Nuclear? Yes way!

Caption: It’s embarrassing to admit how many of these I remember.

A long, long time ago, largely under the influence of a hippy elder sibling, your humble correspondent was known to frequent the odd anti-nuclear rally. I?d return from these sporting a collection of those old yellow anti-nuclear buttons. I blush when remembering how I used to wear them to school, looking (and acting) no doubt like a prototype of Rik from The Young Ones.

Luckily, I grew older and, I like to think, marginally wiser. More importantly, I broadened my sources of information beyond the scary-scary-nuclear-DOOM propaganda that the hippy activists were handing out. To paraphrase Keynes, as the facts became clearer, I changed my mind. Quote:

While it seems to fly in the face of everything we believe and have been taught about nuclear power, it may actually be the safest form of power production that we have. Ironically, the immense potency of the power of splitting an atom is simultaneously what makes nuclear weapons so dangerous as well as what makes nuclear power so safe.

Despite high-profile nuclear disasters like Chernobyl in Ukraine (then the Soviet Union), Fukushima in Japan, and Three Mile Island in the United States, the deaths related to nuclear meltdowns are actually very few. In fact, climate scientists Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen discovered that overall, nuclear energy actually saves lives–their study found that up until now, nuclear power has already saved nearly two million lives that would have been lost to air pollution-related deaths from the contamination that would have been produced by other, more traditional, sources of energy. End of quote.

Hansen is not exactly known for his rectitude when it comes to making scary, exaggerated claims. As much a propagandist as a scientist, Hanson is notorious for his 1988 Congressional testimony (complete with hilariously failed scary predictions) where he secretly sabotaged the air-conditioning during a sweltering Washington summer, for dramatic effect.

Suffice to say that, if Hansen is backing nuclear, it?s an interesting development in the climate change establishment. Quote:

Nuclear power is an incredibly clean form of energy thanks to its staggering efficiency?While renewable resources like wind and solar are also much, much cleaner alternatives to the fossil fuel industry, with negligible levels of emissions, nuclear has a lot of benefits that renewables can’t compete with. One of these is that although nuclear plants create massive amounts of energy, they take up very little space thanks to their energy density. Even in places where the sun shines the majority of the time, like in California, a solar farm takes up 450 times more space than a nuclear plant to produce the same amount of energy. End of quote.

?Renewables? like wind and solar don?t exactly have ?negligible? emissions when one takes into account their production, which involves massive resources, with concomitant greenhouse gas emissions and considerable toxic wastes (the poisoned wastelands in China, the result of producing solar panels and batteries for ?green? westerners, are ample testament). Quote:

On top of taking up far less space than renewable energy production, nuclear also requires a much, much smaller quantity of materials and therefore produces considerably less waste. Put simply, nuclear is far more efficient and energy-dense than either solar or wind. End of quote.

Thorium nuclear is a promising technology that has the potential to do away with many of the downsides of uranium fission. Thorium not only almost completely eliminates the safety risks of uranium, namely meltdowns and the production of elements that can be reprocessed to make bombs, it is far more plentiful. Thorium not only produces much less waste, with much shorter half-lives, than uranium, it can also use current nuclear waste stocks as fuel. Quote:

In his think piece titled “Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet” [Michael] Shellenberger goes on to say, “It’s true that you can stand next to a solar panel without much harm while if you stand next to a nuclear reactor at full power you’ll die. But when it comes to generating power for billions of people, it turns out that producing solar and wind collectors, and spreading them over large areas, has vastly worse impacts on humans and wildlife alike.” End of quote.