Do We Need Nuclear Power to Stop Global Warming?

The crisis in Japan is generating new concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants, with regulators around world from Vermont to Germany reconsidering plans to extend the life of aging plants. In the United States, 104 nuclear power plants provide approximately 20 percent of electricity generated. The industry, some members of Congress, and the Obama administration would like that figure to be higher, cite stopping global warming among the top reasons. But does that argument even hold water? Many experts say no.

Take action: Ask President Obama to end government subsidies for nuclear power.

According to an analysis in 2009 by Environment America, nuclear power won’t deliver the pollution cuts we need fast enough to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Scientists estimate that America must cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years. Just building a nuclear power plant often takes that long.

“When it comes to global warming, time and money are of the essence and nuclear power will fail America on both accounts,” said Anna Aurilio, Washington DC Office Director of Environment America in the statement that accompanied the report. “With government dollars more precious than ever, nuclear power is a foolish investment that will set us back in the race against global warming,” she added. 

Environment America argues that truly clean energy could deliver 5 times more pollution cutting progress per dollar overall.  What’s more, energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources come online much faster than nuclear power, meaning investments there may actually cut pollution in time to impact climate change. The U.S. wind industry is already building the equivalent of three nuclear reactors per year in wind farms, according to the report.

Environment America isn’t the only group attempting to punch holes in the nuclear power to stop global warming argument and the oft-reported “growing consensus for nuclear power” tends to be overblown by the media. The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and others have consistently opposed depending on nuclear power to address climate change.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Bradford may have said it best: “New nuclear power investments would actually worsen climate change because the money spent on nuclear reactors would not be available for solutions that fight it faster and at lower cost. Counting on new nuclear reactors as a climate change solution is no more sensible than counting on an un-built dam to create a lake to fight a nearby forest fire.”

Take action: Ask President Obama to end subsidies for nuclear power.

Power plant image by flickr user jemasmith


Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

nuclear power is the biggest mistake what we had ever done. And who still says that it would be clean and safe, should think about if he/she wants to live close by with the own children, and try to find an answer for their questions, in what world they will grow up, and what they should do with all the nuclear waste.

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

pam wilkerson
pam wilkerson6 years ago

No more nuclear plants!!!!! You have saw what happened to Japan!!! Any accidents can happened!! NO MORE ACCIDENTS!ANd NO MORE NUCLEAR POWER. WE NEED CLEAN AIR!!! I couldnt breath in that kind of pollution either emission too. So I was born with the mother earth. I can not handle this pollution so is the mother earth.

Deborah F.
Deborah F6 years ago

I wouldn't want to live near a nuclear reactor. Moon based power? hmmmm.....

Phil A.
Philip Albee6 years ago

Lots of opinions. No one seems aware that in 2007 the pentagon advocated space based solar on the grounds of energy security. Of the two systems - satellite and moon based - the moon based system would provide electricity the cheapest, and would be able to handle world demand in fairly short order.

I highly recommend looking into this. It's called the Lunar Solar Power System, by Dr. David Criswell. It could have been built long before now, with existing technology, providing load following, baseload commercial electricity - profitably - for a PENNY per kilowatt.

Ten years to construct the demonstration system, which would provide half the electricity needs of the U.S. when it comes online. Rapidly scales up from there, to meet world demand. Profitable a few years after it comes online.

Pursuing nuclear power instead of this is insane.

Check it out.

Jose M. C.
JOSE M. C6 years ago

Why aren't we discussing the potential benefits of small thorium reactors? With all the breakthroughs being made in that technology, they could provide much safer and cleaner nuclear energy out of a plentiful fuel.

Oh, that's right. Hardly anyone knows about them because it's the Chinese who are doing all the research and development.

Judy S.
Judy S6 years ago

Does anyone know the cost of building a nuclear power plant? I'm wondering how many solar panels and small and large wind turbines could be installed for the price of one nuclear plant. Then of course there's maintenance...and waste, and what else? Oh yeah - those unforeseen disasters!

Tomasz Grabarczyk

Thanks for this :)

Scott M.
Its wonderful e6 years ago

In order to produce dog food we need electricity...

May Howie
may Howie6 years ago

we need more nuclear plants like we need more animal abuse.....NO NO NO NO NO

Scott M.
Its wonderful e6 years ago

Some Radiation is good for you!. Who would have thought

Saw an article that showed that people who lived close to Nagasaki and Hiroshima and were exposed to radiation lived longer than those without exposure. Apparently some exposure if healthy, just like fluoride and arsenic