Academics and governmental organizations say nuclear power is the most practical solution to global warming, but longstanding environmental opposition prevented the Saturday United Nations Paris agreement from embracing nuclear power.
“For decades, environmental groups have raised money by demonizing the hydrocarbon industry and by demonizing nuclear energy. They have continually claimed — against all the evidence, and even against basic math — that renewable energy can meet all of our needs,” Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute tells The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Environmental groups have a long history of opposing nuclear energy. These groups prevented nuclear power from becoming the standard by increasing the cost of nuclear plants and protesting enough to creating artificial delays in construction.
Greenpeace protesters, for example, shadowed and harassed a ship transporting nuclear waste out of Australia earlier this December. In March, five Greenpeace protesters were detained by police in Paris after they hung off a bridge dangling an anti-nuclear banner. Greenpeace even ran an ad in the the United Kingdom depicting terrorists crashing an airplane into a nuclear power plant to cause a nuclear explosion.
Environmentalists have also heavily lobbied against nuclear power.
One prominent environmental group, the Sierra Club, maintains an anti-nuclear portion of its website and creates anti-nuclear “fact-sheets.” The organization does not disclose how much of its $108 million in assets is spent on its anti-nuclear campaigns, but the group spent $10 million over the last two years in a similar anti-coal campaign.
“Today, it’s beyond dispute that if we are to have any hope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, we will have to utilize nuclear energy,” Bryce says. “And yet, the Green/Left — and in particular, groups like Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and 350.org — continues to deny this fact. Those groups are the real ‘deniers.'”
Nuclear power does have risks, but research shows risks from radiation are greatly overestimated. If you lived next door to a nuclear power plant, you’d be exposed to less radiation each year than you’d receive on a single flight from New York to Los Angeles.
Energy experts, like Bryce, tend to support nuclear power as a solution to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims substantial investments in nuclear power are crucial to measurably impact global warming. The International Energy Agency estimated global nuclear capacity must more than double by 2050 in order to significantly limit warming.
“Nuclear energy is good for the environment because it is the largest source of electricity that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. In fact, nuclear accounts for 63 percent of the electricity from zero-carbon sources,” Mitchell Singer of the Nuclear Energy Institute tells TheDCNF.
But not all environmentalists are opposed to nuclear energy. Forward-looking environmental think tanks, like the Breakthrough Institute, believe that nuclear power is imperative to both economic growth and solving global warming. The Breakthrough Institute believes that “anyone truly concerned about climate change will need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear. It is the best chance we have to make big reductions in carbon emissions quickly.”
Nuclear power produces no carbon emissions or other air pollution while providing 19 percent of all electricity used in the United States last year. When combined, solar, wind, and geothermal power sources provided only 17.1 percent of all “zero-carbon” sources of electricity. Last year, solar and wind power provided 0.4 and 4.4 percent of all U.S. electricity.
As of December 2015, 66 new reactors are under construction worldwide — the highest number in 25 years. these new reactors will support 437 existing civilian reactors.
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