<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Going nuclear: the debate heats up

Nuclear power plant

Credit: Rahm Emanuael/Wikimedia

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Is nuclear power the new inconvenient truth? The nuclear debate in the context of climate change is an old one. It’s been around for years and indeed, last year I blogged about it here.

But the issue is becoming even more prominent now with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates telling a TED conference in Long Beach, California, that we need nuclear as well as wind and both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power to solve climate change.

Gates claims nuclear technology could turn spent uranium, the 99 per cent of uranium rods that aren't burned in current nuclear power plants, into electricity. He says that this could power the world indefinitely.

Certainly it seems that climate change has given the nuclear industry a massive boost. While US President Barack Obama has been pushing through climate change laws, he has tripled federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.

Similarly, IBM is pushing nuclear power in Britain, according to this report, claiming the UK public is open to the idea of nuclear power as an alternative power source. IBM says nuclear energy could help Britain reach its climate change targets cheaply and easily.

Greenpeace has come out against Obama’s package, saying it’s dangerous and bad economics.

“We’re not really seeing anything but drawbacks to another corporate bailout that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘toxic asset'. It is a dirty and dangerous distraction from the clean energy future the President promised America,” said Jim Riccio, Greenpeace’s Nuclear policy analyst.

For the record, Australian PM Kevin Rudd this week ruled out nuclear power, saying that his government will instead focus on other energy sources.

Quite aside from the question of waste and nuclear proliferation, there is the economics. It’s bad. In this report investment bank Citigroup has criticised the British government for fast-tracking the planning process for new nuclear power stations, saying that they take too long to plan, cost a fortune to build, have high fixed costs, and in any case, they would have to pay to clean up the waste.

Citigroup says most developers wouldn’t go near nuclear because of these risks. “These risks can be classed as Corporate Killers,’’ Citigroup says.

At the same time however, there are those who would claim nuclear power is one answer to climate change.

What do you think? Should we adopt nuclear power? Or are the risks too great?