New Climate Change Book Acknowledges ‘Competitive Benefits of Nuclear’

Another prominent international scientist and conservationist has highlighted the economic - and environmental - benefits of nuclear energy, especially when it comes to meeting countries’ base-load electricity needs and helping to reduce CO2 emissions. Australian-born Professor Tim Flannery* discusses the impact of mankind’s activities on the global climate in his latest book The Weather Makers.

Professor Flannery’s book also refers to comments on nuclear, made in the past and still reiterated today, by the leading international environmentalist Professor James Lovelock who, according to Flannery, “had a point when he delivered a heartfelt plea for a massive expansion in the world’s nuclear energy programmes”. Flannery also supports Lovelock’s view that because climate change is advancing so rapidly nuclear power is the only option to stop it. “Lovelock is right here,” adds Flannery, “because all power grids need reliable base-load generation and there remains a big question mark over the capacity of renewable technologies to provide it.”

Focusing on the economic benefits of nuclear energy, Professor Flannery also underlines how nuclear energy also provides competitive benefits: “As is the case with coal-fired plants, nuclear power stations are very large and, with a starting price of around $2 billion apiece, they are expensive to build. The power they generate, however, is at present competitive compared with that generated from wind.”

Although Professor Flannery analyses the problems associated with public perceptions about nuclear safety and the management of radioactive waste, he essentially believes in the future of nuclear energy when he says: “It is often said that the sun is nuclear energy at a safe distance. In this era of climate crisis, however, the role of earth-based nuclear power is being reassessed, and what was until recently a dying technology may yet create its own ‘day in the sun’. “

The book is clear about the non CO2-producing advantages of nuclear energy and equally unequivocal about the urgent need to redress the current situation as quickly as possible: “The best evidence indicates that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 70% by 2050. If you own a four-wheel-drive car and replace it with a hybrid fuel car, you can achieve a cut of that magnitude in a day rather than half a century. And if you vote for a politician who has a deep commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, you might change the world. The transition to a carbon-free economy is eminently achievable because we have all the technology we need to do it. It is only a lack of understanding and the pessimism and confusion generated by special interest groups that is stopping us from going forward.”

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is among those who have praised Professor Flannery’s book. Blair said recently: “Climate change is perhaps the most challenging collective action problem the world has faced. Almost uniquely, The Weather Makers provides insights not only into the history, the science and politics of climate change, but also the actions people can take now that will make a difference.”

The Weather Makers is published by Grove/Atlantic and can be ordered from bookstores over the Internet (ISBN N° 0-87113-935-9).

ENS NEWS would like to thank NucNet for putting together this report.

*Dr Flannery is a member of the National Committee for the Environment at the Australian Academy of Science, a member of the National Environmental Education Council and he is also director of the South Australian Museum.

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