Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Nuclear Option

When I was in grad school, I was a teaching assistant to a class on environmental economics, and one of the students I remember best was Rachel. She wasn't the best student academically, but she really stood out because she's really warm and outgoing, while most of her classmates are a little more introverted. After graduating, she worked for several years at Greenstart, which supports entrepreneurs who have created new companies and are trying to make them self-sustaining. Recently she has moved on to be a part of a different environmental startup, sure to be the first of many. She is a technical whiz with a heart for the environment, and I was a little surprised to see her write this: "climate change is our humanity's biggest threat. our #1 priority must be switching to 100% carbon-emission free energy as fast as possible. modern nuclear burns through 99% of fuel, leaving only a tiny amount of nuclear waste that lasts only decades, not millennia. the reactors shut down automatically during any disturbance and don't need to be cooled. we have the technology today to avert the worst of climate change, but a vocal minority opposes the best solution because they cling to old mythologies. we need to overcome our energy fears of nuclear and embrace a real post-carbon future." Wow. Good points, but coming from a person I wouldn't have expected to see advocating nuclear.

Of course, the case against can be seen in this piece on Japan's efforts to cleanup from their 2011 disaster, detailed in today's NYT. Not sure whether the goods of nuclear energy outweigh the bads, but the article makes me think that at the very least Japan could be handling the cleanup better, tackling the problem head-on instead of balancing it with so many other issues. Hope they can contain the waste sometime soon!

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