5 Jan 2015

Nuclear power is the greenest option, say top scientists

Nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, some of the world's leading conservation biologists have warned.

Rising demand for energy will place ever greater burdens on the natural world, threatening its rich biodiversity, unless societies accept nuclear power as a key part of the "energy mix", they said. And so the environmental movement and pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace should drop their opposition to the building of nuclear power stations.

In an open letter to be published next month in the journal Conservation Biology, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment.
The full gamut of electricity-generation sources, including nuclear power, must be used to replace the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas if the world is to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change, their letter says.

The letter is signed by several leading British academics including Lord May of Oxford, a theoretical biologist at Oxford University and former chief scientific adviser; Professor Andrew Balmford, a conservation biologist at Cambridge; and Professor Tim Blackburn, an expert in biodiversity at University College London.

As well as reducing the sources of carbon dioxide, the chief man-made greenhouse gas implicated in climate change, the expansion of nuclear power will leave more land to support biodiversity and so curb the extinction of species, they say.
Recognising the "historical antagonism towards nuclear energy" among environmentalists, they write: "Much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat climate change, we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is 'green'."

It is too risky to rely solely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power for replacing fossil fuels because of problems to do with scalability, cost, materials and land use, they explain.

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