Nuclear energy’s role in America is controversial, to say the least. Industry advocates call it the cheapest source of reliable, clean energy. Environmental opponents say its low-carbon attributes are outweighed by cost and safety concerns. So who is right?
energyNOW! anchor Thalia Assuras joins Mix panelists Alex Flint from the Nuclear Energy Institute and Christopher Paine of the Natural Resources Defense Council to debate the role of nuclear power in our energy and climate future, from safety concerns and technological gains to government subsidies and Wall Street funding.
Paine says safety “is never an absolute” and is more concerned about safe storage of spent nuclear fuel than with the industry as a whole. Flint acknowledges that used fuel is highly radioactive and can be dangerous, but the industry’s worldwide track record demonstrates it can be very carefully managed and stored.
Safe storage isn’t enough for Paine, who says in order for nuclear power to gain the public’s assurance, clear disposal path has to be identified for spent fuel.
Paine isn’t comfortable defining nuclear energy as clean energy because it creates radioactive waste and heated wastewater. In his view, nuclear power is “low carbon energy” but “definitely not clean energy.”
Flint disagrees, saying “nuclear energy is clean energy” because it is much easier to manage the consequences of producing electricity from nuclear power compared to other forms of energy.
Both panelists agree that nuclear energy is common ground between Republicans and Democrats on energy. Paine believes there is “room for agreement” because it is such a large part of our current energy mix. Flint sees a “glimmer of hope” for a deal and believed reaching consensus on nuclear energy is a first step toward agreement on other energy technologies.
In this week’s “What Got Your Blood Boiling” segment, our panelists hone in on two very different developments. Flint is angered by those who used turmoil in the Middle East to blame inappropriate speculation for driving oil prices higher, instead of the true culprit of market forces.
However, Republicans efforts to neuter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cancel loan guarantees for renewable energy generation while increasing loan guarantees for nuclear power really gets under Paine’s skin.
Image credit: Tobin via Flickr
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