It seems strange to me that that the new green deal wants clean and renewable power from solar and wind energy yet oppose nuclear energy. I have been googling experts’ consensus on nuclear energy and even tried to google experts against nuclear energy and so far all the results say nuclear is the greenest and most efficient power source that will reduce carbon emissions. So, as far as quick search shows, nuclear energy seems to be by far our best option for green energy. The new green deal seems like a huge investment on inefficient technologies.
According to Holman Jenkins in 2016, the answer is murky, not least because environmentalists are not unified against nuclear:
Honest greens have always said nuclear power is indispensable for achieving big carbon reduction. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who has been chaining himself to fences since the first Bush administration, was in Illinois last week lobbying against closure of a nuclear plant. Ditto activist Michael Shellenberger. We might also include Bill McKibben, the Bernie Sanders of the climate movement and shouter of Exxon accusations, who told journalist William Tucker four years ago, “If I came out in favor of nuclear, it would split this movement in half.”
Nuclear (unlike solar) is one low-carbon energy technology that has zero chance without strong government support, yet is left out of renewables mandates. It’s the one non-carbon energy source that has actually been shrinking, losing ground to coal and natural gas.
What keeps nuclear costs high? Why do so many opponents misread the Fukushima meltdown, where 18,000 deaths were due to the earthquake and tsunami, none to radiation exposure, and none are expected from radiation exposure? Why has the U.S. experience of spiraling nuclear construction costs not been matched in South Korea, where normal learning has reduced the cost of construction?
The answer increasingly appears to be a real scientific fraud. In a series of peer-reviewed articles, toxicologist Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows how a cabal of radiation geneticists in the 1940s doctored their results, and even a Nobel Prize acceptance speech, to exaggerate the health risk from low-level radiation exposure. At the time, Hermann Muller, their leader, was militating against above-ground atomic-bomb testing. “I think he got his beliefs and his science confused, and he couldn’t admit that the science was unresolved,” Mr. Calabrese told a UMass publication.
This is a broad topic, and for an overview I would suggest to look at the wikipedia article on the anti-nuclear movement.
The main points are:
- accidents which pose a risk to humans and the environment (see Fukushima or Chernobyl).
- waste disposal: the problem of disposing nuclear waste long-term is still completely unsolved, and the waste poses a threat to humans and the environment.
- limited supply and dependency on countries producing uranium.
- nuclear proliferation: there is a fear that nuclear powerplants can produce material for nuclear weapons.
Because of these reasons, nuclear energy isn't categorized as renewable (it depends on a non-renewable resource) or green (it at least has the potential to damage the environment to a high degree).
Your point about energy efficiency is probably better addressed in a separate question. But see eg this question where I included a comparison on energy returned on energy invested; wind and hydro are well above nuclear, while solar is just a bit below it.
The whole point of these "New X Deal"s is to unite the party proposing it, pick up some outside support, and put the other party in a weak position if they oppose it. If there's some kind of seam in popular support for bits of it, you want that seam to be in the other party, not in yours. For Democrats, putting nuclear power in there would not do that.
About a decade ago I attended a local Democratic Party convention where one of the items under consideration was the party's platform support for a proposed new nuclear power plant in our state. Perhaps what I saw there will be enlightening. A party platform item is every bit as symbolic as a "New X Deal" statement, and these things tend to slowly move from the grassroots to the national level.
The proposal for the statement in support of the plant came from a local union leader. The plant meant lots of jobs in one fell swoop, and likely union jobs. Another supporting speaker was one of the younger attendees, arguing in favor of it as a carbon-neutral power source, in what should be considered a climate emergency. Very much the kind of arguments you mention.
Those speaking against were all boomers and older Democrats, arguing against it on the basis of fundamental problems with nuclear power in general. The arguments were basically the same as you see in Tim's answer here.
When it came time for a vote, that seemed to be the rough breakdown you saw. All the supporters were either young or union people. Everyone else against. There was some crossover, but that was the basic trend. So the platform provision was removed.
The union guy pushing it got so upset by this he immediately shut down the proceedings via a quorum call. Most of the remaining attendees proceeded to go to the parking lot and argue about it for 20 minutes or so (I know what you're thinking, but no blows exchanged. Just a lot of loud arguing). This remains the only time I've ever seen anything like that kind of acrimony at a Democratic convention.
The point of this story is to illustrate that, for the Democratic Party, adding nuclear as an option in a climate platform may pick up some non-Democrats, but it's certainly not a unifying issue. Any vision proposal that includes it will lose support from a lot of Democrats and cause a lot of infighting. That'd be great for Republicans, but not for Democrats.
It depends on what you consider good and bad.
If your only concern is greenshouse-gas emissions, then nuclear is indeed good. Yet, nuclear energy brings along problems of its own, e.g. nuclear waste, nuclear accidents, etc.
These, are the main reasons why many proponents of green energy dismiss nuclear energy. If something goes wrong in a wind-park, then some windmills collapse and a finite number of people may be harmed. If something goes wrong in a nuclear powerplant, well ...
The environmental movement was initially opposed to nuclear power, partially due to it being tied to nuclear war (Chernobyl was a weapons grade Plutonium reactor), and partially due to the risks involved (this well predated Climate Change being the top concern). These fears would be exacerbated in 1979 by the Three Mile island accident, and the movie The China Syndrome. Chernobyl in 1986 would further galvanize the sentiment that nuclear power is generally bad.
