Moving Forward With Nuclear
image credit: ID 113779354 © Vaclav Volrab | Dreamstime.com
- Oct 12, 2019 6:09 pm GMTOct 12, 2019 6:09 pm GMT
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Nuclear gets a bad rap. The word elicits mental images of industrial dystopias—whole populations mangled by radiation living under permanently overcast skies. I may be too young and ignorant to really understand what exactly spoiled the energy’s reputation, but I imagine it was some combination of Chernobyl and the horrors of atom bombs. Whatever the case, nuclear makes people squirm, and that’s really too bad.
I’m no expert, but I do listen to the experts, and they seem to be in agreement that nuclear, alongside renewables, is the only shot humanity has at mitigating climate change. The world's top climate scientists, from Dr. James Hansen to Dr. Kerry Emanuel, have demonstrated this time and time again. However, despite their good work, many of the world’s eco-warriors still haven’t gotten the message.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist from Sweden who boasts millions of followers on Instagram, seems to believe we must sacrifice our 21st century luxuries to save the planet. Hers is a viewpoint that’s been promoted since the 1970s by traditional environmental groups. Under close inspection, not only is it apparent that such a dream is politically impossible, but it would actually be bad for the environment. Imagine what would happen to the air if everyone in your neighborhood started burning wood chips to keep warm this winter.
Across from the return to primacy types, are futurists who insist renewables represent salvation. AOC and her Green New Deal partners come to mind. They too, however, are wrong. Utility professionals know all too well the limitations of wind/solar when it comes to grid reliability.
Luckily, a number of public intellectual heavy weights have thrown themselves into the debate on behalf of nuclear. Harvard polymath and best selling author Steven Pinker lobbied for the technology hard in his latest book, Enlightenment Now, and has since made it one of his top talking points. More recently, MIT researcher Andrew McAfee highlighted 4th gen nuclear’s promise in his book More From Less. Let’s hope their sound, evidence-based arguments eventually land.