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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs