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.
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs