The Experts Weigh In: Nuclear power is the solution to a low-carbon future

Posted: April 9, 2019

In the search for a path to a renewable energy future, experts are saying the answer has been in plain sight all along. 

In their New York Times op-ed, Nuclear Power Can Save the World, authors Joshua S. Goldstein, Staffan A. Qvist and Steven Pinker dispute the long-standing myths about nuclear power to prove how two of the world’s most thriving countries, France and Sweden, have achieved grid decarbonization and cheap energy generation through their embrace of nuclear power:

They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power’s intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France replaced almost all of its fossil-fueled electricity with nuclear power nationwide in just 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity historically are countries rolling out nuclear power.

This is a realistic solution to humanity’s greatest problem. Plants built 30 years ago in America, as in France, produce cheap, clean electricity, and nuclear power is the cheapest source in South Korea. 

Goldstein, Qvist and Pinker also point out the three major nuclear accidents over the 60 years of nuclear generation – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima – and compare the 31 known fatalities of Chernobyl (the only nuclear accident that killed anyone) to the thousands of deaths attributed to the coal industry every month.

In a similar vein, two of the most famous promoters of nuclear power, Dr. James Hansen and Michael Shellenberger, dispelled another myth about nuclear power in their Wall Street Journal op-ed, The Climate Needs Nuclear Power. While many anti-nuclear activists demand that solar and wind power development replace America’s nuclear fleet, Hansen and Shellenberger point out how this would actually destroy energy reliability:

The problem isn’t only that nuclear plants generate far more electricity. It’s that solar and wind generate it only sporadically, which means they must be backed up by other sources of power 100% of the time. There is great hype about batteries, and using dams as pumped storage. But those solutions remain extremely expensive, which is why whenever nuclear plants close anywhere in the world, they are usually replaced by coal or natural-gas plants—not solar, not wind and not batteries.

The experts have spoken: to successfully achieve a low-carbon future, the public must put aside their prejudice of nuclear power and see it not as a challenge, but the solution to a clean-energy future.