Likewise, storing and transporting nuclear waste is also highly controversial. In the United States, Congress created the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada. However, environmentalists opposed this and the project was immensely politically unpopular. A major factor there was fear of nuclear waste requiring transportation to the site from the entire US. One truck or train accident could contaminate an area. Despite reaching the point of accepting material, President Obama killed the project, in a move widely seen as a favor to then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was elected from Nevada.
Nuclear is also very costly. Georgia, USA is currently building nuclear power plant that's currently at $27B. Some of this is due to Toshiba-Westinghouse going bankrupt (the company was one of the last still building nuclear power plants). Many utilities are unwilling to try and raise that kind of capital to build a new plant.
There's also a belief in some environmental circles that going 100% renewable energy (wind and solar) is a viable option, despite the cost and unpredictability. There is still no certainty that 100% renewable energy can replace all energy sources. Proponents of nuclear often cite that
To many, nuclear doesn’t look like an option worth backing. In many formerly promising markets, it is now seen as too costly. It still hasn’t really worked out what to do with its waste. And its biggest hope, the small modular reactor, is facing hurdles on the road to commercialization.
Against this, nuclear power advocates such as The Breakthrough Institute fear that the intermittency of solar and wind and low capacity factors will require unfeasibly large levels of overcapacity or storage to achieve a fully decarbonized energy system.
In contrast, they argue, nuclear energy has already proved it can power leading economies with a minimal footprint and, historically at least, reasonable costs.
I am just adding some stuff regarding CO2 emissions. The rest is well summarized by user tim.
While it is true that the process of generating electricity from uranium is more or less CO2 emission free, the mining of uranium ore is not. The emissions are minor when compared to coal based electrical energy though. But it is a fact that nuclear power (uranium based at least) is not renewable (limited uranium ore) and with dwindling supply of high quality ore the CO2 emissions from uranium ore mining will grow.
The green movement usually will opt for renewable and sustainable energy sources.(wind, water, thermal and the like).
I notice your question is tagged united-states but most of the arguments from my European background will nonetheless remain valid.
This sounds a little bit like fear of technology, but there have been significant incidents in three of the largest users of nuclear power (the US, the USSR and Japan). Now for the US accident you could say that it was still in the somewhat early days. For Chernobyl you could say that this was the ‘Russian way of safety’ (haha, prejudice, haha). And for Japan this was an earthquake coupled with a tsunami outside all predictions from when the plant was built.
Humans, especially engineers, like to believe they can control everything given enough fallback procedures or safety nets. When it comes to nuclear power, the ultimate risk is contaminating an entire landscape for centuries. The probability of this happening is minute but the damage is immense. It depends on how you estimate the product of probability times damage; many greens will argue that the overall risk is too high. Note that one core principle of greens is to preserve as much of the environment in as natural a way as possible; obviously even if people are less affected the results of radioactive contamination may be devastating to the environment. (‘May’, not ‘will’)
Tied into this is the question of how to protect a nuclear power plant against potential terrorism attacks. Currently, it seems to me as if the European solution is fingers crossed. While many other targets may be equally badly protected the fallout risk again seems much higher in the case of nuclear power.
Renewable energy sources fare perfectly in comparison with any potential damage being local only.
According to Wikipedia, the top miners of uranium are Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia, with further mining countries in order of contribution to the worldwide output being Niger, Namibia, Russia, Uzbekistan and the USA. The US account for 3 % of worldwide uranium mining.
In the US but definitely so in Canada, home sources of uranium may be sufficient to supply the country with all its needed material. In Europe, this is definitely not the case. If you are relying on your uranium coming in from (say) Kazakhstan or Niger but either of that country decides to embargo you for any reason you are probably facing severe blackouts which is not good for our modern society. Not to say that this will happen but it is a potential that one should not disregard. Russia has been known to stop or restart gas deliveries as it sees fit, to point to a recent other example.
Naturally, renewable energy sources such as windmills or photovoltaic also require certain metals that are not abundant in Europe. However, you only need them once to build the plant and then you’re good.
It is correct that nuclear power does not generate any carbon dioxide emissions in the process of generating electricity from the radioactive energy. However, plants are usually not next to uranium mines especially in countries like France or Japan that don’t have any significant uranium deposits. Therefore, this uranium must be transported from its mine to the power plant. Depending on source, destination and means this could be by ship, road or rail transport; each of them adding to the real carbon emissions of nuclear power.
Renewable energy is produced on the spot and does not require any raw materials to be transported after construction. Aside from eliminating potential carbon dioxide emissions, this also frees up infrastructure for other usage especially if road or rail is used.
Obviously to a chemist or nuclear physicist, after being used for power generation the uranium source is still radioactive. Humanity doesn’t really know what to do with it. Partially it can be and is recycled but even then something has to be done with the non-fissible excess uranium-238. Ideally, one would put it back in its mine where it has been all along but realistically nobody is ‘just going to take it back’. Thus, deposit sites have to be found which is a highly political issue due to the substances involved. If you want an exhaustive overview on that subject, I recommend searching for the history of Gorleben, Germany’s once only proposed radioactiv waste disposal site.
