Nuclear is not a Practicable Means to Combat Climate Change.
Dr. Greg Jaczko, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Prof. Wolfgang Renneberg, former Head of the Reactor Safety, Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Waste, Federal Environment Ministry, Germany.
Dr. Bernard Laponche, former Director General, French Agency for Energy Management,
former Advisor to French Minister of Environment, Energy and Nuclear Safety.
Dr. Paul Dorfman, former Secretary UK Govt. Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters
makes clear that sea-level rise is ramping, along with destructive storm, storm surge, severe
precipitation and flooding, not forgetting wildfire. With mounting concern and recognition
over the speed and pace of the low carbon energy transition that’s needed, nuclear has been
reframed as a partial response to the threat of global heating. But at the heart of this are
questions about whether nuclear could help with the climate crisis, whether nuclear is
economically viable, what are the consequences of nuclear accidents, what to do with the
waste, and whether there’s a place for nuclear within the swiftly expanding renewable
As key experts who have worked on the front-line of the nuclear issue, we’ve all involved at
the highest governmental nuclear regulatory and radiation protection levels in the US,
Germany, France and UK. In this context, we consider it our collective responsibility to
comment on the main issue: Whether nuclear could play a significant role as a strategy
against climate change.
The central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be
clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction. The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe or smart;
but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm. Nuclear
isn’t cheap, but extremely costly. Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any
feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to
global power generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be required,
depending on reactor design.
In short, nuclear as strategy against climate change is:
• Too costly in absolute terms to make a relevant contribution to global power
• More expensive than renewable energy in terms of energy production and CO2
mitigation, even taking into account costs of grid management tools like energy
storage associated with renewables roll-out.
• Too costly and risky for financial market investment, and therefore dependent on
very large public subsidies and loan guarantees.
• Unsustainable due to the unresolved problem of very long-lived radioactive waste.
• Financially unsustainable as no economic institution is prepared to insure against the
full potential cost, environmental and human impacts of accidental radiation release
– with the majority of those very significant costs being borne by the public.
• Militarily hazardous since newly promoted reactor designs increase the risk of
nuclear weapons proliferation.
• Inherently risky due to unavoidable cascading accidents from human error, internal
faults, and external impacts; vulnerability to climate-driven sea-level rise, storm,
storm surge, inundation and flooding hazard, resulting in international economic
• Subject to too many unresolved technical and safety problems associated with newer
unproven concepts, including ‘Advanced’ and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).
• Too unwieldy and complex to create an efficient industrial regime for reactor
construction and operation processes within the intended build-time and scope
needed for climate change mitigation.
• Unlikely to make a relevant contribution to necessary climate change mitigation
needed by the 2030’s due to nuclears impracticably lengthy development and
construction time-lines, and the overwhelming construction costs of the very great
volume of reactors that would be needed to make a difference.