Nuclear Power Forges Curious Consensus

Disparate Groups Find Themselves in Agreement


DALLAS (April 7, 2005) - A burgeoning consensus among disparate groups driven by growing worldwide demand for electricity, advancing technology, improved safety and national security concerns is fueling revived interest in nuclear energy.

"Groups whose members normally wouldn't speak to each other find themselves in passionate agreement about the future of nuclear energy," said NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett.

James Lovelock, Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore and the International Atomic Energy Agency have all recently endorsed nuclear power. The primary engine driving support for nuclear power among these groups is an estimated 50 percent increase in demand for electricity by 2025 and concerns about emissions.

Coal-, oil- and natural gas-fired generators all produce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and CO 2 in generating power. Nuclear does not. And budget hawks concerned about the impact that high fossil fuel prices and possible supply disruptions could have on the economy are also embracing nuclear power, mainly due to lower costs:

  • Positive changes in the nuclear industry have improved operating efficiency, lowering cost per kilowatt-hour from 3.31 to 1.7 cents. Only hydroelectric power costs less.
  • Nuclear power could become even cheaper if emerging technologies, such as pebble-bed reactors, prove to be commercially feasible.

"Nuclear power also will reduce our reliance on imported oil and natural gas," Dr. Burnett said. And fears that nuclear power is unduly hazardous have abated substantially:

  • There have been no radiation deaths in the history of nuclear-powered submarines. And the accident at Three Mile Island, while serious, also proved that multiple safety measures worked.
  • Spent nuclear fuel can be an asset. France generates 70 percent of its electricity from spent nuclear fuel.
  • The specter of terrorist assault is small. Two former researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, Gerald Marsh and George Stanford, found that the danger of radiation leaks from terrorist attack is small and would be even smaller if the U.S. would begin storing spent nuclear fuel at a secure facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada - a project long delayed by politics.

"Nuclear energy is not a panacea for the nation's or world's energy ills, but it is critical to a bright economic future both here and abroad," Burnett added.

Note: Recent NCPA research reports about nuclear power are available online: Dispelling the Myths About Nuclear Power andBurning Bright: Nuclear Energy's Future.