Naturally, renewable sources do not generate waste during their lifetime and towards the end of it the components can be recycled easily and do not carry radioactive dangers.
Uranium is a non-renewable resource thus there may come the day when the world’s uranium has been used up. Currently, this is far, far into the future but assuming a sizable increase in nuclear power production this day will approach more rapidly.
Contrary to that, renewable sources build on energy ultimately coming from the sun and thus will remain effective until the solar system ends.
This is a minor one and should probably not even be added since nobody is (to the best of my knowledge) suggesting relying on nuclear power to 100 %. But it should nonetheless be noted.
Nuclear power is a base load-type power, meaning that a certain plant will output a more or less constant power 24/7; much like a coal plant. Actual electricity demand does not follow this pattern with more electicity being needed in the evening for lights, PCs and televisions and during weekdays for factories with lower loads occuring in the second half of the night when most people are asleep. Of course, a certain base load is needed and nuclear power may (under consideration of the points above) be used to supply that.
Renewable sources suffer from this equally. They typically (with the principal exception of hydroelectricity) do not provide electricity when needed but when the conditions are favourable.
In all fairness, I will also note that nuclear power is (or was when I actually saw figures which was two decades ago) the cheapest energy source per kWh—at least among non-renewable fuel sources.
In a word, Hollywood. We have had over half a century of bad movies*, and books, comic books (remember the "radioactive spider" of Spiderman?) and other forms of popular culture pushing the "Omigawd it's radioactive! We're all gonna DIE!" meme. And since a significant fraction of the environmental movement (and of the general population) gets its ideas of science from such mass media rather than from actually studying science, they're locked into that false meme.
*First one I know of was the original Godzilla, released in 1954, but I'm not a movie history buff.
The reason is because, to the degree that there is a consensus definition of "green," it does not match up with what you claim it is.
I have been googling experts consensus on nuclear energy and even tried to google experts against nuclear energy and so far all the results say nuclear is the greenest and most efficient power source that will reduce carbon emissions.
That is in dispute, to say the least. First of all, your (completely unsourced/linked/unsupported) claim that all who support and oppose nuclear energy all agree that it's the greenest is simply a false claim. Either you are misrepresenting what people are saying, or you have not mastered the basics of a Google search.
First of all, "green" is not limited to just how much carbon is produced when harvesting the energy. Coal isn't considered dirty just because it emits carbon, it also emits sulfur dioxide, mercury, and many other toxic by-products. The coal dust and (now that most of the largest pure-coal veins have long since been exploited) silica dust are lethal to the miners, even when they wear equipment, which is not mandatory, and the by-products of the mining process are foul and toxic, as well. The 2014 Elk River chemical spill was from mining chemicals used to extract the coal from all the other substances present in the ore.
When evaluating green, it has never, ever just been about how much carbon is emitted.
Green energy comes from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, plants, algae and geothermal heat. These energy resources are renewable, meaning they're naturally replenished. In contrast, fossil fuels are a finite resource that take millions of years to develop and will continue to diminish with use.
Renewable energy sources also have a much smaller impact on the environment than fossil fuels, which produce pollutants such as greenhouse gases as a by-product, contributing to climate change. Gaining access to fossil fuels typically requires either mining or drilling deep into the earth, often in ecologically sensitive locations.
Green energy, however, utilizes energy sources that are readily available all over the world, including in rural and remote areas that don't otherwise have access to electricity. Advances in renewable energy technologies have lowered the cost of solar panels, wind turbines and other sources of green energy, placing the ability to produce electricity in the hands of the people rather than those of oil, gas, coal and utility companies.
Green energy can replace fossil fuels in all major areas of use including electricity, water and space heating and fuel for motor vehicles.
Nuclear fission fails the "green" definition on several levels - It is not renewable. The processes that one has to go through to get it to an energy-producing state are very, very energy-intensive (and not self-powered, so, fossil fuels are burned) and are, themselves, dirty. There are already ongoing issues with abandoned uranium sites that need to be cleaned up. The amount of raw material that has to be processed to get a usable amount of fissile material is pretty staggering, which means the cleanups are, as well. That's pretty much the opposite of "green."
From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation. Many Navajo people worked the mines, often living and raising families in close proximity to the mines and mills. Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.
Nuclear power reactors do not produce direct carbon dioxide emissions Unlike fossil fuel-fired power plants, nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while operating. However, the processes for mining and refining uranium ore and making reactor fuel all require large amounts of energy. Nuclear power plants also have large amounts of metal and concrete, which require large amounts of energy to manufacture. If fossil fuels are used for mining and refining uranium ore, or if fossil fuels are used when constructing the nuclear power plant, then the emissions from burning those fuels could be associated with the electricity that nuclear power plants generate.
Now, my pointing out that nuclear is not, at all, "green" is not an argument for or against its use as part of a comprehensive energy and environmental policy. That was not asked about in the question. However, I do feel the need to push back against the foundation of your question and the assumptions you want us to take as a given, because they are not accurate.
You're projecting a worldview that isn't necessarily shared by Greens.
Basically, what you're saying is we've got problem X, Y is a solution, let's use it.
