News / Science & Technology

Scientists Urge Environmentalists to Support Nuclear Energy

FILE - The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, where the U.S. suffered its most serious nuclear accident in 1979, is seen across the Susquehanna River in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
FILE - The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, where the U.S. suffered its most serious nuclear accident in 1979, is seen across the Susquehanna River in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
TEXT SIZE - +
Four prominent climate scientists are urging environmentalists to support the development of "safer" nuclear energy systems as an alternative to fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

The U.S. and Australia-based scientists made the appeal in a letter issued Sunday and addressed to people "influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power."

Many environmentalists believe nuclear plants are too dangerous and expensive to replace fossil fuels. They say governments instead should invest in energy sources such as solar and wind to meet the world's needs.

But the authors of the letter say solar and wind systems cannot be developed fast enough "to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires." They say there must be a "substantial role" for nuclear power in any "credible" solution to stabilizing the climate.

The four scientists say the risks of expanding nuclear energy are much smaller than those of continuing to rely on fossil fuel power plants, which they say treat the atmosphere "as a waste dump."

U.S. environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, rejected the letter's emphasis on nuclear power. Spokesman Bob Deans says the world gains nothing from "substituting one set of environmental nightmares for another."

"We're concerned with safety, sustainability and cost. What we saw in [the Japanese city of] Fukushima [in 2011] was a reminder of the risk of a catastrophic disaster from nuclear power plants," he said. "Sustainability - we have problems [with that]. We have yet to figure out, 60 years after the dawn of this technology, how to deal with the waste from nuclear power plants. And there's also a security problem with having a terrorist get their hands on some of this material that can be used to make weapons. Finally, it's the cost issue. Nuclear power is one of the costliest ways to produce electricity right now."

Deans said the NRDC believes the United States should invest in making homes, workplaces and vehicles more energy efficient, so that people can do "more with less." He also highlighted China's investment in wind and solar power as a positive step by one of the world's top polluters.

But China also is seeking to export its nuclear energy technology after launching 17 domestic reactors and starting construction of 28 more - a rate of nuclear development that far outpaces the United States.

Deans said China is dealing with a unique energy challenge because it is trying to rapidly lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

"We certainly understand China's growing energy needs, no question about that," he said. "At the same time, there is no more technologically advanced country in the world than Japan, and what we've seen in Fukushima has been an unrolling disaster that the Japanese have yet to get a handle on. That needs to be a warning to everyone around the world that we need to be very careful about this technology."

The pro-nuclear letter was written by Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James Hansen of Columbia University and Tom Wigley of the University of Adelaide.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hiroshi Suzuki from: Tokyo
November 04, 2013 12:10 PM
For thousands exposed to radiation in Fukushima, it`s the youngest generation that is most at risk.

03/11/2013 ABC News

Tests commissioned by the local authorities have discerned an alarming spike in the incidence of thyroid cancer in Fukushima children and while specialists and experts are reluctant to draw a definitive link between the tumours and the nuclear radiation that erupted from the stricken power station, citizens are nonetheless deeply concerned.

The doctors in Fukushima say that it shouldn’t be coming out so soon, so it can’t be related to the nuclear accident. But that’s very unscientific, and it’s not a reason citizens can accept.


by: PermReader
November 04, 2013 11:14 AM
The dodgy Greens deseived the simple-hearted and fearful Westerners that the Muslim`s oil boycott is the same as the natural fuel lack.The West appeared before the horrors of dirty World of the water,athmospheare,fuel,genes - everything that is the creature of the Capitalism!!!


by: Manda Atsukoh from: AKB, TKO
November 03, 2013 6:36 PM
The four scientists are absolutely correct.
The environmentalists opposing nuclear power are foolish and they do not understand science and technology at all.
If they think we should terminate nuclear power plants, please do not use electricity produced by nuclear power plants. And if they want reduce CO2 witout using nuclear power plant, please stop breathing, that will contribute reducing CO2.


by: Benson Kane from: Melbourne
November 03, 2013 6:21 PM
There is far too much scare mungering concerning climate change. Tonight at 7,30 pm i believe the SBS are going to show the first part of a three part series about the cathasrophy that climate change is about to create . But according to the preview that they've showed ,it seems that they got the idea from the book of Revelation, which predicts very simmilar events at the end of the world.,but the book of revelation predict that such events will happennot not because of human induced climate change ,but because the wrath of God on humanity because of our immorality against him. However climate change could be one the end of the times signs, that science do not understand , and therfore are blamming the climate change on fossile fuels. However Iwouldn't start to pannick because the sooner this world comes to an end the better it will be .Because the new and better world will begin. If you believe the science then you still believe in Santa Clause.


by: Gizmonic institute from: Texas
November 03, 2013 2:44 PM
The solution is thorium-based reactors. No radioactive waste produced. Abandoned in the 50s because US needed plutonium for weapons.


by: Jason from: Illinois
November 03, 2013 1:32 PM
I for on am fully behind nuclear power, especially liquid fluoride thorium. If you haven't heard of it watch Kirk Sorensen's TED Talk.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid