Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Nuclear energy is now green

Patrick Moore writes in the Washington Post that nuclear power holds the most promise for the future of energy. The "Atoms for Peace" thrust of the fifties was followed by a lot of scary press with the onset of the arms race. We now return to a more positive view of nuclear energy.

Today, there are 103 nuclear reactors quietly delivering just 20 percent of America's electricity. Eighty percent of the people living within 10 miles of these plants approve of them (that's not including the nuclear workers). Although I don't live near a nuclear plant, I am now squarely in their camp.

And I am not alone among seasoned environmental activists in changing my mind on this subject. British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, believes that nuclear energy is the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the "Whole Earth Catalog," says the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. On occasion, such opinions have been met with excommunication from the anti-nuclear priesthood: The late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth, was forced to resign from the group's board after he wrote a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter.

This is a sharp change of direction for these icons of the greens. If they can be pursuaded, it's time we all took another look. Besides, the real problems of war and peace have more to do with human behavior than access to technology.

A list of objections to nuclear power are dismissed by the writer as myths. Go to the link and read the rest, but this one struck me hard. He's right, you know:

Nuclear fuel can be diverted to make nuclear weapons. This is the most serious issue associated with nuclear energy and the most difficult to address, as the example of Iran shows. But just because nuclear technology can be put to evil purposes is not an argument to ban its use.

Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools -- the machete -- has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire.

1 comment:

James Aach said...

FYI: Stewart Brand, the founder of The Whole Earth Catalog mentioned in the linked article above, has also endorsed a techno-thriller novel of nuclear power by a longtime industry insider (me). This story serves as a lay person's guide to the good and the bad of this power source. (There's plenty of both). The book is available at no cost to readers at RadDecision.blogspot.com - and they seem to like it, judging from their comments on the homepage.