THE SANTA CLARA
October 24, 2013
Can environmentalists warm up to nuclear power in time to save the planet?
The scientific debate on global warming is over. It’s real. It’s man-made. If we maintain the status quo, we’re cooked.
This is a global problem that demands bold actions, yet the majority of the environmentalist community remains steadfastly opposed to the only real solution to global warming: nuclear power.
Although a few well-respected scientists are calling for nuclear power in order to save the planet, they are dismissed as propagandists and industry shills. We can’t afford to waste any more time.
We need to go nuclear.
Nuclear power has bipartisan support from both President Barack Obama and Republican leadership. It is not a fringe idea.
Yet environmentalists remain against it. Al Gore and Bill McKibben have both written against nuclear power. Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are officially opposed to nuclear energy. Writing in Orion Magazine, environmentalist Derrick Jensen referred to nuclear power as “monstrous.”
All of these environmental activists are well-meaning, but their opposition simply doesn’t hold up under the scientific lens. The preferred energy of many in the environmentalist community, renewables, simply can’t compete with nuclear power on many levels.
Let’s start with pure power. Wind turbines and solar panels can’t do much when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
Even ignoring that, the sun and wind are simply not concentrated enough to provide the amount of power we need to live modern lives.
Environmentalists often point to Germany as a renewable success story. But Germany’s carbon emissions have gone up in the past several years, and they have become even more dependent on coal.
It is also worth mentioning that Germany has needed massive government subsidies to expand renewable energy, which is ironic given that nuclear energy is often derided for being too reliant on subsidies.
So what about meltdowns? The disasters at Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are often used by antinuclear environmentalists as “proof” that nuclear energy should not be pursued.
It is important to put these disasters in context. The deaths per terawatt-hour from the roofing and electrical work needed to install solar panels are 20 times greater than the total deaths per terawatt-hour from nuclear power plants.
Even with this in mind, why should anyone have to die in order to meet modern society’s energy needs? New reactors are designed with built-in cooling features to immediately stop the reacting process the moment the risk of meltdown appears. Why aren’t governments around the world investing in these new reactors?
There is some good news. Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone released a film called “Pandora’s Promise” to positive reception at the most recent Sundance Film Festival.
“Pandora’s Promise” explores the changing attitudes toward nuclear power held by some environmentalists. Stone interviews James Hansen and Mark Lynas, two respected environmentalists who have gone from opposing to supporting nuclear power.
Not interviewed in the film is James Lovelock, the creator of the Gaia theory, which holds that the earth is one living organism. Lovelock’s work has inspired countless environmentalists and has made the scientific case for saving the planet from the excesses of humans.
Lovelock is a firm supporter of nuclear power and wrote that nuclear was “the one safe, available energy source” that could save the planet.
Predictably, anti-nuclear activists have dismissed “Pandora’s Promise” as industry propaganda. They will likely continue to do so. E. F. Schumacher once wrote that “radiation is the greatest threat to man’s survival on earth.”
Perhaps if Schumacher were alive today, he would know about this little thing called “global warming.”
Moshe Wander is an undeclared freshman.