However, Greens have certain core values and prejudices. Attachment to natural processes, fear of atomic weapons/energy, treading lightly on nature, distrust of technological/profit-seeking solutions and attachment to their community's ideals, including limiting resource usage. As well as distrust for overhyped solutions that turn out to have negative side effects later on.
Seen through that lens, nuclear energy is a no-no. It doesn't matter that it might fix CO2, that's a relatively recent consideration, but opposition to nuclear has been a bedrock in their world view ever since the beginning. Some prominent Greens, such as Lovelock, have gradually come to accept that nuclear energy can be useful, but they're a minority.
Nukes are the bogeyman and solar/wind renewables are the ideal, but not many people really understand at a deep level the need for baseline capacity, especially as it's less obvious with a smaller proportion of intermittent renewables. When Germany shut down its nukes, baseline was quietly replaced by lignite.
Where I live, in BC, we've had 20 years of Green opposition to a major dam development. The reasons change every time and range from loss of farmland, to natural habitat degradation to disenfranchising the Indian tribe whose traditional territory would be flooded. But basically, they don't want things to change.
You can't really reason with that, you just have to agree to disagree and address enough of the valid objections so that their opposition doesn't carry over into the larger electorate.
As far a nukes go, it seems to me that a valid concern is that our engineering and decision making is currently broken. Reactors in use are almost all of the active safety type: loss of power => catastrophic fail. Almost all other high risk engineering is designed for fail safe: loss of power means the system should shutdown safely. Our systems are supposedly derived from what worked at first in submarines power systems and what was good at generating weapons-grade fissiles: not necessarily the same goals and aims as a civilian systems.
Due to limited deployments, each new plant is a one-off and re-engineered. Approval cycles are counted in decades and that has significant financing impacts. Waste disposal could be done, but has been stuck in litigation. So there's a lot of ready, justified criticism of nuclear energy. Yes, we ought to be able to fix it, but that's also what the nuclear industry has been saying for decades.
I'd like to also quote 2 bits from the criticism section in the Wikipedia entry @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal:
The letter also indicated that signatories would "vigorously oppose" ... “market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy.”
The MIT article states that although the letter refers to the "rapid and aggressive action" needed prevent the 1.5 ˚C of warming specified in the UN climate panel’s latest report, simply acknowledging the report's recommendation is not sufficient. If the letter's signatories start from a position where the options of carbon pricing, carbon capture for fossil plants, hydropower, and nuclear are not even on the table for consideration, there may be no feasible technical means to reach the necessary 1.5 ˚C climate goal.
Bottom line: yes, I believe nuclear energy could be hugely beneficial to fight global warming. But, no, I don't believe traditional Greens will accept it, or other solutions that don't fit their worldview. Not unlike other political movements such as the proportion of US conservatives that insist that there is no global warming issue in the first place. If nuclear energy has a renewal, it will come from places like India or China IF they get the engineering right and demonstrate sufficient benefits.
Because not all nuclear reactors are the same, but almost nobody knows about the difference.
I'm not well versed enough in the exact science, because... well, that takes a real nuclear scientist. My general understanding is that the type which creates weapons-grade plutonium as a by-product had far more development during the cold war than the pure-energy producing one (we're talking about several decades of research). If you want a modern nuclear reactor, you'll be building the version that creates weapons-grade plutonium.
There are newer reactors that end up also using this plutonium as fuel, so that is a good sign of development. However, nuclear energy has a lot of complex politics surrounding it, and one of the odd result of having a nuclear reactor is the ability to create weapons-grade plutonium, which then lets you create nuclear bombs.
Wikipedia is a good start, but exactly their differences are very much beyond me. I also don't know how difficult it is to change between the different types, or whether there are ways to detect whether a country when rogue and turned their power generation reaction into a breeder reactor, and then started selling or testing with weapons-grade plutonium. There are a huge amount of political clout with nuclear reactors. It being a green source of energy is just but one small factor.
You don't understand the premise. You cannot make sense of it, any such attempt is bound to fail.
The main point about "green" is to be against. The green movement has its roots in Rudi Dutschke's failed revolution of 1968. That movement aimed to destroy "the System" by all available means. If violence fails (quoting Dutschke), that means by going through the instances (this means the legal/political system). It's what they've been doing for 4 decades since then.
The "nature aspect" is only a cover and a means to instrumentalize unaware people. Because, well, nature, you know, we all like nature. Someone who is for nature can't be bad.
The only thing that matters is to be against. It does not matter what you are against, and it does not even need to make sense, nor be truthful. You choose something scary to be en vogue and are against it, then you convince others to be against it, too.
You incide a crowd and thus force political and industrial key stake holders to waste money and resources on changing something. Six months later you force them to do the opposite.
That way, you damage the System, and eventually you might succeed at destroying it.
Sour rain, the scary spectre of the 80s. Which, by the way, was the origin of life on the planet, being the only nitrogen source prior to the existence of cyanobacteria -- which couldn't have existed without.
Dying trees. No trees will exist in the year 2000 (the Greens, 1986). Oh wait, there's a tree outside my window. I meant... the year 2100.
Chlorofluorocarbons, the Devil (Greens 1990). That stuff kills ozone, oh the scary ozone hole. Nobody talks about the ozone hole in 2019 any more.
