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Issues of time and cost rule out nuclear power as a solution to climate change

globalnukeNONuclear power running out of juice  By Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Thursday, February 20, 2014  Recently a friend asked me about the role of nuclear power in addressing climate change, an issue that divides the environmental movement, and one worth examining……….

Since splitting atoms doesn’t release fossil carbon, nuclear is described by some as a ‘clean’ or ‘green’ energy source, even though there are some carbon emissions in the mining and processing of nuclear isotopes, and in the construction of nuclear plants, as well as other toxic or radiation issues………

The question then really comes down to cost and time. Climate change is a slow but inexorable process; we don’t have to change overnight (which is good, because we can’t) but we must start moving in the right direction now and build momentum. We can’t afford to wait to start later, and we have only so much money to accomplish what needs be done.

That’s where the red flags go up. A nuclear renaissance is slow; if we dive in today, it will be a decade before the new plants come on line. In contrast, new renewable energy can be installed steadily in the meantime, and be producing more energy each year, starting from year-one. So a switch to renewables is a better fit for the time pressure we face.

Then there is the money issue: the costs of existing nuclear technology are huge, many hidden behind government subsidies or relaxed insurance rules. By putting all our eggs into a nuclear basket, we would run short of funds to implement existing and new technologies of efficiency and conservation to reduce energy demand, or improve and expand renewable generation. Quite simply, we can’t afford to do both.

These time and cost issues remain a problem whether considering existing nuclear technologies, prospective next generation ones or the switch to thorium that some propose as an alternative. Thorium, a somewhat cleaner or less risky fuel than uranium, is still unproven at the commercial scale, still presents weapons proliferation risks, and still would take years or decades and cost huge sums to establish. Too little, too late, for too much……..
 looking forward, nuclear seems too slow and costly a path to redemption, while renewable energy is already established, becoming steadily cheaper and ready to go right now.

February 21, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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