Confronting Risks: The Nuclear Option

  • Originally, nuclear energy production was an abhorrence to environmental activists; however, recently high status green spokes-peoples have began to rethink nuclear power. (p.653)
  • Activists such as James Lovelock, a British atmospheric scientist, Steward Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog, Hugh Montefiore, director and founder of Friends of the earth, and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, have all recently endorsed nuclear power as a climate-friendly energy option. (p.653)
  • In 2006, Patrick Moore stated that “more than 600 coal-fired power plants in the US produce 36 percent of US emissions aka 10% of global emissions of CO2; the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change… Nuclear energy is the only large-scale cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.” (p.653)
  • One argument for nuclear power discusses the contrast between the impacts on the climate by constructing nuclear power plants, and the impact from coal. Which nuclear power has the potential to replace. (p.653)
  • The real question is which is the lesser evil? With the continued use of coal for electrical generation there are bound to be catastrophic impacts on the climate; however, the risks of nuclear power are seen as worse but less likely to occur. (p.653)
  • Patrick Moore of Greenpeace claims that the inherent risks in nuclear energy have been overstated and that the risks associated with climate change have been understated. If proper risk analysis were to occur, he claims that expansion of nuclear power programs would be the more promising solution… (this claim is up for debate) (p.653)
  • For many people, especially in the US, taking climate change, and the impacts of it, more seriously would require rethinking on a fundamental level of the ways that humans today generate and use electricity. (p.653)
  • Some scientists estimate that cuts from emission levels in the 21st century will have to decrease 80-95% by 2050 in order to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas levels that would prevent ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’… according to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. (p.653)


Vanderheiden, Steve. “Confronting Risks: Regulatory Responsibility and Nuclear Energy.” Environmental Politics 20.5 (2011): 650-67. Print.

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