A false fix for climate change via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

John Dudley Miller

In Nuclear 2.0: Why a Green Future Needs Nuclear Power, British environmental activist and author Mark Lynas proposes a solution to Earth’s most pressing problem: To halt global warming by 2030—that is, to keep the average temperature from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) between now and then—the world must build 800 new nuclear power plants. If it doesn’t, he says, all the world’s ice may melt, and places as fertile as Nebraska might become deserts. But if the nuclear plants are constructed, warming can be reversed.
No one should oppose building 800 new nuclear power plants, Lynas writes, because each one will be designed to be inherently safe. “Even in the worst imaginable scenario …” he writes, “It simply could not melt down.” In fact, these new reactors will be essentially perfect, Lynas asserts, because they will breed new fuel that will power the world for hundreds of years. At the same time, they will consume every atom of the very long-lived radioactive waste that today’s reactors have created.

Sadly, these claims merely restate the original nuclear dream, the delusional just-so story that nuclear proponents—including almost all nuclear engineers—recite like religious mantras, assuring the world that nuclear power is safe, clean, and cheap. (To his credit, Lynas admits that nuclear power is too expensive. He hopes more efficient construction practices will lower costs. I doubt it, because 50 years of nuclear construction shows that nuclear power plants often wind up costing several times what builders initially forecast.)

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