Tuesday, May 13, 2014

director, Rutgers Undergraduate Meteorology Program

Nuclear Energy Is Not a Solution for Global Warming

There have been several recent calls from people and organizations concerned about global warming to use nuclear electricity generation as part of the solution. This includes The New York Times, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), and a group of leading climate scientists, James Hansen, Tom Wigley, Ken Caldeira, and Kerry Emanuel.
Don't get me wrong. Global warming is real, it is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, it is bad (as described in detail by the new National Climate Assessment), and we have to do something about it. But solar and wind power, combined with increased efficiency and conservation, can do the trick. Elimination ofexorbitant government subsidies to the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, and a gradually increasing carbon taxfee and dividend, or a cap and trade system like the one that worked to tame acid rain, will push us to do the right thing.
More than 99 percent of the current 437 nuclear power systems in the world use highly enriched uranium to produce heat and boil water, which drives turbines. Plutonium and many other highly radioactive elements are waste products. The benefits of nuclear power include minimal emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and a fairly reliable continuous source of electricity.
But nuclear power presents many downsides. These include:

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