Should we be getting more of our power from nuclear energy?

“California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at Rhodium Group, California’s carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. That’s in large part because California shut down one of its few remaining nuclear power plants,” writes NPR’s Richard Harris.

That rise in carbon emissions underscores the huge impact nuclear power can have in efforts to combat climate change.

Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, cites the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as he explains why he has reluctantly shifted from being an anti-nuclear activist to someone who now argues that we can’t afford to dismiss nuclear power.

Cohen says authorities did the right thing when they shut down the troubled and aging nuclear plant near San Diego. But he’s not happy to see California lose a major source of low-carbon energy.

“San Onofre produced as much carbon-free energy as all the wind power installed in California to date,” Cohen says. “So it’s going to be a pretty heavy lift to replace all that nuclear with low-carbon energy.”

Today’s Question: Should we be getting more of our power from nuclear energy?

  • PaulJ

    Yep, just don’t put it in a fault zone next to the ocean (what are they, 5 year olds?).

  • Jim G

    No. Japan is still failing to control nuclear pollution caused by the destruction of two nuclear power plants. I understand these two nuclear plants are the same General Electric design as the Exel plants here in Minnesota. Our two Minnesota nuclear plants are not located on major faultlines that we know about, but we have been known to experience massive flooding. Climate change is producing more powerful category five tornadoes, and there is always the issues of human mischief, inattention, or mechanical failure. Do we really want to chance irradiating the corn belt, making it unusable for the next 10,000 years? Not me.

  • mason

    Yes, without a doubt. We let fearmongers and environmentalists win the debate over nuclear power in the 1970s and now we have bigger problems with climate change.

    And yes, I would live next a nuclear power plant. I would prefer that in my area over any other power generation source, save hydroelectric.

  • Mark in Ohio

    Yes, we need more nuclear power, especially if we refuse to accept the problems we are creating with our ever increasing population. New plants have more safeties built into them, and they are often retrofitted into older plants. Keep investigating and improving all of the plants. I also believe that we need to go far beyond the current “new” design nuclear reactors, and investigate fuel re-processing and other techniques to make use of the “spent” fuel and waste products that we are generating with the current plants. Since the big problem with waste is that it is radioactive (i.e. giving off energy), let’s see if our scientists can find a way to harness that energy and control it, with the end goal being to use it to generate power as well.

  • Rich in Duluth

    No, the consequences of a failure or mistake are just too great. In addition, the solution to the disposal of the thousands of tons of nuclear waste continues to evade us.

    I might support construction of thorium-based nuclear power plant

    Thorium is apparently much more abundant than uranium, safer, produces much less waste and does not produce a source of bomb making materials. This should be researched.

    We should continue to develop and expand wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric,
    and other “renewable” energy sources.

    • Guest


  • AndyBriebart

    Now that it’s OK to chop up eagles with wind turbines, no.

    • KTN

      The ruling does not give utilities free reign to chop up eagles with their turbines, they just will not be held criminally liable if an eagle get killed.

      • AndyBriebart

        No, i don’t think they are going to collect eagles and then throw them at the spinning blades, but windmills kill lots of migratory birds.

        • Ralphy

          Compared to the environmental impact of a nuclear accident or a normally operating coal plant, all the windmills in the U.S. are a pitance. More eagles are killed by poisons (intentional or not) than all the windmills in the U.S. combined.

  • Bill

    No. For the last 17 years the earth has been cooling. We need to burn more coal. We need to increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 will help the plants grow faster and the atmosphere to warm. I’m another Minnesotan for Global Warming.

  • KTN

    In general yes, but it all come down to economy of scale. Another nuclear plant in Minnesota would not be economically feasible, our population does not support the building of a multi-billion dollar facility. How do you pass those capital costs on to customers, without revolt.
    On the east coast, with population density, sure, build more plants. They are safe, provide energy without contributing to greenhouse gasses, and the per unit pricing is absorbed by the public.

  • MrE85

    The benefits, from an emissions point of view, are clear. But it is also clear there is little political will to build new nuclear power plants in this county — or just about anywhere else.

  • Jamie

    We should find a way to recapture the heat from the wastewater of nuclear power plants and use it for more power generation instead of dumping that heat it into the local water source used for cooling.

    On average, over the period 2007 – 2012, it took 10,466 BTUs of nuclear energy to

    create each Kilowatt hour of electricity (equivalent to 3,412 BTUs) – not a lot different than coal or natural gas powered plants, so the same theory could be applied to them. That makes it only 32.6% efficient. The other 67.4% of the energy created by the nuclear reaction is release as lost heat.

    I would think, in the last 50 years, we would have been able to come up with a method of using a heat pump or stirling engine or some other method to use that lost heat in a secondary operation prior to releasing that heat that’s no longer hot enough to produce steam, but hot enough for something else.

  • Chris Rathbun

    why go backwards when the future is forwards?

  • Sue de Nim

    Yes. It’s less risky than pumping huge quantities CO2 and other pollutants into the air with coal. People fear radiation more than air pollution only because they understand it less well.

  • Ralphy

    As soon as they figure out how to manage and can ensure the safety of the waste materials for 10 or 20,000 years, then I’m in the “Yes” camp.