Nuclear power isn’t a “serious” solution
George W. Bush and John Howard think they have it nailed. Apparently, they’re “serious” about climate change. And in their environmental concerns, they have a “solution”. Nuclear power, according to them, will save the planet. In Bush’s words:
If you truly care about greenhouse gases then you’ll support nuclear power. If you believe that greenhouse gases are a problem … if you take the issue seriously like I do and John does then you should be supportive of nuclear power.
Well, let’s be shallow about this (so that we can think like them). The by-product of nuclear generation is something that’s not a greenhouse gas. So by going hard for nuclear power, we can cut greenhouse gases, thereby reducing the effects of climate change. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? It would be, if greenhouse gases were the only thing that poses a danger to our planet.
They seem to have forgotten that, like all power generation, nuclear power has its costs, and like all power generation that uses fuels, there is a by-product. In this case, it’s the radioactivity of the waste products. Which take hundreds of thousands of years to decay. And have to be stored somewhere. All of it. And it accumulates, too.
Can you see a problem arising? The main difference between the waste products of coal generation and nuclear generation is that the latter is so dangerous, that we can’t even think about releasing it into our surroundings, because we’ll all die (or, for what it’s worth, suffer radioactive poisoning). Carbon dioxide only gave us smoggy cities and rising temperatures. At least we could live with it. For a short while.
Sadly, Bush’s and Howard’s strong and brave statement is weakened by their refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. What better way is there to show seriousness than to commit to reducing the emissions themselves? Apparently, this would not address the problem, whereas more nuclear energy will.
This is the major flaw in Bush’s and Howard’s model. Even if it was environmentally friendly, developing nuclear power wouldn’t reduce gas emissions in itself. It would only stop what would otherwise be more coal and oil plants. That is nuclear power’s potential to succeed: if it replaces sources which emit greenhouse gases, if it is done in conjunction with a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, as an alternative rather than a supplement, then it can achieve this purpose. But the pair refuse to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, we’re back where we started. And that was if nuclear power was environmentally friendly.
The real solution is to look for other, sustainable sources of energy. Solar, wind and hydro energy are all examples. They’re not without their costs: hydro energy, for instance, renders the entire area of land the dam occupies unusable. But they are void of the waste product problem that coal, oil and nuclear sources share. That’s the serious solution.