Pro-nuclear movement

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Patrick Moore (environmentalist) in 2009.[1] Moore was opposed to nuclear power in the 1970s [2] but has since come to be in favor of it.[3][4][5] Moore is supported by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and in 2009 he chaired their Clean and Safe Energy Coalition.[6] As chair, he suggested that the public is not as opposed to nuclear energy as they were in decades past.

There are large variations in peoples’ understanding of the issues surrounding nuclear power, including the technology itself, climate change, and energy security. Proponents of nuclear energy contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security by decreasing dependence on imported energy sources. Opponents believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment.

While nuclear power has historically been opposed by many environmentalist organisations, some support it. In addition, besides organisations, some scientists too support it.

Context[edit]

During a two-day symposium on "Atomic Power in Australia" at the New South Wales University of Technology, Sydney, which began on 31 August 1954, Professors Marcus Oliphant (left), Homi Jehangir Bhabha (centre) and Philip Baxter, share a cup of tea

There are large variations in peoples’ understanding of the issues surrounding nuclear power, including the technology itself, climate change, and energy security. There is a wide spectrum of views and concerns over nuclear power[7] and it remains a controversial area of public policy.[8] The debate about nuclear power peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, when it "reached an intensity unprecedented in the history of technology controversies", in some countries.[9][10]

Proponents of nuclear energy contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security by decreasing dependence on imported energy sources. Proponents claim that nuclear power produces virtually no conventional air pollution, such as greenhouse gases and smog, in contrast to the chief viable alternative of fossil fuel.[11] Proponents claim that the risks of storing waste are small and can be further reduced by using the latest technology in newer reactors, and the operational safety record in the Western world is excellent when compared to the other major kinds of power plants.[12] "Some technologies, such as nuclear power, can elicit an almost religious feeling of sublimity. They can provoke awe and wonder, capturing the imaginations and hearts of proponents in addition to their minds and pocketbooks."[13] Historically, there were numerous proponents of nuclear energy, including Georges Charpak, Glenn T. Seaborg, Edward Teller, Alvin M. Weinberg, Eugene Wigner, Ted Taylor (physicist), and Jeff Eerkens. There are also scientists who write favorably about nuclear energy in terms of the broader energy landscape, including Robert B. Laughlin, Michael McElroy (scientist), and Vaclav Smil. In particular, Laughlin writes in "Powering the Future" (2011) that expanded use of nuclear power will be nearly inevitable, either because of a political choice to leave fossil fuels in the ground, or because fossil fuels become depleted.

Anti-nuclear advocates believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment.[14][15][16] These threats include the problems of processing, transport and storage of radioactive nuclear waste, the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorism, as well as health risks and environmental damage from uranium mining.[17][18] They also contend that reactors themselves are enormously complex machines where many things can and do go wrong; and there have been serious nuclear accidents.[19][20] Critics do not believe that the risks of using nuclear fission as a power source can be fully offset through the development of new technology. They also argue that when all the energy-intensive stages of the nuclear fuel chain are considered, from uranium mining to nuclear decommissioning, nuclear power is neither a low-carbon nor an economical electricity source.[21][22][23]

Lobbying and public relations activities[edit]

Globally, there are dozens of companies with an interest in the nuclear industry, including Areva, BHP Billiton, Cameco, China National Nuclear Corporation, EDF, Iberdrola, Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ontario Power Generation, Rosatom, TEPCO, and Vattenfall. Many of these companies lobby politicians and others about nuclear power expansion, undertake public relation activities, petition government authorities, as well as influence public policy through referendum campaigns and involvement in elections.[24][25][26][27][28]

The nuclear industry has "tried a variety of strategies to persuade the public to accept nuclear power", including the publication of numerous "fact sheets" that discuss issues of public concern.[29] Nuclear proponents have tried to boost public support by offering newer, safer, reactor designs. These designs include those that incorporate passive safety and Small Modular Reactors. While these reactor designs are intended to inspire support and trust, they may have an unintended effect: creating awareness of older reactors that lack the newer safety features.[30]

Since 2000 the nuclear industry has undertaken an international media and lobbying campaign to promote nuclear power as a solution to the greenhouse effect and climate change.[23] Nuclear power, the industry says, emits negligible amounts of carbon dioxide. However, only reactor operation is free of carbon dioxide emissions. All other stages of the nuclear fuel chain – from uranium mining, to reactor decommissioning and radioactive waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.[23][21][22]

