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Nuclear Power and the Climate Crisis (Introduction)

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2019/12/05 - 5:37pm

People who want to fight the climate crisis tend to agree on a lot of things, but nuclear power turns out to be a highly divisive issue. In this series of posts I will use nuclear power to refer to fission – I will write separately about the prospects for fusion

There are several reasons given by people who object to nuclear power, including high cost, risk of accidents and concerns about storage/usage of radioactive materials. Conversely, advocates of investing more in nuclear power point to the need to replace coal and gas plants in providing base load electricity.

Of course a great deal has been written about these questions by people far more knowledgeable than myself. So why write YMBP (yet more blog posts)? First, because writing is a way for me to wrestle down information so that I better understand it myself (and I also tend to learn new things from comments). Second, because there is always the chance that my posts will help elucidate the issues for at least some others as well. 

Let me state my current views upfront, so that you can know my biases while reading the posts: we need more nuclear power in the near term, to bridge into a future where we will not require it. If you have followed my posts on the climate crisis, you will already know that I consider it both the biggest threat and the biggest opportunity for humanity. As such, I believe that we need to use all the technologies available to us – including nuclear power – to their fullest extent, while also being mindful of the problems they each have.

My rough plan for this series of posts is as follows. I will start by looking at the supply of and demand for electricity in a scenario where we rapidly shut down coal and gas plants while simultaneously switching home heating and transportation to electricity. I will then discuss why other options (including wind and solar) are unlikely to be able to fill the resulting gap without additional nuclear power. I will then look at our understanding of radiation, which is central to many objections to nuclear power including high cost and examine those objections more closely. Finally I will suggest ways of furthering nuclear power.

I may of course switch this up depending on what I feel like when writing and based on feedback. So if you have suggestions or questions, please let me know. 

Read Complete Article Thursday, December 5, 2019