A Case for Nuclear: Bridging the Route to Renewables with Low-Carbon Energy

The next topic in my Evidence-Based Policy series is nuclear energy, which you can read about here. This is certainly a topic dominated by emotional responses rather than fact-based opinions. Nuclear energy is usually bedeviled as unsafe and unclean. It’s grouped together with coal- & oil-based energy modalities and sharply contrasted with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or water energy. The irony is of course that nuclear energy is not only extremely clean in terms of CO2 emissions but also the safest energy source we currently have.

The generation of energy from enriched uranium basically doesn’t release any CO2 and, in the US, still is responsible for nearly half of all low-carbon energy. There are more people dying falling from ladders when installing solar panels than people dying from nuclear power plants (not to say anything about the innumerable number of people dying from coal-related air pollution). In fact, an accumulated ~17 000 years of continuous reactor usage has only resulted in three nuclear power plant accidents, with a total of fewer than 60 deaths. Maybe at some point in the future, we can afford to stash nuclear power away. But until then, it’s decidedly wrong to replace nuclear with coal, gas or oil (which is what currently happens), as all of them are both unsafer and uncleaner. Together with new nuclear power plant technology, also briefly touched upon in the article, nuclear energy can still provide us with safe and clean energy for a long time to come.

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