Nuclear vs. renewables: Divided they fall

By Dawn Stover, Contributing Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Dawn Stover, a contributing editor for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, presents a timely article on the ongoing debates between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear climate activists - positing that division amongst these groups actually represents a loss for both sides and the future of global energy.

People who agree that climate change is a dire problem often disagree about how to solve it. In recent months, once-private disagreements have ballooned into a public spat between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear climate activists. Depending on whom you ask, nuclear power is either “essential” or “ill-suited” to efforts aimed at staving off climate disaster.

Nuclear power and renewable energy sources (including solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, and hydropower) make comparable contributions to US energy, and both are dwarfed by fossil fuels: According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2012 nuclear and renewables each provided between 8 and 9 percent of all energy used in the United States. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal together provided 81 percent.

You would think, then, that the little guys would realize they only stood a chance if they teamed up against Goliath. Instead, advocates for nuclear and renewables are doing just the opposite: They’re competing with each other for government favors and bickering over the question of what should replace fossil fuels, at times framing the debate as an either-or choice. Although both sides acknowledge the magnitude of the climate crisis, they stubbornly refuse to grow up and face the facts: Even with huge expansions of both nuclear and renewables, keeping global warming below a dangerous level will be a tough order.


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