6.11.2008

Nuclear Power - Red Herring or Solution?

On May 15, 2007, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) issued a press release to introduce its new report, Climate Solutions: WWF's Vision for 2050, purportedly showing how the world can be saved from the impending climate catastrophe due to global warming. With existing technology and policy changes, they say, this can be done as long as we "plant the seeds of change" in the next five years. They are yet another organization to add voice to the sense of urgency in reducing global CO2 emissions and limiting the effects of global warming. The WWF identifies six "key solutions" to accomplish this:
-Improving energy efficiency,
-Stopping forest loss,
-Accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies,
-Developing flexible fuels,
-Replacing high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas, and
-Equipping fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and storage technology.
Notice that "Invest in new nuclear power plants" is not on the list. In fact, in the article Sky News - 'Five Years Left To Save The Planet', Keith Allot, head of WWF-UK's climate change programs, said
"We can slash carbon emissions and meet global energy demand without resorting to the red herring of nuclear power."
Mr. Allot is telling us that nuclear power, as a solution to global warming, is nothing more than a diversion or distraction from the real issue of reducing carbon emissions. Interesting, because nuclear power is a source of energy which does not emit carbon-dioxide, so by its very nature it is an imminently acceptable tool to use in the fight against ever increasing carbon emissions. A nuclear reactor does produce radioactive waste and there are other risk factors which must be taken into account, but these do not in any way invalidate nuclear energy as a part of the overall solution to the problem of global warming.

Ostensibly, WWF does not want global warming to be an enabler for nuclear power, that beast having been securely locked away for over twenty years in the U.S. by their environmentalist forebears. Mr. Allot is trying to head the nuclear power advocates off at the pass. But every potential technological solution to global warming has its advocates and each of these solutions has their own disadvantages, including harmful effects to the environment. Wind farms pose a threat to birds and bats. The solar cell manufacturing process produces hazardous waste. Even biofuels can be a greater risk to health than gasoline. So why does WWF specifically exclude nuclear power?

By calling nuclear power a red herring, Mr. Allot is offering his own distraction, attempting to divert our attention away from one of the solutions that offers the highest reward for the investment. In essence, Keith Allot's red herring is a red herring.

3 comments:

Yojimbo said...

But dontcha know? Newkyuler is bad stuff. It made Godzilla.

Anonymous said...

This is sad. While it is not a renewable resource, it is a well understood technology and if properly managed could buy us the time needed to get our act together and move to more effective renewables. Don't let the civvies regulate the nuke industry in the USA. Let the Navy do it. They know how.

The skepTick said...

The NRC does a fine job of regulating nuclear power plants. That doesn't mean they can't do more, as a visit to the event reports section of their website might indicate, but they are keeping the plants safe.

The Navy's track record is great as well, and that's with 22 yr olds running the plant!

Newer generation reactors will all but eliminate the waste issue, so waste is no longer the problem. We have a lot of waste now, but will add little to it in the future.