Fact Check: Can We Really Do Without Nuclear Energy?

Fact Check: Can We Really Do Without Nuclear Energy?

As hopeful Democrats chase every left-wing vote possible on their way to the party’s nomination, they’re scraping the barrel for more trendy, “progressive” causes to embrace. Now Bernie Sanders is taking us back to the 1980s by condemning nuclear power — and other leftists, notably Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — are scrambling to jump on the anti-atom bandwagon. Bernie claims “scientists tell us” we don’t need nuclear energy. We’re not so sure about that.

Highlights

  • Even those who don’t agree with the Democrats’ views on climate change agree that reducing pollution is a good idea, and one way to do that is to cut the amount of fossil fuel burned in power stations.
  • The US is actually doing pretty well at zero-emission electricity generation. Almost a third of our generating capacity is in zero-emission power stations. You’d think Greens and the Left would be happy about that — but you’d be wrong.
  • Clean power generation in the US comes from a variety of sources, including wind, solar, tidal and hydroelectric — the awesome Hoover Dam is probably the most iconic power station in the world. But the biggest source, at around 60% of our zero-emission capacity — is nuclear energy. And many people on the Left don’t like nuclear energy.
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  • Bernie Sanders is one of these technophobes. He says that if he becomes president, he’ll ban the building of new nuclear power stations and block the renewal of licenses on existing ones. Currently, there are 98 nuclear reactors in the US.
  • Unfortunately for the antique socialist, he also wants to move the US to 100% clean electricity by 2030. That means phasing out all our coal, oil and gas-fired power stations and replacing them with zero-emission ones.
  • That’s just about possible if we start building more nuclear reactors now, although it would be expensive to build enough in 11 years. There are also the safety concerns to consider. Lots of people want clean energy, but how many want a nuclear reactor in their back yard or across the street from their kid’s school?
  • But what about without nuclear reactors? Energy experts say that it’s theoretically possible to go 100% emissions-free without nuclear — but it isn’t actually very realistic.
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  • The UN has identified 85 plans that would halt the growth in carbon emissions by 2100. A few of those plans say it might be possible to phase out nuclear power by 2100 — but none say it can be eliminated by 2030, or even 2050.
  • It’s just about possible to carry out Bernie’s nuclear-free plan — but it would hike the cost of electricity by at least 7% (and probably a lot more) as well as turning an already huge task into a huge and complicated one. Could it be done? Just about. Would it be a good idea? Definitely not.

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