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The Nuclear Energy Debate
Sarah Kuck, 17 Feb 10


Employing the right set of renewable-energy technologies can help cities create the power they need to maximize production and delivery the kind energy that -- in the long run -- will help us to create greater prosperity for all.

But how do we select the right zero-emission power sources? There are a wide variety of renewable resources, like solar and wind, but some say the solution set could be more robust if we included nuclear energy. Others are strongly opposed, as nuclear power carries with it serious environmental, political and safety concerns. Yet, many deep-pocketed game changers are starting to show huge amounts of support for nuclear energy, touting it as the solution to global climate change. For this reason, we thought it might be a good idea to explore the prose and cons of this energy answer.

The following is a list of resources and stories that we've found helpful in understanding and exploring the issue:

Lovelock: 'Only nuclear power can now halt global warming'
A small collection of James Lovelock's thoughts on nuclear power from Worldchanging ally Jon Lebkowsky.

Nuclear Power and Climate Change: Is Our Choice Glow or Cook?
In the wake of the Lovelock and Wired magazine arguments, Alex Steffen expresses his concerns about nuclear and his desire to see a global commitment to creating a clean-energy economy.

Nuclear Energy: Not a Climate Change Solution?
Alex Steffen shares a 2006 report that states that nuclear is not a climate-friendly energy source.

Stewart Brand is Rethinking Nuclear
Steward Brand announces he is rethinking nuclear at his 2009 UC Berkeley talk "Rethinking Green," foreshadowing thoughts that will later be found in his book the Whole Earth Discipline.

New Research Ranks Top Renewable Energy Options
Research from Stanford University ranks the world's energy options -- putting wind, concentrated solar and geothermal at the top of the list, and nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and sequestration in a tie for dead last.

Are We Going Nuclear?
OnEarth reviews the 2009 release of Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock That Shaped the World, a book that explores how one mineral might determine our energy future and our national security.

NRDC Issues: Nuclear Energy, Waste and Weapons
The Natural Resources Defense Council works on a number of big picture issues. One of its six priority goals is Nuclear Energy, Waste and Weapons. This issue page is a collection of resources, articles and fact sheets produced by the NRDC or their allies.

How Nuclear Power Works
Curious about the why and the how? Find out more on fission, what a power plant looks like and the pros and cons of nuclear power with the popular series How Stuff Works.

The Case For and Against Nuclear Power
Wall Street Journal columnist Michael Totty reports on the issue from all angles, asking: Is nuclear power the answer for a warming planet? Or is it too expensive and dangerous to satisfy future energy needs?

U.S.Budget Wielded to Cut Greenhouse Gases
President Obama revealed his great support of nuclear energy this week, announcing that the Department of Energy will offer $8.33 billion for a new nuclear plant. Administration officials said it would be the first U.S. nuclear power plant to break ground in nearly three decades.

Image credit: Christopher Peterson, Flickr/CC License

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Does Worldchanging have an opinion on nuclear plants? I'm personally not opposed, as it is potentially a quick way to replace coal plants. The best argument against them that I've heard is cost (concentrated solar currently beats the construction cost, without the risks or toxic waste), but if we start churning these things out they'll get cheaper.

Posted by: Matt the Engineer on 19 Feb 10

Worldchanging is either for nuclear energy, or for natural gas energy, Middleton-style.

Nuclear energy has meant, and in future to a much greater degree will mean, a loss of government fossil fuel revenues. That is the sort of world-changing we are going to see, whether Worldchanging likes it or not. Uranium costs 11 cents per gram. Natural gas costs around $3 per gram-U-equivalent, a price that includes government royalties that much exceed 11 cents.

So the tragic deaths of the workers at the Middleton gas plant will be only a temporary setback in getting that plant up and running, up and collecting taxes.

There may be workable solutions to government's conflict of interest in nuclear power matters. Nuclear regulators are, in many cases, required to live near and work at the plants they regulate, and that's fine. But when their decisions hinder nuclear energy's expansion, and help the natural gas industry, wouldn't it be nice if some of them lived near gas pipelines?

Posted by: G.R.L. Cowan on 22 Feb 10

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