Nuclear energy is an older form of extreme energy. Long considered a dead industry, its imminent comeback and golden age have been perennial topics of discussion among pro-nuke pundits and wonks. Famously pitched by its supporters as "too cheap to meter" it has more recently been described as "too costly to matter" and as "the most expensive way to boil water." [1][2] The nuclear industry has latched on to climate change as an opportunity to greenwash and rebrand nuclear power, but it remains a dangerous, impractical and ludicrously expensive technology.

  • Nuclear power is a dead industry. In the last 30 years, only two new nuclear reactors have received permits, both in 2012. [3]Since the industry began its long decline in the mid-1980s, almost as many permitted reactors have been canceled as completed. [4]
  • Nuclear power doesn't make any economic sense and the industry can't survive without government subsidies. In total, the industry has received over $100 billion in subsidies. [5] Insurance companies won't insure a nuclear plant without a taxpayer-subsidized cap on their liability. [6] No US nuclear power plant has ever been completed on time or on budget. [7]
  • Nuclear power isn't a solution to climate change. To avoid catastrophic climate change, emissions must peak by 2015 and be cut in half by 2050. [8] Quadrupling the world's nuclear capacity would require building a new nuclear reactor every ten days until 2050. Even this utterly impossible accomplishment would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by less than 4%. [9] At current prices, building these 1,400 new reactors would cost about $10 trillion. [10] Plus, nuclear power isn't even clean! It generates twenty-five times more carbon emissions than wind energy once reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered. [11] Since every dollar invested in nuclear energy could be spent on cleaner, cheaper forms of energy like wind and solar, there is no rationale for building new nuclear plants.
  • Nuclear power is dangerous. Each year, the nuclear industry produces 50,000 barrels of extremely dangerous 'High-Level Waste.' [12] High-level waste can be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years, and even a few minutes of exposure can be lethal. [13] Then there's spent nuclear fuel. Spent fuel rods combust if exposed to air for more than six hours, blasting extremely toxic radioactive isotopes all over anything that's nearby. [14] There still isn't a storage plan for spent fuel. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was the intended permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel in the United States, but the discovery of a nearby fault line, as well as the recognition that long-term movements of underground water could carry nuclear waste to populated areas, have called the site into question. [15] Finally, as the Fukushima disaster demonstrates, the risk of nuclear catastrophes is ever-present. According to some estimates, the long-term death toll of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is 90,000 and rising. [16]


[1] "A New Dawn For Nuclear Power?" The Economist, May 17, 2001
[2] "Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Waste of Time." Greenpeace (2009)
[3] Hargreaves, Steve. "First New Nuclear Reactors OK'd in Over 30 Years." CNN Money, February 9, 2012
[4] Parenti, Christian. "What Nuclear Renaissance?" The Nation, May 12
[5] Romm, Joe. "Nuclear Pork  - Enough Is Enough." Climate Progress blog, Think Progress , May 12, 2008
[6] Ibid.
[7] Parenti, Christian. "What Nuclear Renaissance?" The Nation, May 12
[8] "Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Waste of Time." Greenpeace (2009)
[9] ibid.
[10] ibid.
[11] Jacobson, Mark Z. and Mark Delucchi. "A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet With Renewables." Scientific American (2009)
[12] "Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Waste of Time." Greenpeace (2009)
[13] ibid.
[14] Parenti, Christian. "What Nuclear Renaissance?" The Nation, May 12
[15] "Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Waste of Time." Greenpeace (2009)
[16] ibid.