Is Nuclear Power Still the Answer?

The embrace of nuclear power by the environmental community surprised me. About five years ago I wrote:

Lots of research says that I will overestimate the risk of events such as a core meltdown in a nuclear power plant. And I’m sure I do. But knowing and allowing for that, or trying, I still can’t find a way to endorse a strong movement toward nuclear power. My hesitation to support nuclear power is not very green according to many environmentalists. But are we positive we can’t find any other solutions? Should simply resign ourselves to the nuclear power age?

Here’s my question. Will the events in Japan change this at all, or — assuming in the end the radiation leaks are minimal — will it be a testimonial to the safety of nuclear power plants (even with an unprecedented earthquake, the systems worked to prevent major radiation releases…)?

As you can probably tell from my remarks above, I hope it pushes us to develop alternative sources of energy besides nuclear. Knowing nuclear is there as a backup could have reduced to the push to innovate in other areas, and hopefully that will change. But I wouldn’t bet the house on it (unless it was underwater).

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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1 Comment on Is Nuclear Power Still the Answer?

  1. You do not build things only taking into account the probability of a tail event. You must consider the severity of the tail event itself. If the tail event is severe enough to cause widespread devastation, like nuclear power or credit default swaps, then these things should be universally banned or completely state owned. Its a no brainer. You don’t just leave it to the engineers and the private institutions that employ them, they have too much of a personal stake in seeing these things developed regardless of the risks, Because when the tail event occurs they know they dont have the capacity to contain the problem, so they need to come begging the state for help.

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