• [ February 5, 2013 ]
  • Could nuclear energy be necessary to meet world power demands?

A growing number of environmentalists are acknowledging the importance of nuclear power to provide clean energy and help meet world power demands.

As the world’s power demands continue to grow, and fossil fuels continue to struggle with emission issues, some environmentalists believe there is a need for a large-scale alternative energy source in addition to renewable energy resources. 

In an interview with Slate, James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist, shares a two-fold viewpoint on nuclear energy: 

  • Solar and wind power alone cannot meet the world’s voracious demand for energy, especially given the projected needs of emerging economies like India and China.
  • Additional nuclear power is our best hope to replace fossil fuels, which are primarily responsible for the heat-trapping gasses cooking the planet.

While renewable energy has an important place as a clean energy power source, some environmentalists believe it won’t be able to stand-alone and meet the world’s energy demands. Currently, the biggest drawbacks with wind and solar energy are high-cost storage capacity and intermittent production.

This leaves a rising number of environmentalists turning to nuclear power as a potentially viable carbon-free energy source to replace coal and natural gas.

Nuclear energy development has been in the works for over 50 years and is currently responsible for 15 percent of the world’s power; but before nuclear power could serve as a sufficient and practical replacement for coal and natural gas, the following issues must be considered:

  • Competitive fossil fuels: With the boom in U.S. shale resources natural gas prices are low and nearly half of the world’s energy is currently provided by coal.
  • Logistics: A report from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace shares the longstanding logistical problems with nuclear energy, such as construction costs, uranium waste disposal, and slow financing approval.
  • Safety: The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi power plant meltdown in Japan has prompted some countries to abandon nuclear energy development and a strong anti-nuclear viewpoint. 

Nuclear energy may need to be reshaped before it could become a large-scale replacement for fossil fuels. Many pro-nuclear environmentalists agree that a new technical design that addresses logistical concerns and is price-competitive with coal and gas resources is necessary if nuclear power will have a role in the future of clean energy.

For more information on this topic, visit:

Out of the Nuclear Closet, Foreign Policy

Can Nuclear Energy Really Solve Climate Change?, Slate

Why Liberals and Environmentalists are Embracing Nuclear Energy, Virginia Energy Independence Alliance

Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy



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