Does nuclear power deserve to be in the Green New Deal?

It does, but reconciliation will be hard after a 50-year war.

“Everything You Know Is Wrong” — The Fireside Theater, 1974

The semantic shift to “clean” betrays a grudging acknowledgement of an inconvenient truth: that decarbonizing the power grid without using nuclear power will be impossible. Every scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that does not end in catastrophe relies on nuclear power to limit global warming. The IPCC projections also depend upon wide-scale deployment of carbon capture technologies — most of which, other than trees, require energy inputs to work. Electrifying transportation is the holy grail of decarbonization; in the US, transportation passed electricity generation as the biggest source of carbon emissions in 2017. But electric vehicles will require a lot of electricity, the more carbon-free the better.

Containment dome top being placed on Georgia Power’s Vogtle 4 reactor, March 2020. Post-Fukushima, reactor designs were changed to gravity-feed coolant water in the event of a total loss of electrical power for pumps.
USS Nautilus (SSN-571)
Carter delivers a fireside chat Feb. 2, 1977.
Hinkley Point C
The NuScale “reactor in a can”

Will Bates writes about science, technology, and business. His journalism has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and numerous magazines.

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