atlantic. Liam Quinn / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s Giant Mice Vs. Rare Seabirds on This Remote South Atlantic Island

On a remote island in the South Atlantic, a evolutionary battle is playing out between giant mice and rare sea birds. So far, the mice are winning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Some of the young plaintiffs in landmark climate case Juliana v. United States. Our Children's Trust

Supreme Court Puts Historic Youth Climate Lawsuit on Hold

The U.S. Supreme Court put a landmark climate case on pause Friday while it considers a last-ditch attempt by the Trump administration to stop it from proceeding to trial, Climate Liability News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Annette Bernhardt / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Things You Can Do to Help Avoid Climate Disaster

By Stephanie Feldstein

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire warning last week: We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and we need to do it fast to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Jess Lundgren / CC BY 2.0

The Trump Administration’s ‘Dishonest’ Attack on Fuel-Economy Standards

By John R. Platt

The Trump administration's plan to freeze fuel-economy standards is "the most spectacular regulatory flip-flop in history," said a retired EPA engineer who helped to develop new the standards under the Obama administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Lizzie Carr traveling down the Hudson River on her stand-up paddleboard. Max Guliani / The Hudson Project

Her Stand-Up Paddleboard Is a Platform for Campaigning Against Plastic Pollution

By Patrick Rogers

Lizzie Carr was navigating a stretch of the Hudson River north of Yonkers, New York, recently when she spotted it—a hunk of plastic so large and out of place that she was momentarily at a loss to describe it.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!