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Open Letter to Secretary John Kerry

Ripudaman Malhotra's picture
Independent Consultant
  • Member since 2018
  • 21 items added with 7,016 views

Dear Secretary Kerry,

Congratulations on being picked to be the Czar for Climate in President-elect Biden’s administration. I heard you speak about your role on a couple of different news shows and am pleased to note that you recognize the shortcomings of the Paris Agreement.

The only effective solution that scientists like James Hansen are telling us to embrace, is nuclear power. As an energy researcher myself, I maintain that you cannot be serious about climate change if you are not serious about nuclear energy. Nuclear power is the one source of clean energy that is scalable to the levels needed. It is also the has safest record (fewest fatalities per TWh generated) and the smallest environmental footprint, both in terms of area covered and tonnage of commodity materials required per unit of electricity delivered. Yet, our current policies such as subsidies and portfolio standards, and the manner in which electricity is marketed is making nuclear power uncompetitive. The unfounded fear of radiation and years of anti-nuclear misinformation has placed such strict and expensive standards on the nuclear power plants that they are being priced out. In many states even fully functioning nuclear power plants are being shuttered. We have a shortfall of clean electricity, and we are digging ourselves deeper in the hole!

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I hope in your capacity as Climate Czar you will address the market distortions that are at the root of the nuclear power plant closures. Instead of closing them down, we should be extending clean energy credits to them, support their expansion, and invest in demonstration of newer walk-away safe nuclear power plant designs.

Getting the public to embrace nuclear power presents a formidable challenge. Public opposition to nuclear power has its origin in the debunked idea that there is no safe dosage of radiation, and the improper application of the LNT (linear, no threshold) hypothesis to estimate cancer in large populations exposed to low levels of radiation. Without public acceptance of nuclear power, we have no chance to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or curbing the devastating effects of climate change. What is urgently needed is a sustained public education and outreach program that undoes the decades of anti-nuclear fear mongering. An office of energy education and public outreach dispelling the fear of nuclear power. There are trade-offs with all energy systems, but the benefits from nuclear power far outweigh the risks.

Good luck to you in your new role!

Respectfully,

Ripudaman Malhotra, PhD
Fellow, American Chemical Society
cmo-ripu.blogspot.com

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 14, 2020

Getting the public to embrace nuclear power presents a formidable challenge. Public opposition to nuclear power has its origin in the debunked idea that there is no safe dosage of radiation, and the improper application of the LNT (linear, no threshold) hypothesis to estimate cancer in large populations exposed to low levels of radiation.

Agree with you that this is an immense hurdle, and one that perhaps nuclear is dealing with unfairly. I've seen lots of lamenting this fact, but we still don't have effective action to try to turn the course on these public sentiments. What do you think is the best approach for that? Is it a matter of a Kerry/Biden team publicly espousing these facts? Getting buy in from other highly influential public officials? Charging ahead despite a wary public? What do you think it will take to turn the tides? 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 15, 2020

The "nuclear radiation is dangerous at any level" fabrication (which started in the 1950s) was foreshadowing for the recent alternative facts epidemic (which is plaguing US politics, climate policy, environmental policy, civil rights, and even pandemic policy).

If we can't find a solution soon, we are doomed.

I think the answer lies with the public demanding science based policy and objective journalism.  I doubt that new president can do much to help if we don't want the help.

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