The solar world we might have had via Beyond Nuclear International

By Linda Pentz Gunter

We needn’t have had Fukushima at all, now 12 years old and still emitting radiation, still not “cleaned up”, still responsible for forbidden zones where no one can live, play, work, grow crops. We needn’t have had Chornobyl either, or Three Mile Island, or Church Rock. We needn’t have almost lost Detroit.

We could have avoided climate change as well. Not just by responding promptly to the early recognition of the damage fossil fuels were doing. But also by heeding one sensible plan that, if it had been acted upon, would have removed the nuclear power elephant from the energy solutions room and possibly also saved us from plunging into the climate catastrophe abyss in which we now find ourselves.

Right from the beginning, nuclear power made a significant contribution to the climate crisis we now face. 

And unfortunately, as is often the case, the United States played the starring role.


On July 2, 1952, President Harry Truman sent a report to Congress that had been completed a month earlier. It was called the President’s Materials Policy Commission “Resources for Freedom”. The Commission was chaired by William S. Paley, so it is commonly referred to as the Paley Commission.

Chapter 15 was entitled “The Possibilities of Solar Energy”. It went through many technical and economic scenarios, showing great potential and also flagging some stumbling blocks, most of which have since been solved. Here is what it concluded. In 1952.

“If we are to avoid the risk of seriously increased real unit costs of energy in the United States, then new low-cost sources should be made ready to pick up some of the load by 1975.” 

Even at that early date, the Paley Commission’s authors recognized the abundance offered by solar energy, observing that, “the United States supply of solar energy is about 1,500 times the present requirement.”


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