Former EPA Head: Environmentalists Audibly ‘Gasp’ When I Say I’m Pro-Nuclear

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner said there was an “audible gasp” from environmentalists when she expressed support for nuclear power.

“I’m a lifelong environmentalists and when I tell others that I support nuclear, I can frequently get an audible gasp in the room, ” Browner said at a Washington, D.C. conference Friday. “These are not easy issues,”

The conference, hosted by Bloomberg and pro-nuclear power organization Nuclear Matters, focused on the positive environmental impacts of nuclear power, featuring former regulators and pro-nuclear academics.

“Nuclear power avoids 530 milllion tons of CO2 emissions every year,” Emily Hammond, a professor of environmental law at George Washington University Law School, told conference goers. “If the U.S. gets rid of its nuclear, it’d be replaced by CO2 emitting coal or gas as only those sources can provide the quantity of power and be on all the time the way nuclear does.”

The average single nuclear reactor prevents 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions annually and accounts for 63 percent of non-CO2 emitting power sources. The 2012 closure of the two-reactor San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California caused CO2 emissions to rise annually by 9 million metric tons — equivalent to putting another 2 million cars on the road.

Nuclear power is far cheaper than wind or solar power, making it “the most cost-effective zero-emission technology,” according to The Economist.

Despite these environmental benefits and falling CO2 emissions, environmental groups continue to heavily lobby against nuclear power. Green groups like The Sierra Club still believe nuclear energy leads to “energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.

“Renewables are important, but not enough,” Hammond said. “Non-emitting renewables like solar and wind only provide power when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. They also provide much less power.”

Large majorities of scientists, engineers and economists agree that nuclear power is actually great for the environment and economy, regardless of their political ideology. Opinion polls show that the more people know about nuclear power, the more likely they are to support it.

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