Nuclear future is a trillion dollar dream

Posted: 3 May 2006

Many politicians and even a few environmentalists have begun advocating nuclear power as a remedy for climate change. And in an effort to ride the coattails of a far more popular set of energy alternatives, political leaders including US President George W. Bushare now referring to nuclear power as "a renewable source of energy".

But in Brave Nuclear World, part one of a two-part series, in the current issue of World Watch magazine, contributor Karen Charman questions whether this latest effort to bring nuclear power back to life will be any more successful than the other five nuclear "revivals" that have been predicted since the industry first collapsed a quarter-century ago.

Analyses have shown that some 700 new large nuclear reactors - producing about twice the total power of the world's currently operatingreactors - would be needed to achieve just one-seventh the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at 500 parts per million.

Yet over the past two years, construction has begun on just three new reactors, while seven operating plants were permanently closed during the same period.

Building 700 nuclear reactors would cost at least $1.7 trillion dollars, says Karen Charman, and would require construction of a new disposal site the size of Nevada's controversial Yucca Mountain depository "somewhere in the world every three to four years."

If that money were instead spent on energy efficiency measures and renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by a far greater amount.

Source: May-June 2006 issue of World Watch published by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.