There is a good deal of controversy in the environmental movement regarding how to continue generating energy to maintain our economic well-being while cutting or eliminating the energy industry's heavy carbon footprint (roughly 40% of carbon emissions are related to energy generation). There are some in the environmental movement, not to mention those in the nuclear industry, who point to nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emission from the energy sector.
It is true that nuclear generation of electricity itself is not a significant source of carbon emissions, but there are serious economic feasibility, safety, and environmental issues, in addition to carbon emissions associated with the entire life-cycles of nuclear fuels and generation plants.
Southern Arizona is blessed with a number of experts on the industry and its environmental impacts. MyCommentary, records the viewpoints of local activists and concerned citizens. The project brings us the video commentaries of two local nuclear activists, Russell Lowes, and Jack Cohen-Joppa. I share those commentaries with you here:
Commentary by Mr. Cohen-Joppa
Commentary by Mr. Lowes
In addition, the local public affairs program, Political Perspectives with Cynthia Dickstein, covered the nuclear issue recently with Jack Cohen-Joppa and Russell Lowes as her guests. They were joined by Arizona environmental justice advocate Steve Brittle for a panel discussion that constitutes an excellent primer on this topic.
More after the click...
My own take on this issue, as with my view on all issues of science and technology, is a purely pragmatic one. If new nuclear technology can be developed that address the safety, waste, and cost-efficiency issues of nuclear power technology, then new plants will be built. Generation facilities should not subsidized with government revenues, nor should consumers be forced to subsidize nuclear power facilities with higher-then-market electrical rates.
In other nations around the world many are pushing ahead with new nuclear facilities regardless of the drawbacks, not only to reduce their dependence on foreign energy sources, but as a matter of national prestige and security. This rush to nuclear technology presents serious challenges to international regulatory systems, such as the IAEA and the Non-Proliferation regime, which we are seeing played out most prominently in Iran, North Korea, India, and Pakistan. We can't truly address the promise and peril of nuclear energy generation solely in one country, and we need more cost-effective alternatives to offer our own people, and those of the world, if we are to lay aside nuclear power generation as a viable industry.