An opinion article authored by Joshua S. Goldstein, Staffan A. Qvist and Steven Pinker was published in yesterday’s New York Times titled “Nuclear Power Can Save the World”.
The authors argue that in the quest for carbon-free energy, only nuclear power has the ability to deliver the quantities of clean energy needed by a world increasingly energy-hungry. They state that it is “fantasy” to think that renewables — wind and solar — can do the job as they require fossil fuel backups since battery technology is not sufficient for energy storage.
France and Sweden are held up as being examples of countries which have successfully decarbonized electricity production with nuclear power, while Germany, which has ruled out new nuclear plants and gone all-in with renewables, has high electricity prices and has not made much progress in cutting carbon production.
The authors state that fear and economics are the reasons why the US does not pursue a nuclear solution. They believe that the safety fears surrounding nuclear are overblown, and that historically nuclear has killed far less people than the fossil fuel industries, and that nuclear waste can be stored safely (“Nuclear waste is compact — America’s total from 60 years would fit in a Walmart — and is safely stored in concrete casks and pools, becoming less radioactive over time.”) They also believe that nuclear regulations in the US have made nuclear much more expensive than it needs to be.
There is no mention in the article of fusion as a potential solution (neither hot or cold/LENR), probably because so far they have not been shown to be commercially viable solutions. That may change. They believe that there is an urgent need to move forward with decarbonization, and that the stigma attached to nuclear by the green movement may not necessarily be permanent.
“Despite these challenges, psychology and politics can change quickly. As the enormity of the climate crisis sinks in and the hoped-for carbon savings from renewables don’t add up, nuclear can become the new green. Protecting the environment and lifting the developing world out of poverty are progressive causes. And the millennials and Gen Z’s might rethink the sacred values their boomer parents have left unexamined since the Doobie Brothers sang at the 1979 No Nukes concert.”