Congratulations on being picked to be the Czar for Climate in President-elect Biden’s administration. I heard you speak about your role on a couple of different news shows and am pleased to note that you recognize the shortcomings of the Paris Agreement.
The only effective solution that scientists like James Hansen are telling us to embrace, is nuclear power. Nuclear power is the one source of clean energy that is scalable to the levels needed. It is also the has safest record (fewest fatalities per TWh generated) and the smallest environmental footprint, both in terms of area covered and tonnage of commodity materials required per unit of electricity delivered. Yet, our current policies such as subsidies and portfolio standards, and the manner in which electricity is marketed is making nuclear power uncompetitive. The unfounded fear of radiation and years of anti-nuclear misinformation has placed such strict and expensive standards on the nuclear power plants that they are being priced out. In many states even fully functioning nuclear power plants are being shuttered. We have a shortfall of clean electricity, and we are digging ourselves deeper in the hole!
As climate Czar, I hope you will address the market distortions that are at the root of the nuclear power plant closures. Instead of closing them down, we should be extending clean energy credits to them, support their expansion, and invest in demonstration of newer walk-away safe nuclear power plant designs.
Getting the public to embrace nuclear power presents a formidable challenge. Public opposition to nuclear power has its origin in the debunked idea that there is no safe dosage of radiation, and the improper application of the LNT (linear, no threshold) hypothesis to estimate cancer in large populations exposed to low levels of radiation. Without public acceptance of nuclear power, we have no chance to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or curbing the devastating effects of climate change. What is urgently needed is a sustained public education and outreach program that undoes the decades of anti-nuclear fear mongering. An office of energy education and public outreach dispelling the fear of nuclear power. There are trade-offs with all energy systems, but the benefits from nuclear power far outweigh the risks.
Good luck to you in your new role!
Ripudaman Malhotra, PhD
Fellow, American Chemical Society