Commentary May 11, 2020

Going Nuclear on Climate Change?

Three inter-related reasons why nuclear power cannot address our planetary crisis: time, money, and risk.
Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Three inter-related reasons why nuclear power cannot address our planetary crisis: time, money, and risk. Mitigating climate change is a matter of urgency; constructing new nuclear power plants is slow and full of setbacks. Finland’s Olkiluoto reactor is currently 11 years behind schedule, putting the total time for the project at 21 years (and counting). The world just can’t build nuclear plants fast enough to slow global warming. Meanwhile, all nuclear power projects rely on government subsidies (including tax breaks) to operate. Instead, state funds should go to energy projects with faster timelines. Especially since insurance companies refuse to issue policies for nuclear plants, leaving taxpayers with the costs of “cleanup” (such as it is). And while the industry insists that chances of core damage equal one incident every 50,000 reactor-years of operation, core meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima reactors constitute five “incidents” in 100 reactor-years. Time to stop fantasizing and invest in other energy sources.

Read full survey at Foreign Affairs