In the energy / climate discourse there is a lot of dumbing down being done and this is either plain dumb or even worse, arrogant.
I am an unpaid nuclear energy promoter but it annoys me no end when other promoters label it as a "zero emissions" energy source. It is not. Dumbing down energy / climate conversations is disrespectful for your audience plus, we do NOT want to sound like Greenpeacers (all feelings and no facts). So, even nuclear promoters should probably clearly underline the following:
- There will be more nuclear power plant accidents. This is inevitable. The airline industry will NEVER state that there will not be more airplane disasters; we shouldn't either. Yes, in spite of past and future nuclear accidents nuclear energy will almost certainly continue to be the safest energy we have; bar none. This is equivalent to air travel: even though airplane accidents are more newsworthy, planes are by far safer than automobiles per mile travelled. Actually, the most dangerous thing concerning nuclear energy is when governments overreact to nuclear accidents and order unnecessary (or unnecessarily long) evacuations.
- Nuclear is a low CO2 emission technology. Actually, of the current non-marginal energy sources nuclear is the best in this respect, clocking at 12 grams per kWh (hydro measures in at 24 grams). Nuclear usually replaces coal with emissions of 820 grams per kWh.
- Nuclear waste is still an issue even though the amount generated is minute compared to say coal. Some countries, like France, have pretty much solved the problem plus there are better nuclear designs in the pipeline that should produce much less waste. Also, nuclear waste can be turned into valuable material.
- There is a psychological fear factor respecting nuclear. Thus, lots of (not dumbed down) education for the public will be required.
However, once we state the above points we should underline that nuclear is low pollution, low CO2, safer than any other energy we have, scalable, dense, reliable, affordable, constant, produces high paying jobs, is proven, even better designs are in the pipeline and the fuel (uranium and/or thorium) will last for at least hundreds of years.
Once all facts are considered, it is hard to find a better energy source than nuclear.
Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram
Relative safety of nuclear energy:
CO2 emissions per kWh:
Example of new nuclear designs in the pipeline: