Green Manolo » Is Nuclear a Green Option?

Is Nuclear a Green Option?

By Christa

In the wake of last week’s heavy protests and blockades in Germany against a train carrying nuclear waste from France, it seems only fitting to devote a little time to thinking about nuclear power. And it wasn’t just the transportation of nuclear waste to a German storage facility that was under fire. Against strong opposition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to extend the lifespan of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors. In 2001, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder moved to phase out nuclear energy in the country, but Germany’s aging nuclear reactors are now set to do another 12 years of duty. Hmmm.

I think some people see a protest like this and think, “Wait, what?” For better or for worse, nuclear power has been framed as green by a number of people, businesses, and organizations, with the end result of a lot of folks associating nuclear power with two things: Chernobyl and eco-consciousness.

Proponents of nuclear power talk about how it’s a carbon-free energy source, how the amount of waste produced is very small compared to burning fossil fuels to create energy, how it’s cost effective, and the new safety measures in reactors that make it as safe as any other energy source. Opponents talk about how it’s really not carbon-free (nuclear power has more than just a little greenhouse gas attached to it from mining, building, and running a plant), the waste storage solutions currently in place are reportedly less than perfect, safety measures won’t matter if terrorists get their hands on a reactor, it’s not a good solution to Global Warming, and it’s not as cost effective as first thought.

Oh good, another ‘paper versus plastic debate.’* Seriously, when I look into all of the statements above, I can find some supposed expert telling me why it’s 100% true. I think this is one of the perils people who’ve chosen to go green face. There’s always someone who can make a pretty compelling argument in favor of one thing or another, which makes it incredibly confusing for the layperson. So what are us laypeople to do? Discuss it amongst ourselves, of course. I’m really curious to know what you think about the relative eco-friendliness of nuclear power, both as compared to other forms of energy production and as its own animal. Is nuclear really a viable option in the short or even the long term?

*The answer? Re-usable grocery bags that last a long, long time!

3 Responses to “Is Nuclear a Green Option?”

  1. Nora Charles Says:

    Re: Paper v Plastic – are they the same ‘green’ grocery bags made from petrochemicals?

    I don’t any objection to them, I use them all the time but they are hardly ‘green’. I do have a couple of calico bags which it could be argued are green (except they’re imported from China).

    But on nuclear? I say go for it.

    Sure, nuclear is really not carbon-free (mining, building, and running a plant), but neither is solar (panels have to be manufactured using mining processes for metal and silicon) or wind (turbines have to be manufactured using mining). Then there’s the cost of transporting solar/wind units from point of manufacture to installation.

    And that’s before we get on to the inefficiencies and unreliability of so-called green power alternatives.

    Nuclear is safe, cheap and long lasting – our own sun is testament to that (fission and fusion reactions not withstanding).

    Thanks to hyperbolic Hollywood-driven scare campaigns, people are afraid of nuclear power, but there is innovation happening.

    Here’s something I read that goes back to 2008 – – the mini nuclear powerplant.

  2. Christa Says:

    @Nora Thanks for the link – I’ll have a look tomorrow. From a quick skim, it sounds pretty fascinating!

  3. Green Manolo » Reusable Shopping Bags: Going Green Means USING THEM Says:

    […] Nora Charles brought up an extremely good point in a recent post, namely that those supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags pitched by stores like Whole Foods […]

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