Nuclear—Best Climate Solution by Far

Opinion authors Andrew Fillat and Henry Miller are highly critical of how politicians have handled addressing climate change. Whether it is a lack of critical thinking among politician or whether it is a highly calculated view of the lack of critical thinking among their environmental supporters is not entirely clear but “wishful thinking and flawed assumptions” do clear abound within the spheres setting policy in places like California, New York and elsewhere.

Key among the authors’ multitude of complaints, what they call the single greatest sin is the “demonization of nuclear power, including the shutdown of existing nuclear plants that remain serviceable.” We could not agree more. So, while this opinion piece levies some harsh judgements for politicians and climate activists, these pronouncements are paired with some really important metrics that more people should be aware of.

The authors seem to have culled their collection of numbers from Jacopo Buongiorno of MIT, a renowned nuclear engineering professor and author of many important research papers about nuclear energy—unfortunately without linking to their sources.  Professor Buongiorno has studied the life-cycle of power plants of all kinds, from mining and construction to decommissioning and disposal of waste and ultimately buildings. We have seen many of his reports and are delighted to find these numbers pulled out for easy reference.

According to the authors, Buongiorno has found that:

    • the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for nuclear are 1/700th those of coal
      1/400th of gas, and one-fourth of solar
    • Nuclear requires 1/2,000th as much land as wind and around 1/400th as much as solar
    • For any given power output, the amount of raw material used to build a nuclear plant is a small fraction of an equivalent solar or wind farm.
    • Although nuclear waste is obviously more difficult to dispose of, its volume is 1/10,000th that of solar and 1/500th of wind (this includes abandoned infrastructure and all the toxic substances that end up in landfills.)
    • One person’s lifetime use of nuclear power would produce about a half-ounce of waste.
    • Even including the Chernobyl disaster, human mortality from coal is 2,000 to 3,000 times that of nuclear, while oil claims 400 times as many lives.

Read this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal’s Nuclear Power Is the Best Climate-Change Solution by Far, by Andrew I. Fillat and Henry I. Miller, published November 4, 2021.