Greenwashing Nuclear Power

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, the government uses the slogans war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Now, Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, April 9, 2005) would have us believe that nuclear energy is green.

Kristof’s argument that “nukes are green” is out of touch with reality. Kristof would have us believe that the truly green energy sources ­ solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal ­ are no match compared to the benefits of nuclear power. He argues that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gases. Presumably, in Kristof’s logic, the gigantic steam towers, reactor buildings and nuclear fuel spring from the earth as naturally as the sun shines and the wind blows.

Kristof offers an extremely narrow examination of the issue. He fails to consider that the construction of a nuclear plant, as well as fueling, decommissioning and storage of spent fuel, relies heavily upon fossil fuels, which generate vast quantities of greenhouse gases. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Energy Information Administration says the global strategy to mitigate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, besides conservation programs, should include retiring coal-fired plants in favor of natural gas and renewables and not to construct new nuclear plants.

Kristof also fails to accurately analyze the economics of the nuclear industry. Monstrous government subsidies have kept the industry afloat. Without massive subsidization, the nuclear industry’s insurance liabilities would have driven the industry into the ground years ago. The IAEA Energy Information Administration reports that “new nuclear power plants presently cost more to build than do fossil fuel plants. This includes fossil fuel plants such as those fired by natural gas, a fuel that carries lower environmental costs”

Combined costs of new nuclear plants with the unknown yet enormous costs to store the more than 45,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste produced to date, promises to handicap future generations with a gargantuan debt. If nuclear energy is accepted as green and reactors multiply across the world, future generations can expect not only an economic nightmare, but also the potential for accidents such as Chernobyl, calamitous terrorist attacks and an environment strewn with radioactivity.

Kristof is dead wrong in suggesting that burdening future generations with nuclear wastes buried underground is more reasonable than burdening them with a warmer world in which Manhattan is submerged under 20 feet of water. Endorsing nuclear energy as green and calling for an expanded national presence for nuclear energy will not solve the global warming crisis, it will only exacerbate it. Accepting nuclear energy as green will increase the number of targets terrorists might strike; increase the amount of viciously radioactive waste in need of heavily protected long-term storage; and increase the amount of ozone depleting gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Replacing fossil fuels with truly renewable energy sources could be accomplished with government subsidization for a fraction of what the US is currently spending to subsidize the nuclear power industry and to secure our access to Middle East oil through military intervention and foreign aid.

Unless war is peace and freedom is slavery, then nuclear energy is not green. Policy makers must realize they need not choose between two poisons: burdening future generations with nuclear wastes buried underground or burdening the future with a warmer world submerged under water. Kristof glosses over the true viability of clean, renewable energy sources. With sufficient funding, research, and legislative support, future generations won’t have to face the bleak Orwellian future that Kristof implies is inevitable.

LUKE BROTHERS is the Communications and Outreach Associate at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.










More articles by:
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It