During the Democratic presidential nomination debates, all candidates have declared climate change to be one of the greatest challenges of our time, in dire need of immediate action. But despite their pledges to combat global warming, not even one of them mentioned nuclear power as a solution. It means that none of them are serious, either about their stated conviction on climate change or in ensuring a sustainable, prosperous future for Americans.
The Forgotten Technology
In the 1950s, nuclear power was hailed as a wonder-technology that would bring us into a glorious future of cheap, safe, clean, and abundant energy. The threat of a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, combined with the emerging radical environmental movement, was able to scare the public into believing it was evil and dangerous.
The panic in the wake of the Chernobyl accident, which was due to communist incompetence rather than a technological problem, successfully ground the development of atomic energy to a halt. And that is the status today. Perhaps the most promising technology ever developed by humans is left to rot in the garbage bin.
But the hype of the 1950s is still surprisingly close to the truth. Nuclear power is the obvious choice for reducing carbon emissions. It can be rendered as entirely safe, reliable, and affordable. But even if you don’t accept the doomsday climate predictions, nuclear power is still a good idea. Here are some reasons.
#1: Dubious Regimes
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China, and Venezuela have two things in common: They are all authoritarian states and they control a large portion of the world’s fossil fuel reserves. While the world relies on fossil fuels, some of the worst regimes get to dictate and export their culture and values to civilized countries.
#2: Population Growth
The world is heading toward ten billion people in this century, and the poor are rapidly developing and adopting an industrialized lifestyle. That is going to require a lot of energy, and there are limits to how much oil and gas we can squeeze out. The more energy sources we have, the better and more secure our future. Nuclear power can help keep the prices of energy at a level that is friendly to the poor.
#3: Energy Security and Independence
Unlike oil and gas, nuclear fuels like thorium are more evenly geographically distributed. It means that more nations can be energy independent. Free trade is great, but it is always good to know that strategic commodities like energy are not vulnerable to the policies of other nations or blocs.
We are at the beginning of the space era. In space, there are no realistic alternatives to nuclear power. If we want to start asteroid mining, making habitable space stations, and even colonizing other planets, radioactive fuels are crucial due to their high energy density.
#5: Climate Change
Although new, cheap CO2 air scrubbing technology promises to make fossil fuels carbon neutral, nuclear power is likely both a more affordable and more efficient way to achieve zero emissions. Thus, if anthropogenic global warming should turn out to be a problem, nuclear power would quickly solve it.
The fact that none of the Democratic candidates talked about nuclear power as a solution to climate change doesn’t exactly show them to be qualified for the most powerful political position in the world.