Is Nuclear Power Still the Answer?

Economist’s View

The embrace of nuclear power by the environmental community surprised me. About five years ago I wrote:

Lots of research says that I will overestimate the risk of events such as a core meltdown in a nuclear power plant. And I’m sure I do. But knowing and allowing for that, or trying, I still can’t find a way to endorse a strong movement toward nuclear power. My hesitation to support nuclear power is not very green according to many environmentalists. But are we positive we can’t find any other solutions? Should simply resign ourselves to the nuclear power age?

Here’s my question. Will the events in Japan change this at all, or — assuming in the end the radiation leaks are minimal — will it be a testimonial to the safety of nuclear power plants (even with an unprecedented earthquake, the systems worked to prevent major radiation releases…)?

As you can probably tell from my remarks above, I hope it pushes us to develop alternative sources of energy besides nuclear. Knowing nuclear is there as a backup could have reduced to the push to innovate in other areas, and hopefully that will change. But I wouldn’t bet the house on it (unless it was underwater).

via Is Nuclear Power Still the Answer?.


2 responses to “Is Nuclear Power Still the Answer?

  1. Bruce,

    I am actually worried about the opposite effect: that is, people use Japan as an excuse not to support nuclear.

    The fact of the matter is that there is no substitute for a baseload generating power source as cheap and clean as nuclear. Nuclear, depending on which source you cite, is only slightly more expensive than (or slightly cheaper than) coal-fired power (based on levelized cost of electricity)

    There is simply no substitute for nuclear power today. Wind and solar power are intermittent power sources because they only generate energy during certain times of the day. Therefore they cannot be used to generate baseload power (24-7) until someone solves the energy storage problem, which has been bedevilling energy experts for decades.

    Enhanced geothermal energy could be the answer decades from now, but it would also suffer from the effects of earthquakes.

    While enhanced geothermal may be a long-term solution to nuclear, the country should be building more nuclear plants in the interim to bridge the gap. Otherwise, we will be forced to build more coal-fired power plants with all the pollution associated with them.

    Just my two cents…

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