The Nuclear Conundrum

Many climate activists, including leading climate scientists James Hansen, argue that nuclear power should be promoted as a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Others argue against such a trajectory.

SOCAN’s position on this issue is quoted below. This, along with our position on other climate related issues, can be found here:

3. Nuclear Energy? Acknowledges the potential role that nuclear energy might contribute to the U.S. energy mix on condition that only low risk and low toxic waste technology is promoted and the 1957 Federal Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act is repealed.

The dominant argument employed lately in support of promoting nuclear power is that renewable energy simply cannot offer an adequate supply to meet our global energy demands, especially during peak hours.

The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act (see, for example here and here) enacted in 1957 was a critical economic element allowing the nuclear industry to develop.  The latest revision and extension until 2025 were enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Under provisions of this bill, the nuclear industry pays into a fund that then indemnifies nuclear facilities in the event of an accident that exceeds some $15 billion in damages – the legislated cap on indemnity from funds into which nuclear facilities pay. Unfortunately, the cost of nuclear accidents can be 50 times this amount.  This means the public is liable for excess costs over the arbitrarily determined cap.

Additionally, while the generation of electricity from a nuclear facility is greenhouse gas free, the nuclear fuel itself is a non-renewable resources and must be mined and processed, via an energy intensive process.  The nuclear facility itself must also be constructed and, when its life cycle is complete, it must be decommissioned, processes which are themselves energy intensive. And then there is the small matter of nuclear waste.  Though limited in amount, this must be preserved for extensive periods of time.


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