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Whole Earth nukes

16 May 2005
Some influential voices in the US are calling for new thinking about nuclear power, according to an article in the 15 May edition of The New York Times by Felicity Barringer.

One such is Stewart Brand, a founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, who wrote in the May issue of MIT's Technology Review:

"Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani­zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power" - .

"Everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production [through alternative technologies, like solar and wind energy] ...But add them all up, and it's just a fraction of enough...The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon-dioxide loading is nuclear power."

(the full article here).

Others, reports Barringer, don't go as far as Brand, but they are "softening" in some sense:

In recent statements, three top environmental experts - Fred Krupp, the executive director of Environmental Defense, and Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute and James Gustave Speth, the dean of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies - have stopped well short of embracing nuclear power, but they have emphasized that it is worth trying to find solutions to the economic, safety and security, waste storage and proliferation issues rather than rejecting the whole technology.

Nuclear, however, remains highly controversial in the US. Thomas B. Cochran, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's nuclear program tells the New York Times: "The issue isn't: Do you support nuclear? The issue should be: Do you support massive subsidies to the tune of billions of dollars for nuclear power? "The answer is no." (full NYT article here)

In Britain too, some key thinkers and scientists warn against what they see as anti-nuclear dogmatism.

Speaking on BBC radio last night, Alec Broers (President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee) noted that if mankind continues emits carbon dioxide on a business as usual path it could totally destroy the planet.

This was not, he suggested, a risk it would be wise to run. Finding solutions, if they exist, called for new thinking. He repeated a point from his recent Reith Lectures:

"The growth of naive green politics is itself endangering future generations as we reject technological solutions that could perhaps save us".

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