In the 90s, you had to replace your refridgerator and your air conditioner because we were all going to die from skin cancer. Meanwhile it's mighty fine to cultivate rapeseed (factually the ozone killer #1) in masses for fuel because that's "bio". But hey, it's fine as long as it's "bio".
Renewable, sustainable energy. Don't burn coal and oil. Instead, burn trees which take 50 years to grow (and you burn them in 50 minutes). That's sustainable, and it produces almost no particulate matter. Yeah, well, almost none.
Cows are evil. Cows produce methane. Plus, their excrements poison the ground. I'm against cows. But sure, producing masses of bio-gas for burning (which is methane) is totally fine. It's bio.
Eating meat is evil. Those poor cows. Rather eat soybeans, burn down some rain forest to grow soy bean.
Global warming. Alright, the last couple of months we've been suffering from bitter cold, and people have died, but you have to see the complete picture. Glaciers and polar caps are melting. Yeah, OK, they've been doing that for 13,000 years but they're melting now. We're all going to die. In 50 years, London and New York will be gone.
I'm against nuclear energy. The sun is the biggest nuclear reactor is the solar system, but hey. Sun is good, the noocular is bad, also you should use wind wheels.
I'm against wind wheels. They're ugly and they kill birds.
I'm against diesel cars, and cars in general, but I burn a shitload of firecrackers every year. I'm worried about particulate matter, but I use a motorized blower (instead of a broom) to clean the street.
I'm against producing electricity, but I want to keep my iPhone.
Don't even try to make sense of this.
Q Why does the new green deal push for green energy but not for nuclear energy? –– It seems strange to me that that the new green deal wants clean and renewable power from solar and wind energy yet oppose nuclear energy.
Pushy, but, well: the keywords clean and renewable:
Nuke-power supporters keep claiming that Fukushima Daiichi did not explode. They all lie routinely:
"Clean & renewable": grossly incompatible in relation to smashing atoms. Green washing attempts for this kind of institutionalised stupidity are numerous, but including this form of energy source into a platform of "green" is just insane. Atomic power generation is not clean and quite very certainly not renewable.
There are two dangerous assumptions currently parading themselves as fact in the midst of the ongoing nuclear crisis. The first is that nuclear energy is safe. The second is that nuclear energy is an essential element of a low carbon future, that it is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Both are false.
Nuclear technology will always be vulnerable to human error, natural disaster, design failure or terrorist attack. What we are seeing at Fukushima right now are failures of the systems. The reactors themselves withstood the earthquake and tsunami, but then the vital cooling systems failed. When the back-up power systems also failed, the reactors overheated, eventually causing the spread of radiation. This is only one example of what can go wrong.
Nuclear power is inherently unsafe and the list of possible illnesses stemming from exposure to the accompanying radiation is horrifying: genetic mutations, birth defects, cancer, leukaemia and disorders of the reproductive, immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
While we have all heard of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry would have us believe these are but isolated events in an otherwise unblemished history. Not so. Over 800 other significant events have been officially reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency — Mayak, Tokaimura, Bohunice, Forsmark to name just a few.
The argument that nuclear energy is a necessary component of a carbon-free future is also false.
… a study called “Energy [R]evolution,” which clearly shows that a clean energy pathway is cheaper, healthier and delivers faster results for the climate than any other option. This plan calls for the phase-out of existing reactors around the world and a moratorium on construction of new commercial nuclear reactors.
Furthermore, an energy scenario recently produced by the conservative International Energy Agency highlights the fact that nuclear power is not necessary for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It shows that even if existing nuclear power capacity could be quadrupled by 2050, the proportion of energy that it provided would still be below 10 percent globally. This would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by less than 4 percent. The same amount of money, invested in clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar could have a much greater impact on lowering global warming.
Nuclear energy is an expensive and deadly distraction from the real solutions. “Fuel-free” sources of energy do not generate international conflicts (as I write I cannot help but think of Libya), they do not “run dry” and they do not spill. There are initial financial investments to be made, but in time the price of renewables will decline as technological advances and market competition drive the costs down. Furthermore, implemented wisely, a green, nuclear and fossil-free future will create a host of safe, new jobs.
As international organizations like Greenpeace join Japan’s Citizens Nuclear Information Center in an appeal to the Japanese government for improved evacuation plans and other protective measures for people still within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone; as the issue of food and water contamination continues to grow in Asia; as iodine tablets continue to sell out around the globe and people in places as far away from Japan as Los Angeles are on high alert for “radioactive plumes” — it is imperative that as citizens of the world we continue to voice our opposition to further investment in nuclear energy. We need a truly clean energy revolution now.
Nuclear energy production has poisoned the environment and apparently quite some minds supporting this. – Atomic energy production is costly, dangerous, wasteful and very unclean to begin with. It requires centralised, large installations for production of electricity and thus inherently transport-waste for large distances. No one wants a plant in his backyard and no one wants a waste disposal site in his backyard and really absolutely no-one wants small reactors that would somehow solve the centralisation aspect in any form proliferated into any backyards.
"Clean" is a bit broader than just looking at carbon-dioxide.
Whether explosions or leaks: gone is the "clean" as even the most blowhard supporter has to admit. And "clean": Which wasn't there in the first place as mining and manufacturing of the fuel for the plants isn't clean either.
