Climate Change

Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time. Funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions like solar, wind and geothermal energy of essential resources.



Radon exposure from Porter Ranch gas leak cause for concern

Beyond Nuclear is bringing more attention to the uncontrolled release of cancer-causing radon gas that could be escaping from SoCal Gas company’s Porter Ranch gas leak in suburban Los Angeles, California. Much attention is focused on the industrial-scale gas accident that is emitting thousands of tons of climate changing methane each day along with other hazardous chemicals including toluene, benzene, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. Thousands of residents have relocated with many sickened from inhaling the continuous emission. But radon in the mix represents an invisible killer. The EPA recognizes odorless, colorless, radioactive radon as the number one cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.  

A “state of emergency” was declared by Governor Jerry Brown on January 6, 2016 long after the discovery of the accident in late October 2015.  As the releases continue, dozens of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Porter Ranch residents as SoCal Gas has also come under investigation by the California state air quality department for failure to maintain injection wells in one of the nation’s largest underground gas storage caverns created by decades of oil extraction. The harmful impacts of dirty and dangerous extracted energy on climate, health and the environment are mounting and underscore the urgent need to supplant coal, oil, nuclear and gas with the sun, wind and other renewable sources.

In the meantime, Beyond Nuclear urges that more federal and state attention be paid to real time monitoring, measuring and mitigating the radioactive gas emissions from industrial fracking at every stage of operation. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is set to finally begin radon monitoring at the leak site by January 29, 2016. Alarming rates of harmful radon emissions are being linked to industrial hydraulic fracking to extract natural gas in states like Pennsylvania.


"Don't Nuke the Climate!" at White House rally marking start of COP21 in Paris

As reported by the Washington Post, the anti-nuke movement (including representatives from Beyond Nuclear, NIRS, and other groups) was "in the house" at the White House for a climate rally in D.C. marking the beginning of COP21 in Paris, France:

In the District, several hundred gathered by the White House and marched along the Mall, with signs that read, “Preserve our home,” “Don’t nuke the climate” and “Keep it in the ground,” the latter referring to fossil fuels.

(Of course, the letter could -- and should -- also refer to uranium, as well as thorium, for that matter!)


Rally with Pope Francis in the call to moral action for climate justice: National Mall, Washington DC, Thurs., Sept. 24th

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic palace in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Aug. 9, 2015. Photo: Reuters.A coalition of environmental groups has called for a Rally with Pope Francis in the call to moral action for climate justice, to take place on the National Mall, Washington DC, between 3rd and 7th Streets, from 7:30am to 12:30pm on Thursday, Sept. 24th. In his encyclical letter on the climate crisis, Pope Francis does not include nuclear power as a solution. On the contrary, he cites the false nature of nuclear power as a climate solution, and its environmental risks. Pope Francis' call for real answers to the climate crisis, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, including wind power and solar photovoltaics, joins his recent call -- on the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan -- for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.


Nukes “too expensive to matter” in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan

President Barack Obama campaigns at a wind farm in Iowa, August 14, 2012. He had pledged to support clean energy in his second term, and his administration's EPA CPP does just that. (Photo: Reuters)Just as the Obama Administration rolled out its Clean Power Plan (CPP) another published scientific study disclosed the world’s glaciers are melting at a “historically unprecedented” rate, twice as fast as the previous decade. The good news amid such calamity is that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule on climate is a significant first step aimed at cutting U.S. global warming emissions from its coal-fired electricity generation. The new rule ranks renewable energy (such as solar photo-voltaics, and wind power -- see photo, left) and energy efficiency as the Best Systems of Emissions Reduction (BSER) for replacement energy. It also casts increasing doubt on the continued operation of more than a dozen “economically at-risk” U.S. nuclear power plants.    

The EPA’s final rule states “the main impact of this rule on the nation’s mix of generation will be to reduce coal-fired generation, but in an amount and by a rate that is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation… the trends for all other types of generation, including natural gas-fired generation, nuclear generation, and renewable generation, will remain generally consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule.”

Those same trends already demonstrate that nuclear power’s false promise is consistently trumped by “a real-time revolution in efficiency-plus-renewables-plus-storage.”

Still, the nuclear industry and its champions are keeping their spin on it. The Administration’s EPA does grant two concessions important to the nuclear industry expansion agenda. First, the rule eases pressure on state emission reduction compliance standards by not penalizing those states for the potential failure-to-complete any of the five economically bankrupt nuclear generator projects currently under construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Tennessee’s Watts Bar 2 project has held on to a construction license for 43 years, longer than its still elusive 40-year operating license.

For existing reactors, while recognizing that expensive “power uprates” do not significantly reduce carbon emissions, states are limited to emissions reduction credit only for the incremental increase in thermal ratings to generate extra electricity output.

The climate rule rejects the creation of carbon reduction rewards for reactors with 20-year license extensions. 

It further does not allow for the preservation of a growing list of  “economically at-risk” operating units teetering on permanent closure that can be replaced with renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The nuclear industry had intensely lobbied the EPA to allow states to incentivize keeping dirty, dangerous, and expensive nukes operational that otherwise are headed for decommissioning. These troubled reactors include Indian Point 2 & 3 (NY), Ginna (NY), Fitzpatrick (NY), Oyster Creek (NJ), Three Mile Island (PA), Davis-Besse (OH), Pilgrim (MA), Byron 1 & 2 (IL), Quad Cities 1& 2 (IL) and Clinton (IL).

We can, however, expect that both the coal and nuclear industries will meet rulemaking with rule breaking, a strategy of endless litigation to stay implementation, and even more divisive political wrangling hinged on the next administration.  To this end, President Obama has warned, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”


Ten foot sea level rise by 2100 would threaten coastal nuclear power plants

In an article entitled "Climate Seer James Hansen Issues His Direst Forecast Yet," Mark Hertsgaard has reported at the Daily Beast that "James Hansen’s new study explodes conventional goals of climate diplomacy and warns of 10 feet of sea level rise before 2100. The good news is, we can fix it."

Although the article lists nuclear power as a "non-carbon fuel," alongside solar, wind, and efficiency, as potential energy sources for averting climate catastrophe, it does not mention the famed NASA scientist's pro-nuclear advocacy. Hundreds of environmental groups have challenged Hansen's nuclear power advocacy as illogical and misinformed, while continuing to thank him for his essential work on climatology.

Along similar lines, IEER showed nearly a decade ago now that nuclear power is incapable of averting climate catastrophe, in its trailblazing 2006 book Insurmountable Risks by Dr. Brice Smith. IEER's president, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, followed up with a description of climate solutions, in his 2007 Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.

Hansen's nuclear power advocacy also ignores the fact that nuclear power cannot operate safely in destabilized climatic conditions. For that matter, nuclear power has shown five times in 35 years that it can't operate safely in stable climate conditions (the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, the explosion and fire at Chernobyl in 1986, and the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2, and 3 in 2011).

Ten foot sea level rise would not only flood major cities, as Hansen's study has warned. It would also flood many coastal nuclear power plants, threatening not only reactor operations, but also on-site radioactive waste storage (see U.S. reactors located along both coastlines on the map in the Beyond Nuclear pamphlet about "routine" radiation releases into surface waters).

Even if not directly inundated, such sea level rise would threaten nuclear power plants located at higher elevations, or further inland, with storm surges and other extreme weather coming off the oceans.

For more information on why nuclear power cannot operate safely in a destabliized climate, see Beyond Nuclear's "Climate Chaos and Nuclear Power" fact sheet, published in 2008.

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