ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nuclear Power in the Context of Global Warming

Four American scientists have proposed giving nuclear power a chance to reduce fossil fuel pollution and mitigate global warming. But from all we know so far, it could be futile to address global warming by replacing one polluting electricity-generation technology with another very risky technology, while not reducing our overall consumption of energy and materials. This article points out that a growing number of studies see a very critical role for renewable energy sources in the near future. Whether to combat poverty or global warming, our attention needs to turn to these cheaper, safer, sustainable, and people-friendly technologies.

At a time when the true relevance of nuclear power is being increasingly questioned around the world due to concerns over safety, security, and economics, a news report from the Associated Press (AP) indicates that four scientists who have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change have in a letter asked environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as a way to cut fossil fuel pollution. The letter is signed by Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James E Hansen of Columbia University, and Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Adelaide (Revkin 2013).

Two major fallacies seem to be associated with nuclear power’s projected role in containing global warming. One is that the huge number of nuclear power reactors required to replace existing fossil fuel power plants can be commissioned in a short time frame to contain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The second is that addressing the energy sector’s GHG contribution alone will be able to mitigate the impact of global warming.

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