Nuclear Power Needs to Be an Option
An inventor asks, “how can things be better, smarter, more efficient?” By constantly looking for solutions and different ways to approach the world that we live in, we are able to drive progress. Intellectual Ventures Founder Nathan Myhrvold contributed a piece for the New York Times "Room for Debate" opinion page about how nuclear power should be one option considered for combating climate change.
The future of the planet depends on all the ways we address climate change, not either/or options. If we are serious about curtailing the warming of the Earth, we need a rapid transition to the lowest emitting energy technologies. That means conserving energy where we can, deploying solar and wind technology where feasible, but it also means reassessing nuclear power.
Nuclear energy technologies present a carbon-free option for electricity production that we can pursue immediately while we accelerate our pursuit of new technologies. The current state-of-the-art nuclear plants have improvements in safety that make them safer in any rational measure than coal or gas plants. New designs minimize waste, incorporate inherent safety mechanisms and reduce proliferation risk. They are being pursued by private investments but their future is threatened by anti-nuclear fear mongering.
Nuclear technology is scary to some people because they fear extremely improbable scenarios while ignoring the virtual certainty of climate issues. Ironically people who argue against nuclear on environmental grounds may contribute to a far greater environmental catastrophe. Unfortunately, the physics of climate change makes the here and now danger too easy to ignore.
About half of the temperature increase due to greenhouse-gas concentrations occur within a decade of carbon dioxide emission. Another quarter will play out over a century, and another quarter of the impact will take somewhat longer. This means that if we wait until temperature change becomes an obvious and immediate problem, we’ll only be half way through the warming caused by carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. Even radical cutbacks at that point will not prevent another century of warming.
No single breakthrough will fix climate change. Instead, we need to look at all available forms of energy — nuclear included — and push into a cleaner future.
Breakthroughs like these power our belief that invention is the driver of all progress. Learn more about our initiatives here. Intellectual Ventures. A global inventions company.