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Pope Thinks Nuclear Energy Should be Excommunicated

image credit: ID 31909515 © Risto Hunt |

Pope Francis recently visited the nation of Japan, making him the first pope to do so in 38 years. While in the land of the rising sun, Francis took some time to comment on nuclear energy. “Our age is tempted to make technological progress the measure of human progress,” he said. “So it is important to pause and reflect on who we are … and who we want to be.” He then added, “Important decisions will have to be made about the use of natural resources, and future energy sources in particular.” Finally, he addressed nuclear energy specifically, saying: "I have a personal opinion: I wouldn't use nuclear energy until it is totally safe to use." 

The 82-year-old Argentine’s take on nuclear isn’t novel. We’ve heard many nuclear skeptics say they’d be for the energy just as soon as it was certified accident proof. The problem that a 100% risk-free energy source doesn’t exist, and probably never will. The reality, however, is that nuclear energy has proven to be much safer than the most popular alternatives: fossil fuels. What’s more, in recent years, nuclear has gotten even less accident prone thanks to a better safety protocols and tools. 

The paradox of the Pope’s stance on nuclear is that it runs counter to his mission of stopping climate change. Renewables are fantastic and will only continue to get better, but they won’t take over for at least another 30 years or so. Nuclear represents the only real shot we have at cutting down emissions in the near and medium future. Advocates for the clean energy source certainly have their work cut out for them. Most people I talk to are as skeptical of nuclear as the pope, and big time policy makers are no exception (see Green New Deal). I don’t know how to change public opinion on nuclear energy, any ideas?


Henry Craver's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 2, 2019 8:26 am GMT

"I don’t know how to change public opinion on nuclear energy, any ideas?"

Henry, no easy answers for that one. Fear of the unknown is a powerful motivator.

IMO the main obstacle most people have with accepting nuclear energy is an exaggerated perception of its dangers. A Geiger counter / dosimeter can be useful for showing how ionizing radiation is ubiquitous and, for the most part, harmless.

Having explanations for the most common questions/misunderstandings is essential.

Colin Megson's picture
Colin Megson on Dec 3, 2019 12:45 pm GMT

"...Advocates for the clean energy source certainly have their work cut out for them..."

It's already sorted. Michał Sołowow, the Polish billionaire knows a good thing when he sees it:

By 2030, the BWRX-300 will be available in the UK for £468 million, with a 2 year builds programme and 60 year design life. This 300 MW nuclear power plant [npp] will generate 142 million MWh of 24/7, low-carbon, dividend-paying units of electricity.

Compare this to the most cost effective of renewables - onshore wind: 539 MW Whitelee Windfarm cost £600 million, with a 2 year build programme and 25 year lifespan. It will generate 32 million MWh of intermittent, low-carbon, dividend-paying units of electricity.

The 2 year build programme for a npp obviates the cost-of-capital dilemma that has plagued nuclear power for decades. With that gone, all of those pseudo-green, money-grubbing, quick-bucks, pension fund managers will be drooling at the mouth to get all of their money out of renewables and into the uniquely cost effective BWRX-300 SMR. It is a low cost npp design that may never be bettered.

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