If four of the world’s top climate and energy scientists gather to write an open letter, this letter should attract considerable attention and interest. But if this letter calls on world leaders to support development of safer nuclear power systems, then it should immediately be a worldwide priority.
The letter, signed by climatologist James Hansen, atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira, meteorologist Kerry Emanuel and climate scientist Tom Wigley, is addressed “to those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power”. The four scientists wrote that the “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change […] there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power”. It is noteworthy that one signer, Ken Caldeira, now a distinguished climatologist, was arrested during the 1979 anti-nuclear protest that emerged after the famous Three Mile Island accident in the USA.
Probably the biggest problem our generation will face in the near future is that we are running out of petroleum, we can’t even regulate its cost but, on the contrary, we are absolutely dependent on it. At the same time it is urgent to considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The world needs to manage the growing global energy demand without using the atmosphere as a waste dump. However, although fossil fuels are the main and direct cause of global warming they are, by far, less frowned upon than atomic power in society.
The letter exposes scientific arguments in favour of nuclear power in clear and straightforward language. The authors don’t hide its risks (“we understand that today’s nuclear plants are far from perfect…”) but say those are much smaller than the risk of an extreme climate change. They point to developments, such as new safety systems or modern technology to solve the waste disposal problem to make new power plants safer and even cheaper than existing ones. However, they stress the importance of financial encouragement to make nuclear energy socially beneficial.
What about renewable energies? Ecologists agree that global warming is a threat to earth and humans, but many are against atomic power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to supply the energy the world needs within the next few decades. The signers aren’t opposed to renewable energy sources, but want environmentalists to understand that “realistically, they cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems”. I agree.
In conclusion, from my perspective this letter is a breath of fresh air for people not limited to simply oppose fossil fuels and promote renewable energy. The problem of energy is too important to be left to emotions that absolutely do not correspond to 21st century nuclear technology. We need facts, and this letter definitely can help realize people about the difficult choices that climate change presents us.