Rebirth of Reason


Fear of Nuclear Power and Global Warming
by Michael F Dickey

Lets take a look at total US Carbon emissions since 1900.

The US generates 51% of it’s power from Coal, and cumulatively about 71% of it’s power from fossil fuel sources. The burning of coal to generate electricity alone emits more CO2 than any other source.

As is commonly known, about 20% of the US Electrical supply comes from Nuclear power. Let us imagine that the US never built any nuclear power plants, but instead built more coal plants to generate the electricity those nuclear plants would have generated. According to the Energy Information Administration (1) since 1971, 18.6 billion MWh (Mega Watt Hours) of electrical power have been generated by nuclear sources. Had this power been generated by Coal plants, an additional 4,428 million metric tons of Carbon would have been released into the atmosphere. What would this have made our Carbon emissions record look like?

In all, Carbon emission would have been significantly higher. This is why many leading environmentalists, such as James Lovelock (author of the Gaia Hypothesis) are ardent supporters of Nuclear power. But this chart is not entirely fair to Nuclear power, because the growth of nuclear power was severely derailed by environmentalist hyperbole and outright scare mongering. Because of the attacks by environmentalists on Nuclear power, many planned power plants were cancelled, and many existing plants licenses were not renewed. The result, according to Al Gore himself was:

“Of the 253 nuclear power reactors originally ordered in the United States from 1953 to 2008, 48 percent were canceled, 11 percent were prematurely shut down, 14 percent experienced at least a one-year-or-more outage…Thus, only about one fourth of those ordered, or about half of those completed, are still operating”

Let us take a look at US Carbon emissions if the US had simply built and operated the power plants that were originally planned.

Yup, that’s right people, if the US had simply built and operated the Nuclear power plants it had planned and licensed, it would today be producing not only less Carbon emissions than it did in 1972, but would in fact be emitting almost half the Carbon emissions it is now.

But lets not forget that the very planning and licensing of Nuclear power plants was drastically affected by the anti-scientific opposition. Looking again at the Energy Information Administrations figures, the average sustained growth for Nuclear generating capacity was increasing by about 26 million Megawatt-hours for a 20 year period of heightened growth.

Here we see a chart taken from the EIA data which shows the growth of Nuclear generating capacity in blue, and the projected growth in red, had the growth of the previous 20 year period been sustained (remember, this is still only about ¼th of the intended capacity)

Now lets take this projected growth and imagine the US had actually built a nuclear infrastructure at this level, what would our Carbon emissions look like?

Incredibly, our Carbon emissions today would be almost ¼ what they are currently. In case you think my numbers are fanciful, lets see if there are any countries out there that did not get entirely persuaded by the anti-nuclear hysteria, and how that affected their carbon emissions.

After the energy crisis of the 70’s, France, which was highly dependant on imported oil for electricity production, decided to divest themselves of Middle Eastern oil dependence. Lacking significant fossil fuel deposits they opted for a nuclear infrastructure. Today Nuclear Power generates about 78% of France’s electrical power supply, and it is today the world’s largest exporter of electrical energy.

While we do not see the production in France dropping to ½ it’s 1970’s levels as we would have in the US had it continued the transition to a nuclear infrastructure, the 40% reductions are tremendously significant.

Extrapolating this to the global climate, let’s take a look at the global Carbon emissions levels and compare them against a world where the US sustained the first two decades of it’s nuclear infrastructure growth. In green, we see the existing carbon emissions levels and in purple is the US carbon emission levels if it continued to adopt a nuclear infrastructure. In red then, as a result, we see the global carbon levels are almost 15% lower than current levels.

I invite readers to extrapolate then where the total global carbon emissions would be if all the post industrialized nations had adopted nuclear power – as their natural technological progressions would have dictated – if it were not for the hi-jacking of this process by anti-scientific hyperbolic scare mongering by extremist environmental activists. Many organizations – such as green peace, still ardently oppose nuclear power. And these levels, mind you, are only about 1/10th of what the Atomic Energy Commission was projecting based on demand during the 60’s, where at it’s height 25 new nuclear power plants were being built every year, and the AEC anticipated that by 2000 over 1,000 nuclear power plants would be in operation in the US. Today only about 120 operate.

This is why I frequently say that if Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real problem, then it was in fact caused by environmental alarmism. That is not to say that some environmentalism has been good, but this atrocious abandonment of reason hangs as an ominous cloud over everything environmentalists advocate. Rational environmentalists who want a high standard of living for humans and a clean planet are quick to change their minds about Nuclear power. Irrational environmentalists who actually do not desire wealthy comfortable lives for all people on the planet as well as a clean planet actively oppose nuclear power. Nuclear power is a litmus test for integrity within the environmentalist community.

If you want to spur the economy, stop global warming, and undermine the oil fueled terrorist breeding murderous theocracies in the world, the solution is simple – build nuclear power plants.

- Sources -
(1) Energy Information Administration
(2) Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
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