Let the uranium containing ores exhaust and then you might have to dig up those leaking waste sites from the previous point. This is by far not "renewable". It's another finite resource completely incapable of solving rising energy demands. It is a source of energy quickly exhausted if energy consumption levels stay where they are and dried up even faster if demand goes up.
Most are mainly concerned with unsafe plants not blowing up. But the problems are more numerous and more spread out than commonly told:
The enumerated steps of the nuclear fuel cycle are mining, milling, conversion, enrichment, production of fuel elements, transport, storage and disposal of the fuel. The power plant facility also is responsible for GHGs during construction, maintenance, and decommissioning.
J. Beerten, et al., "Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Nuclear Life Cycle: A Balanced Appraisal," Energy Policy 37, 5056 (2009).
Nuke plants do not just use uranium, they also burn diesel to keep them from exploding! Just when a little earthquake cuts off the generators, little fluffy clouds of radioactive dust can be seen living beautifully amongst the clouds of capitalist cornucopia of clean energy pipe dreams.
I have been googling experts consensus on nuclear energy and even tried to google experts against nuclear energy and so far all the results say nuclear is the greenest and most efficient power source that will reduce carbon emissions.
One Google search is by far not a reliable source of knowledge as these results are distorted, by design, by cookies, by company policy and "legal requirements" and 'private' or market demands.
Choice of search engine aside: any search of the available net-pages, not including things like: Keith Barnham: "False solution. Nuclear power is not 'low carbon'", | 5th February 2015 Is pretty obviously incomplete.
So, as far as quick search shows, nuclear energy seems to be by far our best option for green energy. The new green deal seems like a huge investment on inefficient technologies.
The original question is this: "The primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician. It does not appear to be a good-faith effort to learn more about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center."
Also, nuclear safety is not within the field of political science. Explaining and estimating the dangers of nuclear power is a topic for physicians, physicists, ecologists and engineers. So this isn't the right website to answer this question anyway. – Philipp ♦
"Nuclear safety" has to be exchanged here with "efficient power source that will reduce carbon emissions", as these are arguably also both unproven and unreferenced assertions, in the pushy question as well in most of the answers, and thus more on-topic for or a topic for physicians, physicists, ecologists and engineers –– and not those who want their ideological echo chambers reinforced with like-minded opinions on PoliticsSE?
Looks to be more complicated and much more complex than PoliticsSE readers seem to be able to handle in theories. But real references to data, evidence and multiple opinions might be worth more than this parade of virtues. Go get em.
What are the future prospects for nuclear energy? One view is that nuclear power output will be limited by dwindling uranium supplies. Dittmar has argued that even modest growth in nuclear power output will soon be constrained. His forecast, based on historical data from existing and former uranium mines, was that annual global production will soon peak at around 58 kilotons (kt), and that by 2030 will have declined to only about 41 kt. Output will not be enough to sustain even a modest growth rate of nuclear power production of 1% annually, well below the forecast growth rate for global electricity.
Other researchers envision either breeder reactors (perhaps using thorium) or even fusion reactors overcoming any possible uranium fuel constraint. World reserves of thorium are thought to be around four times those for uranium. Breeder reactors were early on recognized as necessary to extend limited uranium supplies, as they can convert the fertile isotope uranium-238 (U-238) into fissile plutonium-239, compared with conventional reactors that can only use fissile U-235. (The U-235 isotope only forms 0.7% of the naturally occurring uranium, with U-238 accounting for nearly all the remainder.) In conventional “once-through reactors” using fuel enriched to around 2–4% U-235, about 99% of the potential energy content goes unused, as the current plan is to bury the spent fuel rods after treatment.
However, experience with full-scale breeder reactors have shown that they are difficult to operate. France’s 1200 MWe Superphenix breeder reactor only operated for a decade at low reliability before being permanently shut down in 1996, and Japan’s Monju reactor, after being shut down from 1995 to 2010, may not operate again. Hopes for fusion energy are mainly placed in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) presently under construction in France, and financed by a multinational consortium. But the date for completion remains uncertain after repeated postponements, and costs have tripled since initial estimates, with further rises likely. And even if successful in its aims, it will still not demonstrate that commercial fusion energy is feasible.
Another reason why growth in growth nuclear output will likely be at a low level is that the present reactor fleet is aging. According to an analysis by Froggatt and Schneider: “the unit-weighted average age of the world operating nuclear reactor fleet continues to increase and by mid-2014 stood at 28.5 years.” They further add that over 170 of the global 388-strong reactor fleet have run for 30 years or more, and 39 of these for over 40 years. Thus, a substantial reactor-building program will soon be needed merely to maintain nuclear power’s present output. Also, worldwide construction costs and construction times appear to be rising. Even official projections for nuclear power do not envision large growth rate increases. The EIA forecast that globally, nuclear output will increase by 2.4% and 2.6% annually between 2010 and 2040 in the low and high economic growth cases, respectively. The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), an organization charged with promoting nuclear energy, has forecast the share of nuclear energy in global electricity production out to 2050. They envisaged this share rising from 12.3% in 2011 to between 12.8% and 13.9% by 2020, but thereafter declining to between 5.0% and 12.2% by 2050. This decline may be in recognition of the aging reactor fleet discussed earlier. A third forecast, based on the integrated assessment modelling by van Vuuren et al. on the four RCPs, showed nuclear power in the year 2100 supplying between 4.1% of global energy in the worst case (RCP 6.0), and 11.3% in the most favorable case (RCP 8.5).
