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NRDC's position on Nuclear Energy

  1. Apr 18, 2006 #1
    Today I went to see a presentation by a speaker from the National Resources Defence Council on global warming, and they mentioned renewable energy but neglected talking at all about nuclear energy. This was somewhat foreign to me until I asked the speaker about it and he (basically played down nuclear energy) by bringing up the issue of the costs of nuclear energy, the waste storage (i.e. Yucca Mountain), and weapons proliferation. A somewhat more detailed view of their viewpoints can be found here: http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/power/power.pdf

    Basically, on an energy-production standpoint, they believe that nuclear energy is unviable for these reasons and they do not think that we should be investing in nuclear energy but instead focusing on wind, solar, hydro, etc.

    I've heard arguments in the past that shifting America over completely to wind, solar, hydro, etc is rather impractical and that nuclear is the only way to go by default (unless you shift to coal but that defeats the purpose of easing the global warming problem). Sure, nuclear plants have very high fixed costs, but don't wind/solar/hydro/biomass also have high fixed costs, especially if one is trying to shift an entire nation's electricity generation to it?

    Unfortunately I was unable to adequately defend the nuclear industry when talking to the speaker (as I am only a freshman in college and I don't know all of the details) but I am curious to see what the nuclear industry's reply to these positions.

    Its rather counterintuitive to me that the NRDC and the nuclear industry don't get along well. Both are working to reduce dependance on foreign oil, and (for the nuclear industry indirectly) working to reduce global warming. :confused:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2006 #2
    I believe the problem of being expensive should be solved once they start being built. There are two different reactor types proposed by two companies (Westinghouse and General Electric, if I remember correctly) that are being approved and if there is competition, prices will decrease contrary to what the paper you linked says. And if none are going to be built in America, overseas in China will end up being the market that propels competition. In addition to that, instead of having many different reactor types, a standard design will make construction less expensive as well.

    The designs I was talking about: AP-1000 Westinghouse (approved in 2004) and ESBWR by General Electric (NRC approval pending).
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2006
  4. Apr 18, 2006 #3


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    The NRDC is a radical left-wing group. I'm surprised the speaker was as calm as you're making him out to be. I saw one of their pages on nuclear power a few months ago and a lot of it was pretty.... uhhh, non-informative to put it nicely. There have been quite a few threads about the nuclear power industry vs. wind/solar/thermal and the cost basis for non-nuclear sources tend to be highly under-exagerated by their proponents.
  5. Apr 19, 2006 #4


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    I would agree with this assessment.

    The NRDC isn't anti-nuclear for environmental reasons - they're environmental for
    anti-nuclear reasons. The more I've discussed with environmental groups, the more
    I'm convinced that they are basically anti-business, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalism....
    and they see environmentalism as the rationale to forward their real views.

    For example, take one portion of the NRDC paper, that claims that the nuclear
    industry doesn't deal with the costs of spent fuel disposal and long term costs.
    That's the same old anti-nuclear screed that they've been touting for years.

    The nuclear industry is subject to a tax on nuclear generated electricity to pay for
    the federally run spent fuel disposal site - Yucca Mountain. It's analogous to the
    way the FAA runs the air traffic control system - but taxes the airline industry to pay
    for it via landing fees.

    The anti-nuclear lobby also claims that the costs to decommission nuclear power
    plants is unknown and astronomical. They ignore the fact that several nuclear
    power plants, like the very first plant Shippingport, as well as Elk River have been
    successfully dismantled and the land released for unrestricted use.

    In summary, don't feel bad that you can't defend nuclear power to the likes of the
    NRDC - it's impossible for scientists like myself to do it. The NRDC doesn't care
    about facts and figures, and the science - they have their agenda, and they won't
    let the truth stand in the way of it.

    However, some environmentalists DO see the light with regard to nuclear:


    In April, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, standing before members of
    the U.S. Congress, stated that "nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse-
    gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy
    global demand." In last month's issue of Technology Review, 1960s icon
    Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, wrote that "the only
    technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of
    the atmosphere is nuclear power." Many environmentalists are none-too-thrilled
    at these public comments from their allies, current or former. On the other hand,
    UC Berkeley professor Jasmina Vujic is thrilled. According to her research,
    Moore and Brand are absolutely right.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2006
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