Is Nuclear Power the Answer?

Nuclear Power
Kernkraftwerk Grafenrheinfeld – 2013

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Nuclear Power has Risks

Every couple years the debate over nuclear power resurfaces. The fundamental questions remain unresolved partly in hope the technology will improve, but also out of fear. The public fears the consequences from nuclear power. Moreover, the fear is not entirely misplaced. Every few years a new disaster occurs despite efforts to move away from nuclear power as an energy source. The most recent happened a little more than ten years ago in Japan. For those who do not remember, a power plant in Fukushima suffered a triple meltdown after a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami. Afterwards Japan shut down most of its nuclear power plants. Indeed, the disaster in Fukushima also led European countries like Germany and France to move away from nuclear power as well.

At the same time, the world desperately wants to find replacements for fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources provide ways to reduce global its dependence, but have not provided the scale to entirely replace them. Part of the problem is reliability. Solar only works when the sun shines and windmills fail when the wind does not blow. But they also require scarce resources of their own that may reshape geopolitics in unexpected ways. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, provides a consistent energy source. Moreover, it can deliver massive scale with the proper investment.

At the same time, nuclear energy comes with risks. Its proponents often argue the risks are overblown. Indeed, many new technologies mitigate the risks associated with nuclear energy. However, its mitigation is expensive. Moreover, many costs are unforeseen. As Serhii Plokhy puts its, “The existing nuclear industry is an open-ended liability.” Energy is on the minds of international relations and environmentalists lately. So, over the next few days we will consider nuclear power along with its risks.

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