The most serious nuclear accidents so far have occurred in the United States (Three Mile Island, 1979), the former USSR (Chernobyl, 1986), and Japan (Fukushima, 2011), all technologically sophisticated nations. In each case, the accident had major repercussions for nuclear power worldwide. Given that some technically advanced nations are phasing out their nuclear power programs, major global growth in nuclear energy will necessarily mean programs in countries with lower nuclear expertise and regulation. Nuclear power also must soon face the decades-old problem of waste disposal. The conclusion that can be drawn from this brief survey is that nuclear energy cannot be expected to supply more than its present share of global primary energy, and could supply much less, given widespread public opposition.
Mohammad G. Rasul: "Clean Energy For Sustainable Development Comparisons and Contrasts of New Approaches", Elsevier, 2017.
Just look at all the lying around the world regarding nuclear waste "management":
Lila Okamura: "False Premise, False Promise –– Governance and Management of Nuclear Waste in Japan"
Zsuzsanna Koritár: "Postponed Policy –– Nuclear Waste Governance in Hungary"
"Too much to Handle. Radioactive Waste Management in a Post Nuclear Accident State: Ukraine"; Moïra Jimeno: "A Democratic Deficit. The Challenges of Nuclear Waste Governance in Argentina and Brazil"; Peter Mihók: "Delays in Finding a Solution. The Governance of Nuclear Waste Disposal in Slovakia"; Felix Jaitner: "A Profitable Business Strategy?
Spent Nuclear Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management in Russia?"
In: Achim Brunnengräber: "Challenges of Nuclear Waste Governance An International Comparison Volume II", 2018.
Some people are just too dumb for any facts. Full of wishful thinking as it is prevalent in pro-atom circles of all colours. All reactors are built and sold with "this doesn't blow up" in mind. The best remembered examples of Windscale, Three-Mile-Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are just the most prominent examples where "shit happened" was the most cynical answer to "what could possibly go wrong?"
Well, all those nuke power supporters that want to deny reality as it happened, have to rewatch this: example of an explosion in a nuke plant:
And in case someone still wants to argue "Fukushima was 'safe'!" –– "because Tsunami" or "because Earthquake", well that is most precisely the very point of those criticising pro-nuke profit-seekers or their unscientific repeater lackeys: time and time again it was claimed that this wouldn't happen and in case it would happen nonetheless that this was all priced into the calculations and designs for safety.
The evidence is on tape: the public has had little difficulty to understand that these kind of arguments came from those too stupid or too blatantly lying into their faces while selling them down the river.
While the data for Chernobyl shows something between
25,000 of the Russian liquidators are dead and 70,000 disabled, about the same in Ukraine, and 10,000 dead in Belarus and 25,000 disabled", which makes a total of 60,000 dead (10% of the 600,000 liquidators) and 165,000 disabled. (Selon un rapport indépendant, les chiffres de l'ONU sur les victimes de Tchernobyl ont été sous-estimés)
The WHO cites a study that concludes only about 50 deaths attributable to the disaster. In the first paragraph. Counting on people's unwillingness to read. The very same page continues to admit
4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children and adolescents at the time of the accident, have resulted from the accident’s contamination and at least nine children died of thyroid cancer.
This is not informed by scientific curiosity but ideological and ultimately monetary bias. Comparing just two versions:
Political outcome Public awareness of the risks of nuclear power increased significantly. Organizations, both pro- and anti-nuclear, have made great efforts to sway public opinion. Casualty figures, reactor safety estimates, and estimates of the risks associated to other reactors differ greatly depending on which position is favored by the author of any given document.
A few seconds after the start of the scram, a massive power spike occurred, the core overheated, and seconds later resulted in the initial explosion. Some of the fuel rods fractured, blocking the control rod columns and causing the control rods to become stuck after being inserted only one-third of the way. Within three seconds the reactor output rose above 530 MW. The subsequent course of events was not registered by instruments: it is known only as a result of mathematical simulation. First a great rise in power caused an increase in fuel temperature and massive steam buildup with rapid increase in steam pressure. This destroyed fuel elements and ruptured the channels in which these elements were located. Then according to some estimations, the reactor jumped to around 30 GW thermal, ten times the normal operational output. It was not possible to reconstruct the precise sequence of the processes that led to the destruction of the reactor and the power unit building. There is a general understanding that it was steam from the wrecked channels entering the reactor inner structure that caused the destruction of the reactor casing, tearing off and lifting by force the 2,000 ton upper plate (to which the entire reactor assembly is fastened). Apparently this was the first explosion that many heard. This was a steam explosion like the explosion of a steam boiler from the excess pressure of vapor. This ruptured further fuel channels—as a result the remaining coolant flashed to steam and escaped the reactor core. The total water loss combined with a high positive void coefficient to increase the reactor power.
A second, more powerful explosion occurred about two or three seconds after the first; evidence indicates that the second explosion resulted from a nuclear excursion. The nuclear excursion dispersed the core and effectively terminated that phase of the event. However, the graphite fire continued, greatly contributing to the spread of radioactive material and the contamination of outlying areas. There were initially several hypotheses about the nature of the second explosion.
