By Michael Mariotte

“Nuclear power plant construction” by James Douch – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

If you think you’ve been seeing a lot more pro-nuclear propaganda in the media than usual in the past couple of weeks, well, it’s not your imagination. The nuclear industry and its champions are out in force, publishing articles and appearing in the media wherever and whenever they can in what may be a last-ditch effort to convince the world–or at least its leaders–that nuclear power is the answer, or one answer, to our climate crisis. As one writer put it yesterday, “At the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), the global nuclear lobby is in overdrive.”

If it all smacks a bit of desperation–and a lot of the pro-nuke pieces out there right now verge on the hysterical, with blatant attacks on those of us who envision a clean energy future–well, that’s not your imagination either. That’s because there is no global consensus on nuclear power. Some nations are against it entirely while a relatively few others are ardently pro-nuclear, with most–including the U.S.–somewhere in-between. And that means, by the very nature of the COP 21 talks, that nuclear isn’t getting what the industry needs; indeed, so far at least, nuclear is simply a non-factor.

Still, it’s important to examine and if possible refute the pro-nuclear assertions. It’s important to prevent them from taking hold at COP 21, or afterwards, because making large-scale investments in nuclear power as a climate solution would make real carbon reductions more difficult to attain. Nuclear would set the world on the wrong path, and that would prove disastrous. Fortunately, refuting nuclear advocates’ arguments becomes easier and easier with the passage of time. Not only are most of the industry’s positions fantastical, but the concept of a world powered 100% by clean renewable energy is no longer seen as a hippie pipedream but as a necessary and, more importantly, achievable goal at every level–from individuals to large corporations to cities large and small to entire nations.

Leading the nuclear pack of course, by virtue of respect for his work on climate, is Dr. James Hansen and a small band of cohorts in the climate science community. At his press conference in Paris late last week (background here) and a companion piece published in The Guardian Thursday, Hansen et al made their familiar argument that nuclear must be considered a climate solution and that the world must rapidly develop “…next-generation nuclear power with a closed fuel cycle (where spent fuel is reprocessed)…”

A big part of that argument is their belief, which seems to be based mostly on International Energy Agency (IEA) reports and projections, that renewable energy currently provides only a tiny part of global electricity supply and that renewables cannot scale up rapidly enough to replace fossil fuels. Nuclear, they claim on the other hand, can do so. According to Hansen, et al, “For example, a build rate of …read more

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