Is Our Future Nuclear?

Interesting post from Clark Miller and Jennifer Richter from ASU on the growing interest in nuclear power. The US seems quite decided on a nuclear future, and unless there is concerted effort to forestall the advancement of nuclear, we will likely be stuck with a large technological system that mandates centralized control, long-term storage of hazardous materials, and threats to international security: we can see our energy governance structures are already preparing for a nuclear future. For example, Miller and Richter point to the Price-Anderson Act which shifts the responsibility of nuclear failures onto the public by providing indemnity to nuclear producers/electric utilities. The problems, as Miller and Richter note, are not just about the technical aspects of our energy problems. They are about the organization of our society, about what we value, and about reaching the goals of a carbon-free and healthy future. I see the role out of nuclear as a technological fix for our energy problems. We continue to think that we can just load more and more on the supply side without addressing other issues. Nuclear isn’t safe or easily managed during failures, and this sort of “containment” discourse eschews and marginalizes more serious problems and forecloses alternative visions by suggesting that American technological prowess, mastery, and ingenuity can handle nearly any problem. We must have thought and/or experienced all of the potential problems that can occur with nuclear, right? Do we really want to be stuck with a legacy of nuclear wastes which we are still cleaning up, for example, in Hanford since the Manhattan Project? What are the risks with solar, wind, or other renewables? Can and should we compare these before we decide on a particular energy future?

Picture Credit from post


As We Now Think

Clark A. Miller and Jennifer Richter

Nuclear advocacy is at fever pitch in the United States. This week, CNN will air Pandora’s Promise, Robert Stone’s new film advocating a major push for new nuclear power plants. This weekend, several prominent climate scientists sent letters to newspapers around the world arguing that nuclear power is the only hope for slowing global warming. Earlier last week, The New York Times published an op-ed by David Ropeik, an instructor in Harvard University’s Extension Service, arguing that fears of nuclear radiation are overblown. There is little doubt that the US and the world need robust, thoughtful deliberation about the future of energy. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening is slim, if the current pitch for a nuclear rebirth is any evidence.

The nuclear establishment is focused right now on two claims: first, that nuclear power is safe, and, second, that renewable energy…

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