The Coming Debate over Nuclear Power

March 28th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here is some background reading on this subject:

From the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, an article by Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills titled, “Why the U.S. Needs More Nuclear Power” arguing for more nuclear power. Here is an excerpt:

“Many Greens think that they have a good grip on the likely trajectory of the planet’s climate over the next 100 years…But serious Greens must face reality. Short of some convulsion that drastically shrinks the economy, demand for electricity will go on rising. Total U.S. electricity consumption will increase another 20 to 30 percent, at least, over the next ten years. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, moreover, will let the grid go cold—not even if that means burning yet another 400 million more tons of coal. Not even if that means melting the ice caps and putting much of Bangladesh under water. No governor or president wants to be the next Gray Davis, recalled from office when the lights go out.

The power has to come from somewhere. Sun and wind will never come close to supplying it. Earnest though they are, the people who argue otherwise are the folks who brought us 400 million extra tons of coal a year. The one practical technology that could decisively shift U.S. carbon emissions in the near term would displace coal with uranium, since uranium burns emission-free. It’s time even for Greens to embrace the atom.

It must surely be clear by now, too, that the political costs of depending so heavily on oil from the Middle East are just too great. We need to find a way to stop funneling $25 billion a year (or so) of our energy dollars into churning cauldrons of hate and violence. By sharply curtailing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we would greatly expand the range of feasible political and military options in dealing with the countries that breed the terrorists.

The best thing we can do to decrease the Middle East’s hold on us is to turn off the spigot ourselves. For economic, ecological, and geopolitical reasons, U.S. policymakers ought to promote electrification on the demand side, and nuclear fuel on the supply side, wherever they reasonably can.”

Read the whole essay here.

From CSPO’s policy perspective series an article by G. Pascal Zachary titled “Nuclear Resurgence, Part I” that discusses some possible obstacles and promises a second part on potential downsides. Here is an excerpt:

“A global revival of nuclear power is underway, spurred by higher oil and gas prices, rising demand for electricity in Asia, and growing worries of the role of carbon fuels in climate change.

Consider the following: China intends to build 24 to 30 nuclear plants in the next 15 years; this fall, the country issued a bid tender for the first 2 plants. India’s plans are less defined but possibly as ambitious, given the country’s growing need for electricity and its tiny reliance on nuclear power to date. Finland is building two new nuclear plants, Belgium is considering doing so, and France is studying a new generation of reactor technology. Oil-poor Japan, Korea and Taiwan, representing East Asia’s most important economies, are each building nuclear plants. In the U.S., which has the largest number of operating atomic power plants, no new plants are planned, yet operators of existing plants and the Bush administration are promoting a renewed building program around existing reactor technology and a new generation of commercial plants around so-called “high-temperature” reactors that are theoretically safer, cheaper to build and easier to run. Moreover, dozens of American nuclear-power plants, once thought to be destined for closure, are winning life-extension of at least 20 to 30 years, virtually guaranteeing that the U.S. will remain home to the largest number of commercial reactors in the world for the foreseeable future…

In recent months, I have been visiting nuclear power plants, interviewing their managers and the executives of utilities who own them. I have been surveying the recent literature in the field, talking with critics, and pondering the course of what others are identifying as a “nuclear spring.” In two short CSPO “Perspectives,” I will present several key questions arising from a revival of nuclear power. In the second paper, I will raise questions about security of nuclear plants, the potential for terrorist exploitation of these plants and the extent to which nuclear plants spur the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this first paper, I will briefly survey four important questions about the economic, technical and environmental sustainability of nuclear power.”

Read the whole essay here.

2 Responses to “The Coming Debate over Nuclear Power”

  1. Áëîã Says:

    Future of nuclear power

    The coming debate over nuclear power….

  2. 2
  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    See this article in the 23 April 2005 edition of The Independent:

    “Downing Street is drawing up secret plans to create a new generation of nuclear power stations as the centrepiece of the Government’s drive to combat climate change. Tony Blair wants to avoid discussing the issue until after the election and the No 10 review of Britain’s energy needs is not mentioned in the manifesto. But a team in the Strategy Unit, led by Lord Birt, the former BBC director general and one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisers, is studying whether nuclear power should play a central role in combating global warming.”