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Sat Jan 9, 2016, 07:40 PM

Joe Romm: Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power [View all]

Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power
BY JOE ROMM


Climatologist James Hansen argued last month, “Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.” He is wrong.

As the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) explained in a major report last year, in the best-case scenario, nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming if it can solve its various nagging problems — particularly high construction cost — without sacrificing safety.

Hansen and a handful of other climate scientists I also greatly respect — Ken Caldeira, Tom Wigley, and Kerry Emanuel — present a mostly handwaving argument in which new nuclear power achieves and sustains an unprecedented growth rate for decades. The one quantitative “illustrative scenario” they propose — “a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system” — is far beyond what the world ever sustained during the nuclear heyday of the 1970s, and far beyond what the overwhelming majority of energy experts, including those sympathetic to the industry, think is plausible.

They ignore the core issues: The nuclear power industry has essentially priced itself out of the market for new power plants because of its 1) negative learning curve and 2) inability to avoid massive delays and cost overruns in market economies. This is doubly problematic because the competition — renewable power, electricity storage, and energy efficiency — have seen steady, stunning price drops for a long time.

Hansen et al also continue the myth that somehow nuclear power is being held back by environmental opposition, rather than its own marketplace failures, a point I will return to later....

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/01/07/3736243/nuclear-power-climate-change/

Link to International Energy Agency/Nuclear Energy Agency report summary
https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/technology-roadmap-nuclear-energy-1.html

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