Palo Verde Nuclear Plant in Arizona, by George deLange
In the summer of 2004, James Lovelock dropped a bomb in the green community in the UK and elsewhere. Alarmed about the seriousness of the damage inflicted to his beloved 'gaia', and pressed by the urgency for the need for change, he announced that the only safe and viable manner to provide energy without the accompanying high levels of CO2 was nuclear energy:
"What makes global warming so serious and so urgent is that the great Earth system, Gaia, is trapped in a vicious circle of positive feedback. Extra heat from any source, whether from greenhouse gases, the disappearance of Arctic ice or the Amazon forest, is amplified, and its effects are more than additive. It is almost as if we had lit a fire to keep warm, and failed to notice, as we piled on fuel, that the fire was out of control and the furniture had ignited. When that happens, little time is left to put out the fire before it consumes the house. Global warming, like a fire, is accelerating and almost no time is left to act.""So what should we do?...(But) with six billion, and growing, few options remain; we can not continue drawing energy from fossil fuels and there is no chance that the renewables, wind, tide and water power can provide enough energy and in time. If we had 50 years or more we might make these our main sources. But we do not have 50 years; the Earth is already so disabled by the insidious poison of greenhouse gases that even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately, the consequences of what we have already done will last for 1,000 years. Every year that we continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendants and for civilisation.">"...We have stayed in ignorance for many reasons; important among them is the denial of climate change in the US where governments have failed to give their climate scientists the support they needed. The Green lobbies, which should have given priority to global warming, seem more concerned about threats to people than with threats to the Earth, not noticing that we are part of the Earth and wholly dependent upon its well being. It may take a disaster worse than last summer's European deaths to wake us up.
Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer." Read the rest of his comment in the Independent.
He's not the only green to consider nuclear energy the only viable solution. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace has this to say:
"In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change. Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions -- or nearly 10 percent 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."
"Today, there are 103 nuclear reactors quietly delivering just 20 percent of America's electricity. Eighty percent of the people living within 10 miles of these plants approve of them (that's not including the nuclear workers). Although I don't live near a nuclear plant, I am now squarely in their camp.
And I am not alone among seasoned environmental activists in changing my mind on this subject. British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, believes that nuclear energy is the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the "Whole Earth Catalog," says the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. On occasion, such opinions have been met with excommunication from the anti-nuclear priesthood: The late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth, was forced to resign from the group's board after he wrote a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter."
Read his article "Going Nuclear, a green makes the case" in full.
The interesting part of doing the research is the backlash towards especially Patrick Moore that I found online. Consider this:
Eco-Traitor by Drake Bennet. As a poli sci person, I have to say that all the negative sites I've seen on Moore's position, makes it seem like a big campaign angry at the 'defection' of one of its champions. Laden with editorial venom is unfortunately not conducive for a real debate. I myself do not have a position in this debate, but I do understand from reading the material of the pro-nuclear energy greens that they consider themselves pragmatic.
Let me list some Pros and Cons.
Pro Nuclear Energy:
Supporters of Nuclear Energy, SONE
The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition
The Third Way, a progressive think tank
the late Bishop Hugh Montefiore
Against Nuclear Energy:
Friends of the Earth who have a big article on radioactive wastes and the nuclear energy partnership
Greenpeace read their article on a french nuclear plant construction shut down.
Since I am not paid by ANYONE, I will attempt to put the pro and con arguments together this week. With plenty of things to do as we're entering the last phase of school and the neighbourhood swimteam starting up in a week, I hope to have it done this week. If not, it'll have to be next weekend. Until that time, do your own research, read the opposite opinion of your own view so you're familiar with the counter arguments. Try to stay detached and unemotional and sift out the editorial venom. Unfortunately, even if I agree with someone, that totally takes away from an objective discussion.