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Debating climate change and nuclear power

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In November 2013, NASA scientist-turned-activist Dr. James Hansen and three climate scientists published a letter in The New York Times communicating the need for the world to bolster the development and deployment of “safer nuclear energy systems” in order to slow down climate change.

However, last week more than 300 environmental and clean energy anti-nuclear groups proposed that the four scientists should publicly debate climate change and stop embracing nuclear power as a tool for reducing climate change pollution.

Groups like Greenpeace USA and the Environmental Working Group voiced their concern that nuclear power is more expensive than solar and wind power and far too dangerous. Last week, the response letter was submitted to Dr. James Hansen, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and climatologist Tom Wigley, in reaction to the four PhD’s open letter submitted in The New York Times, November 2013.

Here is part of what the joint letter from over 300 groups around the world and those who are dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster have to say about the nuclear power industry that has been plagued with safety, technical, and financial issues for over 50 years:

"Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies. We ask you to join us in supporting the phase-out of nuclear power as Germany and other countries are pursuing. It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind. We would be pleased to meet with you directly to further discuss these issues, to bring the relevant research on renewable energy and grid integration to a dialog with you. Again, we thank you for your service and contribution to our country's understanding about climate change."

Here is a link to the full text of the letter to the four climate scientists: http://www.nirs.org/climate/background/hansenletter1614.pdf

Climate change is an ongoing debate where there are a myriad of voices, opinions, and potential solutions. Choosing nuclear power over solar and wind energy systems is intensifying worldwide discourse, opposition and controversy, now and in the coming years.

Read more of George Zapo’s articles about public, global, and environmental health at his website: georgezapo.com.

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