Environmentalists Warm Up To Nuclear Energy

  • Date: 04/05/14
  • Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

Gasp! The green movement may be getting smarter. Slowly, if not surely, more and more greens seem to be getting on board with nuclear energy.

The reasoning is simple: Nuclear doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, and the alternatives for base-load power generation are the dreaded fossil fuels. Now, as the New York Times reports, a green group is preparing to publish a report lamenting the slow decline of the industry in the US:

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an independent nonprofit group based in Washington that was formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, plans to release on Monday a research paper that charts the decline of the industry.

“The loss of nuclear plants from the electricity grid would likely lead to millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year,” because the substitute would be fossil fuels, the paper concludes. “This is a prospect the global climate cannot afford.”

Carol M. Browner, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former climate adviser to President Obama, and Susan F. Tierney, another former energy aide to Mr. Obama, are among the prominent figures expected to be present when the paper is made public.

While this new green support for nuclear is focused on keeping the older generation of plants online, there’s another, much more promising option coming down the pipe. A newer generation of nuclear technology is on the way, one that promises to produce base-load energy without causing as many problems with waste as the old reactor technologies do. The new reactors will also be much safer. Many of these new reactors will be smaller and modular, allowing planners to deploy nuclear power more easily as an energy source.

This is an environmentalist’s dream, or at least it should be: a consistent zero-carbon energy source. Instead, greens have resisted this technology’s allure, choosing instead to focus on what can happen in a worst-case scenario.

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