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Thursday, August 16, 2007


Al Gore on nuclear power

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, August 16, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
In a nutshell, Gore is not opposed to nuclear power, but his focus is on global warming, and as far as nuclear power is being promoted (for example, by Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore) as a panacea to the GW problem, he is skeptical, for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons. I think this is a realistic approach, and is perfectly compatible with rigorous pro-nuclear domestic energy policy.

From Gore's climate policy speech at the NYU Law School on Sep. 18, 2006.

Many believe that a responsible approach to sharply reducing global warming pollution would involve a significant increase in the use of nuclear power plants as a substitute for coal-fired generators. While I am not opposed to nuclear power and expect to see some modest increased use of nuclear reactors, I doubt that they will play a significant role in most countries as a new source of electricity. The main reason for my skepticism about nuclear power playing a much larger role in the world's energy future is not the problem of waste disposal or the danger of reactor operator error, or the vulnerability to terrorist attack. Let's assume for the moment that all three of these problems can be solved. That still leaves two serious issues that are more difficult constraints. The first is economics; the current generation of reactors is expensive, take a long time to build, and only come in one size -- extra large. In a time of great uncertainty over energy prices, utilities must count on great uncertainty in electricity demand -- and that uncertainty causes them to strongly prefer smaller incremental additions to their generating capacity that are each less expensive and quicker to build than are large 1000 megawatt light water reactors. Newer, more scalable and affordable reactor designs may eventually become available, but not soon. Secondly, if the world as a whole chose nuclear power as the option of choice to replace coal-fired generating plants, we would face a dramatic increase in the likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation. During my 8 years in the White House, every nuclear weapons proliferation issue we dealt with was connected to a nuclear reactor program. Today, the dangerous weapons programs in both Iran and North Korea are linked to their civilian reactor programs. Moreover, proposals to separate the ownership of reactors from the ownership of the fuel supply process have met with stiff resistance from developing countries who want reactors. As a result of all these problems, I believe that nuclear reactors will only play a limited role.

Also, Gore was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald last fall, and expanded upon his stance:

In an interview with the Herald yesterday, Mr Gore said it would be too expensive and would threaten the world's safety through possible weapons proliferation. "Early in my career I was enthusiastic about nuclear power. I'm not now," the climate campaigner said in Sydney.

"I'm not an automatic opponent to any nuclear power plants [but] I think that a realistic view is that they will play only a small and limited role. The reason why they're likely to play only a limited role is mainly economic."

The Switkowski task force is believed to argue that nuclear power could be economically viable in Australia in about 15 years, but it is not expected to make a specific recommendation to go ahead.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has advocated nuclear power as cleaner fuel in the fight against global warming. Mr Gore said the long-term problems of storing nuclear waste, potential accidents and securing reactors could possibly be overcome.

"But that leaves the proliferation issue," he said.

In the case of Iran and North Korea, he said nuclear scientists worked by day on energy issues and then "you make them work at night on weapons". "What will you do? Spread thousands and thousands of reactors in Papua New Guinea and

Libya and Sudan? If this were the option of choice the world would become more dangerous."

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.