Science

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Climate Change Refuels Nuclear Energy Debate

April 24, 2008 09:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Some prominent environmentalists have reversed previous convictions and now endorse nuclear power. They face resistance from a skeptical public.

30-Second Summary

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In December 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his “Atoms for Peace” address that nuclear fission had the potential “to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.”

But rising costs and concerns about safety put a damper on America’s enthusiasm for nuclear power stations. The Three Mile Island disaster of March 28, 1979, reinforced perceptions that this form of power was inherently dangerous.

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 weakened nuclear energy’s appeal even further. Greenpeace reported in 2006 that the accident was responsible for more than 90,000 deaths. However, after investigation, the World Health Organization concluded that only 56 people died.

The best-selling author and environmental scientist James Lovelock argues that the dangers of nuclear power have been exaggerated by misinformed green activists and timid politicians.

“A fact about Chernobyl that is rarely mentioned because it is so contrary to perceived wisdom is the unscheduled appearance of a wild life park in the land nearby considered too radioactive for people to enter,” wrote Lovelock in 2005. “The animals and birds of the Ukraine find the absence of humans more than offsets the potential harm from radiation and they live and breed there more successfully than on the uncontaminated ground outside their enclave.”

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore has since echoed Lovelock’s assessment: “Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce [carbon] emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.”

Headline Link: ‘The Nuclear Option’

Video: ‘Kroft’s Reporter’s Outlook’

Background: Fallout over Chernobyl disaster reporting

Historical Context: ‘On this Day: Nuclear Meltdown at Three Mile Island’

Opinion & Analysis: Weighing the risks

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Related Topic: ‘Bush Calls for Action on Climate Change’

Reference: Lovelock’s books

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