It would be easy to dismiss such appeals as so much self-serving industry propaganda — not least because Whitman herself serves as a co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a Washington DC-based outfit that bills itself as a “grassroots organization that supports the increased use of nuclear power,” but which is essentially a public-relations project financed by the NEI.
Public support for nuclear power in the U.S. is nearly at its lowest point in 20 years of polling, according to the Gallup organization. Even more telling: According to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, most Americans really don’t make a strong connection between nuclear power and climate change solutions. In fact, while there are virtually no greenhouse emissions associated with the day-to-day operation of a nuclear power plant, almost half of the American population — 44 percent — believes that nuclear power plants actually make the global warming problem worse, according to Roper’s analysis.
That sort of confusion doesn’t bode well for a rapid expansion of nuclear power — and that seems to suit many climate advocates just fine.
Early last year, in response to the nuclear advocacy of of Hansen et al, a group of over 300 civil society and regional environmental groups published a letter of their own: “Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies,” the organizations wrote. “We ask you to join us in supporting the phase-out of nuclear power as Germany and other countries are pursuing. It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind.”
More recently, Worldwatch Institute founder and Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown has argued that a global transition away from fossil fuels and cleaner, climate-friendly sources of energy is already well underway — and all without the help of nuclear power. As of last year, Brown and his co-authors note in a new book, The Great Transition, “some 31 countries were still operating nuclear power plants, but scarcely half as many … were building new ones.”
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