In recent years, some major science and environmental players have come forward to endorse nuclear power. Former EPA Administrator and Obama climate czar Carol Browner is one of the glitziest.
The group recruited several other bipartisan political heavyweights as paid spokespeople but none that are catnip for the environmental community, where opposition to nuclear power is the rule, not the exception.
Carol Browner signed up for the newest and shiniest effort to sell nuke plants.So when Nuclear Matters hauled in Browner as a spokesperson of its Leadership Council last year, she was a big catch.
Browner said she typically devotes a few hours a week to Nuclear Matters and is compensated for her time, but neither she nor Nuclear Matters will discuss her fee. In late January, she appeared at a Nuclear Matters event in Chicago.
Browner said her conversion to nukes is entirely based on climate change concerns, and began shortly after she left the EPA in 2001. “Climate is the biggest challenge in the world,” she said. “We cannot take nuclear off the table.”
Though she’s enlisted in Nuclear Matters, Browner said she parts ways with industry policy on at least one issue: she has advocated government support for wind and solar – opposed by many of the utilities bankrolling Nuclear Matters.
Browner was reluctant to discuss the current financial struggles of multiple nuke plants, and acknowledged that the industry was still “trying to figure out” the unsolved problems of nuclear waste storage.
Critics say two crucial vulnerabilities of nukes go unaddressed in U.S pro-nuke pitches: Unresolved questions about nuclear waste disposal, and Wall Street’s wariness about the industry.
Nuclear power plants currently store their waste on-site. Intended as a stop-gap method until a national nuclear waste repository is built, on-site storage in above-ground containers may be as good as permanent, since plans for the Yucca Mountain repository north of Las Vegas were halted by the Obama Administration after decades of delays.
Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner and state regulator Peter Bradford sees the finance issue as the nuclear industry’s Kryptonite. “Wall Street doesn’t want (reactors), the utilities don’t want them,” said Bradford, who is also Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS is officially neutral on the use of nuclear power, but has often criticized what it sees as safety and financial vulnerabilities in the industry.
“Trying to solve climate change with nuclear is like trying to solve world hunger with caviar,” he said