To Nuke or Not To Nuke (no, I’m not talking about bombs!)
I believe that there are many reasons to get off of fossil fuels.
- Reducing the number of offshore oil spills.
- Reducing the number of leaking pipelines.
- Eliminating the need for dangerous practices such as hydraulic fracturing and the extraction of bitumen from Alberta’s Tar Sands.
- Improving air quality and people’s health.
- Getting rid of the concentration of influence in the hands of the wealthy fossil fuel industry.
And, of course, there is the teeny-tiny problem of global warming and avoiding catastrophic climate change.
So that’s the “why”. But what about the “how”? How do we go about powering the world without the use of fossil fuels?
When I read (or watch videos) about a fossil fuel-free energy mix, the argument always seems to be that nuclear is a necessary evil. Despite its inherent dangers, nuclear power’s ability to provide steady, “baseload” power (which is on all the time) makes it the mandatory, carbon-free(-ish) partner of intermittent renewables such as wind, concentrated solar and photovoltaics.
But is that argument still true? Is nuclear still worth the risk? And considering how little time we have to get our carbon emissions under control, do the rather long delays in putting a nuclear power plant into operation still make it a “necessary evil”?
To nuke or not to nuke?
To answer that question, or at least to inform the discussion, I invite you to watch the TED debate (a TED Talk in debate format) I’ve embedded below. Arguing for nuclear energy is environmentalist Stewart Brand. Arguing against is Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson. Each of them get a fixed amount of time to make their respective arguments. Then, there is a short back-and-forth followed by four people from the audience (two from each side of the debate) each getting 30 seconds to make a “pungent, powerful point”.
Add your opinions below!