Embrace nuclear energy: Climate scientists to environmental groups

Some of America's top climate scientists are calling on environmental groups to embrace nuclear energy. Wind and solar power, they say, won't be enough to prevent extreme climate change.

In a letter to environmental groups – posted on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin – four climate scientists address "those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power."

The letter's authors come from the Carnegie Institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research and University and, according to the Washington Post, "have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change."

"As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems," the letter reads.

They say that while efforts to advocate for renewable energy are admirable, "continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change."

And though they acknowledge the growing role of renewables like wind and solar energy, the scientists don't believe these sources can scale up fast enough to keep up with global energy needs.

"While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power."

In an update to his post, Revkin comments on the likelihood of nuclear power making a rebound in the Western world. The chances, according to Canadian scientist Vaclav Smil, aren't good. Smil notes that nuclear energy in the West has been "de facto dead for decades," and and that the nuclear future belongs to China, Russia, India, Iran and North Korea. "Good luck with that," writes Smil.

Currently there are five new nuclear facilities under construction in the US, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. The World Nuclear Association counts nearly 70 new reactors being built in 14 countries.

Creative Commons image by: Jessica Gardner