The Nuclear Energy Institute has formed various sub-groups to promote nuclear power. These include the Washington-based Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which was formed in 2006 and led by Patrick Moore. Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the USEPA has also been involved. Clean Energy America is another group also sponsored by the NEI.[31]

In Britain, James Lovelock well known for his Gaia Hypothesis began to support nuclear power in 2004. He is patron of the Supporters of Nuclear Energy. SONE also campaigns against wind power. The main nuclear lobby group in Britain is FORATOM.[31]

As of 2014, the U.S. nuclear industry has begun a new lobbying effort, hiring three former senators — Evan Bayh, a Democrat; Judd Gregg, a Republican; and Spencer Abraham, a Republican — as well as William M. Daley, a former staffer to President Obama. The initiative is called Nuclear Matters, and it has begun a newspaper advertising campaign.[32]

Organizations supporting nuclear power[edit]

In March 2017, a bipartisan group of eight senators, including five Republicans and three Democrats introduced S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA). The legislation would help to modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), support the advancement of the nation's nuclear industry and develop the regulatory framework to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors, while improving the efficiency of uranium regulation. Letters of support for this legislation were provided by thirty-six organizations, including for profit enterprises, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. The most prominent entities from that group and other well-known organizations actively supporting the continued or expanded use of nuclear power as a solution for providing clean, reliable energy include:

The United States generates about 19% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Nearly 60% of all clean energy generated in the U.S. comes from nuclear power. Studies have shown that closing a nuclear power plant results in greatly increased carbon emissions as only burning coal or natural gas can make up for the massive amount of energy lost from a nuclear power plant. Even though there have long been protests against nuclear power, the effect of long-term scrutiny has elevated safety within the industry, making nuclear power the safest form of energy in operation today, despite the fact that many continue to fear it. Nuclear power plants create thousands of jobs, many in health and safety jobs, and seldom experience protests from area residents, as they bring large amounts of economic activity, attract educated employees and leave the air clear safe, unlike oil, coal or gas plants, which bring disease and environmental damage to their workers and neighbors. Nuclear engineers have traditionally worked, directly or indirectly, in the nuclear power industry, in academia or for national laboratories. More recently, young nuclear engineers have started to innovate and launch new companies, becoming entrepreneurs in order to bring their enthusiasm for using the power of the atom to address the climate crisis. As of June of 2015, Third Way released a report identifying 48 nuclear start-ups or projects organized to work on nuclear innovations in what is being called "advanced nuclear" designs.[35] Current research in the industry is directed at producing economical, proliferation-resistant reactor designs with passive safety features. Although government labs research the same areas as industry, they also study a myriad of other issues such as nuclear fuels and nuclear fuel cycles, advanced reactor designs, and nuclear weapon design and maintenance. A principal pipeline for trained personnel for US reactor facilities is the Navy Nuclear Power Program. The job outlook for nuclear engineering from the year 2012 to the year 2022 is predicted to grow 9% due to many elder nuclear engineers retiring, safety systems needing to be updated in power plants, and the advancements made in nuclear medicine.[36]

Individuals supporting nuclear power[edit]

Some people, including former opponents of nuclear energy, say that nuclear energy is necessary for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. These individuals include James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and former director of Greenpeace International, George Monbiot and Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog.[37][38] Lovelock goes further to refute claims about the danger of nuclear energy and its waste products.[39] In a January 2008 interview, Moore said that "It wasn't until after I'd left Greenpeace and the climate change issue started coming to the forefront that I started rethinking energy policy in general and realised that I had been incorrect in my analysis of nuclear as being some kind of evil plot."[40] Such individuals (aka "Nuclear Greens"[41]) include:

Scientists[edit]

James Edward Hansen
Prof. Barry W. Brook

Non-scientists[edit]

Open letter signatories

The following is a list of people that signed the open letter:[89]

Future prospects[edit]

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, located in France, is the world's largest and most advanced experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor project. A collaboration between the European Union (EU), India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States, the project aims to make a transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to electricity-producing fusion power plants. However, the World Nuclear Association says that nuclear fusion "presents so far insurmountable scientific and engineering challenges".[91] Construction of the ITER facility began in 2007, but the project has run into many delays and budget overruns. The facility is now not expected to begin operations until the year 2027 – 11 years after initially anticipated.[92]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]