Amid rising public outcry over government inaction toward the climate crisis, the nuclear power industry has attempted to advertise itself as “zero emissions,” “carbon-free” and even “renewable” in order to convince politicians and the public that it is essential to solving this world-historical disaster.
However, nuclear power is not one such thing and can actually hinder our efforts to achieve an ecologically responsible society.
The nuclear power industry has been waging a persistent, widespread public relations campaign to convince prominent climate activists as well as others. DemocratsCongress has a role for nuclear energy.
For example, we checked in with the Sunrise Movement, the leading youth climate lobbying group on Capitol Hill, to see where the group stands on nuclear power, a volunteer signing his name “Josh” wrote to my organization, Beyond Nuclear, in an email that, “We don’t think shutting down existing [nuclear] plants makes much sense.” It’s not clear if this is a shift in Sunrise’s official position, since it contradicts the views on nuclear power in a position paper targeted at U.S. representatives that it signed onto in 2019, but, if so, we’ll be working to shift it.
This mythmaking appeared to have infiltrated those backing Green New Deal (GND), when Rep. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez was (AOC). said she was happy to leave “the door open on nuclear.”
What AOC, Sunrise,And others may have overlooked is that nuclear power violates the very cornerstone of the GND: a “Just Transition.” Supporting existing nuclear power operation ignores the fact that currently operating U.S. reactors still have to run on fuel manufactured almost entirely from imported uranium — predominantly from Canada and Kazakhstan — often mined by Indigenous peoples. These have been decimated by radioactive waste from uranium milling and mining. otherAll over the globe, indigenous communities are being supported. These operations, which are often carried out by foreign corporations perpetuate racism.
If nuclear plants are kept running, it means that they continue to produce lethal high-level radioactive material. This waste is always targeted at frontline communities. The deep geological repository site, which was originally planned but has been canceled, is an example. Yucca MountainNevada has the following: Western Shoshone land. Two U.S. sites currently identified for “temporary” dumps in Texas and New Mexico have significant low-income and Latinx populations. The Goshute’s Skull Valley Indian Reservation in Utah was chosen but also defeated. (All of these websites were, or areResidents and their neighbors are opposed to it political leadership.)
Numerous studiesResearch has shown that leukemia rates in children who live near nuclear power plants is higher when they are operating them. Also, keeping nuclear plants operational exposes you to the incalculable possibility of an accident or sabotage that could have long-lasting consequences. These consequences could be devastating for human rights.
Accepting nuclear power as part a GND would undermine climate success and undermine its first pillar, which is to adhere to the fundamental principles of environmental justice.
Nuking the Transition to Renewables
Remaining agnostic or accepting nuclear power can also delay the transition from renewables. It is necessary to run these power plants. subsidiesThese are the most desperate renewable sources of funding. There are even now efforts to include nuclear power in state Renewable Energy Portfolios — designed to increase a state’s percentage of electricity generation from renewable energy sources — which will divert available funds away from renewables and to a financially failing industry that is far from “renewable.” Renewables will reduce more carbon emissions faster and for less cost than other energy choices, especially nuclear. Supporting financially failing, unreliable nuclear power plants impedes progresson climate change and is anti-productive to the GND’s goals.
According to the International Energy Agency, “By 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to rise more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4 800 GW — equivalent to the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined.” It makes no sense to cut this industry off at the knees in favor of nuclear energy.
Sound energy policy does not mean an “all-of-the-above” option. Continue to use nuclear “cancels out”Renewables (and vice-versa). Researchers examined data for 123 countries and found that countries who keep nuclear power in operation are less effective at meeting carbon reduction targets than countries that use renewable energy.
It will also be more efficient to optimize a grid structure for larger-scale, centralized power production such as conventional nuclear by optimizing electricity transmission and distribution systems challenging, time-consuming and costly to introduce small-scale distributed renewable power.
We must also challenge the argument that closing nuclear power stations would automatically mean more fossil fuels. New York is on track to achieve its 100 percent zero carbon climate goals by 2040, despite having closed its Indian Point 2 & 3 reactors in 2020 & 2021. This is due to political foresight and planning which saw New York enact “ambitious climate and clean energy legislation” in 2019, which will achieve these goals regardless of a nuclear shutdown, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Any decision to replace closed nuclear power plants with fracked gas is “not fate but choice,” writes Amory LovinsHe is now an adjunct professor at Stanford University of civil and environmental engineering. That choice is political, not technological, often a “tactic to extort subsidies by making closure more disruptive,” allowing fracked gas to fill a short-term need. As electricity prices fall, renewable energy will be a larger part of the market. But it is up to political leaders to decide to switch to sustainable energy over continuing to use fossil fuels.
Those in positions of power with a chance to get carbon reductions right before it’s too late should not continue to fall prey to the politically motivated and corporate profit-driven delusionClimate mitigation is not possible if nuclear power plants close.