• Greg Laden

Nuclear power alone won’t save us

I wrote the following letter to the editor, for the Star Tribune, to clarify points being made in the discussion of an article on the future of nuclear power in Minnesota's future.

To the Editor,

I’m responding to a pretty well-done Associated Press piece on Minnesota’s future energy sources, which discussed nuclear energy (“What’s Minnesota’s future of carbon-free, nuclear power?” July 27,

Nuclear power may well be in our future, but current technologies are insufficient and need to be replaced with more advanced technology. That advanced technology is indubitably untested, and while promising, it is simply impossible to deploy a large number of next-generation reactors in a short amount of time. Also, many of the promises made by nuclear advocates cannot actually be met by these advanced technologies; those promises are based on misconceptions or bad information, and sometimes wishful thinking.

Imagine we started with a large financial commitment of several tens of billions of dollars and ran two alternate scenarios. In one, we would build nuclear plants with that money, and in the other, a mix of wind turbines, solar thermal (which provides electricity at night), and other solar. Within 10 or 20 years that deployment of non-nuclear sources would be producing electricity and already paying for itself. At that point in the nuclear scenario, engineers would still be working on the technology, and perhaps two or three concept-testing, less-than-utility-scale plants might, or might not, be built.

Nuclear energy may well be part of our future, and research should continue. But the implication that nuclear has a chance of saving us from ourselves by quickly substituting for fossil fuels is wishful thinking.



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