According to observers outside Unit 4, burning lumps of material and sparks shot into the air above the reactor. Some of them fell onto the roof of the machine hall and started a fire. About 25 per cent of the red-hot graphite blocks and overheated material from the fuel channels was ejected. …Parts of the graphite blocks and fuel channels were out of the reactor building. …As a result of the damage to the building an airflow through the core was established by the high temperature of the core. The air ignited the hot graphite and started a graphite fire.
However, the ratio of xenon radioisotopes released during the event provides compelling evidence that the second explosion was a nuclear power transient. This nuclear transient released ~10 tons of TNT equivalent (40 GJ) of energy; the analysis indicates that the nuclear excursion was limited to a small portion of the core.
Contrary to safety regulations, a combustible material (bitumen) had been used in the construction of the roof of the reactor building and the turbine hall. Ejected material ignited at least five fires on the roof of the adjacent reactor 3. It was imperative to put those fires out and protect the cooling systems of reactor 3. Inside reactor 3, the chief of the night shift, Yuri Bagdasarov, wanted to shut down the reactor immediately, but chief engineer Nikolai Fomin would not allow this.
People never bother to remember a plant working well. But they do remember a problem in a plant a bit better. People are then very good at remembering a plant exploding and contaminating the world we live in.
All reactors can be seen as stationary bombs, waiting to go off. As is the case with the conflicts in Ukraine, which make also some indisputably Russian reactors "near" a zone of conflict. The Washington posts counts 15 Ukrainian reactors alone in this war zone. This is just one angle: people deliberately targeting such plants to do damage of the more unpleasant kind.
Note: "stationary bombs" doesn't mean "device operating exactly like FatMan. It suffices to compare any explosion at a power plant with ruptured containment to a more technical radiological dispersal device (RDD), or dirty bomb. It is irrelevant whether this is caused by a just a basic operating principle chain reaction going out of control or an earthquake doing its stuff or another conventional explosive helping out: the containment mustn't fail.
The apparent syncope between "what lobbyists say" and what everyone sees happening again and again, can of course lead to a general distrust in 'science' or much more precisely: in these scientists that claim to have found the holy grail of risk calculations, you know: "but this time we got it".
But the nuke-power as such is just not controllable, ultimately:
Despite significant reforms… we estimate that, with 388 reactors in operation, there is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or more costly) occurs every 60–150 years. We also find that the average cost of events per year is around the cost of the construction of a new plant.
This dire outlook necessitates post-Fukushima reforms that will truly minimize extreme nuclear power risks. Nuclear power accidents are decreasing in frequency, but increasing in severity.
In conclusion, although the frequency of events per reactor has become less common, the relative frequency with which events cascade into “dragon king” extremes is large enough that, when multiplied by severity, the aggregate risk to society is still very high. To effectively reduce this risk, the possibility of Chernobyl and Fukushima sized events needs to be better anticipated and then more effectively managed.
Spencer Wheatley, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Didier Sornettea: "Reassessing the safety of nuclear power", Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 15, May 2016, Pages 96–100. (DOI)
This doesn't even begin to also evaluate the scarcity and finite amount of fissionable material, the procedures and effort involved in extracting it and making it usable. The possibility of facilitating nuclear proliferation aka bomb making. And given the half-life of the materials used: the nuclear waste problem is not only not solved, it is evidently unsolvable.
Radioactive waste is waste that contains radioactive material. Radioactive waste is usually a by-product of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine. Radioactive waste is hazardous to all forms of life and the environment.
One might say that ordinary people evaluate risk with emotion, 'scientists' on the other hand go 'by analysis'; and pay-check?
Paul Slovic, Ellen Peters: "Risk Perception and Affect" Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol 15, Issue 6, 2006, DOI.
Of those plants built after Windscale it was said "they would be safer", that of those build after Chernobyl "they would be safer", that those were built unlike the "Russian sloppy type", you know, those brilliant engines of the West, like in Fukushima, "are safe". That seems to be a quite misguided and unrealistic way of looking at things and building a narrative on the illusion of precision:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: "The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable", Random House, 2007.
As if he was called to directly comment on that propagandistic Forbes statistic:
Fortune’s Brian O’Keefe asked the distinguished professor of risk engineering at NYU-Poly to help us derive some lessons from the accident at Fukushima.
This is what I call the criminal stupidity of statistical science. These models can tell you something about normal events, but they cannot deal with unexpected, high-impact events. Some guy probably measured the risk according to a formula and said, “Well, it meets the one-in-a-million standard.” But we are incapable scientifically of measuring the risk of rare events. We tend to underestimate both the probabilities and the damage.
Most of 'the people' are on this issue mainly driven by fear. As, obviously, the plants mentioned above that did go off, 'were safe', the experts calculated it to be. So it was. Until it wasn't. That is indeed a bit too cynical for most people in fear of being irradiated or poisoned. But while most of the people see quite clearly that the profits from producing atomic energy are privatised into just a few pockets all the dangers and costs for dealing with the various aftermaths are widely socialised.
No-one advocating atomic energy has a nuclear waste disposal site in his basement or sends his/her children to learn swimming in water from a spent fuel pool. No-one earning on potentially poisoning the whole planet is spending the same corresponding share on cleaning up in case of mishaps.