Watch our talk with Mark Z. Jacobson and Ken Cook
Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson blasted nuclear energy as overpriced and dangerous during our First Friday presentation March 3.
Jacobson, whose just-published book, “No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air,” joined Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook during a 90-minute webinar that focused on renewable energy and the political and social challenges it faces.
Nuclear energy, Jacobson said, is not the answer to our energy and climate problems.
Two reactors are being built in Georgia but will require 18 years of planning and construction before they can operate, and the electricity will be 8 times more expensive to generate than that which new solar or wind facilities could produce.
Across the pond, a nuclear plant proposed in Europe needs 17 to 21 years of planning and construction to open.
“We can’t wait until 2040,” Jacobson said. “It’s useless.”
Building the plant would require enough concrete to build a sidewalk from Miami to Seattle. That’s a lot of carbon that never gets recovered. During construction, running the grid would continue to generate greenhouse gases.
So would the mining and refining of uranium — processes fraught with risks and assaults upon the environment. Refining uranium opens the door to weapons proliferation, meltdown risks and 200,000 years’ worth of radioactive waste.
On the topic of small modular reactors, there’s no evidence to support that they would solve any of these problems, despite their endorsement by some federal officials. If anything, costs and delays will keep SMRs uncompetitive. In addition, their need for uranium to be refined at a higher level— to almost weapons-grade — introduces higher security risks.
“Why not spend money on wind and solar right now instead of subsidizing continued nuclear operations?” Jacobson said.
In California, regulators’ extension of licensing for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant has hamstrung the advancement of offshore wind generation because the nuclear plant, which is operating on a $1.4 billion subsidy, also is hogging a major transmission line that wind facilities would need.
“California has the potential to go all-renewables,” Jacobson said. “Keeping Diablo open is slowing that down.”