Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Power, Clean Energy and Our Future

James Conca, Ph.D., speaks to strategies for safe nuclear waste management and how what is perceived as an obstacle to clean power production from nuclear fusion can reduce risks from fossil fuel energy and climate change impacts.

What Role Should Nuclear Power Play in Providing Clean Non-Fossil Fuel Energy?  


From COP 25 in Bonn, Germany, Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress and James Hansen, Director, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University’s Earth Institute provide a concise and clear description of nuclear power’s role in meeting the world’s energy needs and stopping fossil fuel driven climate change.

This video of the Nuclear Energy and Climate Change in the 21st Centurypanel organized by the University of Washington Student Chapter of the International Nuclear Materials Management Organization, Seattle Friends of Fission and Energy Northwest at the University of Washington on November 1, 2017 and providing information from four experts on nuclear power and energy generally in a moderated discussion:


Following articles provide analysis and assessment of nuclear energy – how and should it be used around the world in light of its potential safety risks, but also its enormous potential to provide continuous, non-fossil fuel based energy that doesn’t contribute to global warming?

Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions?, Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Earth Institute, Columbia University, February 21, 2014,  James E. HansenThis is a comprehensive look at Climate Change and what needs to be be done about it, with particular attention to the need for vast amounts of nuclear power if we are to drastically curtail the burning of fossil fuels. 


Climate scientists have long warned of potential catastrophic effects of unchecked fossil fuel use.  Public awareness of the climate threat has increased.  Yet growth of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, the main driver of climate change, has accelerated inexorably, as nations use cheap fossil fuels to power their economies.

 Governments recognize the climate threat, universally endorsing the Framework Convention on Climate Change[1], with the objective of avoiding dangerous climate change.  Yet governments continue to encourage the fossil fuel industry to extract almost every fossil fuel that can be found, including the most carbon-intensive and dirtiest fuels such as coal, tar sands and tar shale.

How can governments be so unresponsive to a public need?  “It’s not dumbfounding,” you may say. “The fossil fuel industry uses its enormous resources to influence public opinions and government policies.”  Certainly they do, but that is only part of the story, and that part of the story has been reported reasonably well.

Here I present climate and energy data to help expose popular misconceptions aboutenergy.  These misconceptions have a greater impact on prospects for stabilizing climate and preserving the remarkable life on our planet than fossil fuel lobbyists and climate change deniers will ever have.  First I must present data for what I call the “carbon math” and the “energy math.”

Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power, Environmental Science and Technology, March 15, 2013, bPushker A. Kharecha and James E. Hansen. This article looks at how many lives have been saved by nuclear power around the world over the last 40 years, with particular attention to a comparison with coal-fired power.


In the aftermath of the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the future contribution of nuclear power to the global energy supply has become somewhat uncertain. Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution. Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning.

On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420 000–7.04 million deaths and 80–240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.

Green Energy Bust in Germany, Dissent Magazine, Summer 2013, Can an energy system move off of carbon-based fuels and nuclear energy at the same time?  A debate between German plan to eliminate nuclear energy between Will Boisvert and Osha Gray Davidson.  Boisvert’s main concern in his two pieces is that Germany seems to be using renewables to get rid of nuclear power, rather than using it to get off fossil fuels.