Pro-nuclear movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are large variations in people's understanding of the issues surrounding nuclear power, including the technology itself, climate change mitigation, 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, as do some scientists.


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, Marcus Oliphant (left), Homi Jehangir Bhabha (centre) and Philip Baxter, share a cup of tea

Nuclear energy is often considered to be a controversial area of public policy.[1][2] 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.[3][4]

Proponents of nuclear energy point to the fact that nuclear power produces very little conventional air pollution, greenhouse gases, and smog, in contrast to fossil fuel sources of energy.[5] Proponents also argue that perceived risks of storing waste are exaggerated, and point to an operational safety record in the Western world which is excellent in comparison to the other major kinds of power plants.[6] Historically, there have been numerous proponents of nuclear energy, including Georges Charpak, Glenn T. Seaborg, Edward Teller, Alvin M. Weinberg, Eugene Wigner, Ted Taylor, 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, 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.

Lobbying and public relations activities[edit]

Globally, there are dozens of companies with an interest in the nuclear industry, including Areva, BHP, Cameco, China National Nuclear Corporation, EDF, Iberdrola, Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ontario Power Generation, Rosatom, Tokyo Electric Power Company, 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.[7][8][9][10][11]

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.[12] Nuclear proponents have worked to boost public support by offering newer, safer, reactor designs. These designs include those that incorporate passive safety and Small Modular Reactors.

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. Though reactor operation is free of carbon dioxide emissions, 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.

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.[13]

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 recognise that there are serious technical challenges associated with an electric grid reliant on intermittent and low density sources of energy. The main nuclear lobby group in Britain is FORATOM.[13]

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.[14]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 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.[17] 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.[18]

Individuals supporting nuclear power[edit]

A pragmatic need for secure energy supply is a leading reason for many to support nuclear energy. Many people, including former opponents of nuclear energy, now say that nuclear energy is necessary for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They recognize that the threat to humanity from climate change is far worse than any risk associated with nuclear energy. Many nuclear energy supporters, but not all, acknowledge that renewable energy is also important to the effort to eliminate emissions. Early environmentalists who publicly voiced support for nuclear power include James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, Patrick Moore, an early member of Greenpeace and former president of Greenpeace Canada, George Monbiot and Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog.[19][20] Lovelock goes further to refute claims about the danger of nuclear energy and its waste products.[21] 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 realized that I had been incorrect in my analysis of nuclear as being some kind of evil plot."[22] There are increasing numbers of scientists and laymen who are environmentalists with views that depart from the mainstream environmental stance that rejects a role for nuclear power in the climate fight (once labelled "Nuclear Greens,"[23] some now consider themselves Ecomodernists).

Other academics and professionals, alarmed by the impact of disproportionate media coverage of nuclear accidents have formed a group called Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI).[24] This was formed after a tsunami in Japan in 2011 caused an accidental release at Fukushima Daiichi, local people were unnecessarily relocated and psychologically stressed by false fears. This evacuation is estimated to have produced increased mortality rates equivalent to 2,313 deaths.[25] This effective suffering is known as the ‘nocebo’ effect, and describes a situation where a negative outcome occurs due to a belief that an intervention will cause harm.

Others who have spoken publicly on the benefits of nuclear power include:


James Edward Hansen
Prof. Barry W. Brook


Open letter signatories

Climate and energy scientists in 2013: there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power[65][66][67][68]

Conservation biologists in 2014: to replace the burning of fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change […we] need to accept a substantial role for advanced nuclear power systems with complete fuel recycling[69][70][71]

The following is a list of people that signed the open letter:[72]

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".[74] 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.[75]

Another nuclear power program is the Energy Impact Center's OPEN100 project. OPEN100 was launched in 2020 and has published open-source blueprints for a nuclear power plant with a 100-megawatt pressurized water reactor.[76] The project aims to minimize the costs and duration of construction to increase nuclear power supply and potentially reverse the effects of climate change.[77]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]