f climate change is the existential threat to the planet that we are told, then the cost to protect us almost seems irrelevant. When its expense is brought up, the $16 trillion - plus, the response should be: “Expensive? Expensive compared to what? Complete destruction?”
When we are told time may have already run out, that it’s time for those living near the beach to move to higher ground, it would be difficult to counsel calmness. Living on house boats might not have been part of their plan.
If the planet’s lungs are aflame in Brazil, and hurricanes are forecast to become more numerous and more powerful, it would seem axiomatic that priorities number one, two and three should be focused on what’s required to keep the planet habitable.
It would seem equally obvious that we are wasting time talking about renewable energy meeting all our demands. Or that there is even the remotest possibility that following current trends we would be able to meet what the experts suggest is necessary to sufficiently reduce our carbon footprint.
Is there an example, anywhere, of any nation cutting its greenhouse gas pollution to a significant degree?
Well, yes, there is. Here’s the Scientific American: “The speediest drop in greenhouse gas pollution on record occurred in France in the 1970s and ‘80s, when that country transitioned from burning fossil fuels to nuclear fission for electricity, lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 2 percent per year.”
Simply said, there is no energy source that is already technologically feasible, and scalable that is capable of meeting present and future energy demands other than nuclear power.
It’s estimated that a “build rate” of 61 new reactors per year would replace what we generate by fossil fuel electricity generation by 2050. In other words, an ambitious nuclear power build out could meet our power needs and meet the lion’s share of our climate change goals.
It would be super expensive. It’s estimated that it would cost about $14 trillion to build enough plants to get half our power from nuclear. And there is the safety issue. And the storage issue.
Still, if the time crunch prediction is accurate, then, once again, the money is trivial. We’ve had three major safety events - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. But, for perspective, that’s out of over 17,000 reactor years of operation, in 33 countries. And the damage? Well, compared to what if the specter of climate change is what the experts say?
There are also big advantages to nuclear power in that the plants don’t take up much land, and they produce power 24-hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine, cloudy or not, windy or not.
Compare Germany and France. Germany is on the path to spend almost $600 billion on renewables by 2025 and its carbon emissions have flatlined since 2009. The cost of electricity in Germany has increased by 50 percent in the interim. In France, the cost of power is a little more than half of that in Germany and its carbon emissions per unit of electricity is a tenth of Germany’s. The explanation? Nuclear power.
And, think about it. Had we continued with our nuclear power plans instead of shuttering the plants, what would have been the geo-political effects of being less dependent on the Middle East for oil for the last half century? Where would we be in terms of our carbon-emission levels? And isn’t it logical to assume that the more experience we have with nuclear power, the safer and cheaper it becomes?
Nuclear power is the largest source of carbon-free energy we have available to us. By far. It’s advantages are hobbled by nothing more than politics and out-dated perceptions. It raises the question: What is our existential threat?