Home page  


    James Hansen's support for nuclear power         

       Thorium "fuel"     

"Low carbon" misses the point The view that climate protection requires expanding nuclear power has a basic flaw in its prevailing framing: it rarely if ever relates climate-effectiveness to cost or to speed—even though stopping climate change requires scaling the fastest and cheapest solutions. By focusing on carbon but only peripherally mentioning cost and speed, and by not relating these three variables , this approach mis-frames what climate solutions must do. Nuclear power not only isn’t a silver bullet, but, by using it, we shoot ourselves in the foot, thereby shrinking and slowing climate protection compared with choosing the fastest, cheapest tools.
A common myth often repeated is that renewables use far more land than nuclear power. This is corrected in Amory Lovins's technical paper — Renewable Energy’s ‘Footprint’ Myth. Solar land-use is actually comparable to, or somewhat less than, nuclear’s, if you properly include the nuclear fuel cycle, not just the power plant it supports.
Wind power’s land use in turn is 1–2+ orders of magnitude smaller than solar’s. A recent Bloomberg report, though it provides a more nuanced treatment, surprisingly botched this comparison, having been misled by a report from a Koch-funded “think tank” whose dodgy provenance Bloomberg may not have realized and did not mention. By Amory Lovins, Beyond Nuclear International, October 3, 2021

Does nuclear power effectively reduce carbon emissions? If countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly, and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritize support for renewables rather than nuclear power. Scare resources allocated to slower or less cost effective-options – like nuclear power – detract from greater progress with more effective options like renewables. No single option is essential in a diverse mix. By Benjamin K. Sovacool, Patrick Schmid, Andy Stirling, Goetz Walter and Gordon MacKerron, Nature Energy, May 2021

“Advanced” Isn’t Always Better Assessing the Safety, Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors. The report examines all the proposed new types of reactor under development in the US and fails to find any that could be developed in time to help deal with the urgent need to cut carbon emissions. The US government is spending $600 million on supporting these prototypes. By Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2021

Every euro invested in nuclear power makes the climate crisis worse The construction of new power plants is simply excluded, not just because it is the most expensive form of electricity generation today, but above all, because it takes a long time to build reactors. In other words, every euro invested in new nuclear power plants makes the climate crisis worse because now this money cannot be used to invest in efficient climate protection options. Deutsche Welle (Germany), March 11, 2021

Every dollar wasted on nuclear is a dollar not invested in renewables Investment in nuclear is mostly correlated negatively with decreases in carbon emissions, while investment in renewables was positively correlated with such decreases across the board. By Tim Judson and Luis Hestres,  Beyond Nuclear International, October 25, 2020

Two's a crowd: Nuclear and renewables don't mix - differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power. If countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritize support for renewables, rather than nuclear power, the findings of a major new energy study conclude. ScienceDaily, October 5, 2020

Australia's nuclear fantasies Nuclear power is like a wild goose chase where the goose is a zombie that cannot be killed. The nuclear option in Australia has been buried at least three times previously, only to be brought back from the dead. Outlawed multiple times and also found to be uneconomic, it still has its industry and right-wing proponents. By Dr. Darrin Durant, University of Melbourne, December 2019

Misleading claims on nuclear energy Replies to seven misleading pro-nuclear claims made on a recent Australian radio show. By Dr. Mark Diesendorf, University of New South Wales, November 2019

I oversaw the US nuclear power industry. Now I think it should be banned Too bad he didn't figure this out while he was chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. By Gregory Jaczko, May 17, 2019

How Vietnam got talked out of nuclear power In 2016, a delegation from South Africa, Germany and Japan gave the Vietnamese government 12 compelling reasons not to start a nuclear energy program. Vietnam agreed. It's a list that every country considering a nuclear power program should read. Beyond Nuclear, July 23, 2018

Does living near a nuclear plant give children cancer? More than 60 studies worldwide show increases in leukemia among children living near nuclear power plants. But a similar study commissioned for the US was abruptly canceled. Was a regulator, all too beholden to the nuclear industry, afraid of what it would show? By Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear, July 23, 2018

Scientists assessed the options for growing nuclear power They are grim. (Why more nuclear power plants won't be built, continued ... this time, by pro-nuclear scientists, not anti-nuclear campaigners.) Despite their evident belief in the need for nuclear power, the researchers are unable to construct a plausible scenario in which it thrives. By David Roberts, July 11, 2018

Exelon: No new nuclear power units will be built in US "I don't think we're building any more nuclear plants in the United States. I don't think it's ever going to happen," said a senior executive. This includes small modular reactors, seen as too expensive, due to size and security requirements. Exelon is the largest electric utility holding company and the largest nuclear generator in the US. Platts, April 12, 2018

Preserving Nuclear Power Stations? No, thanks New Jersey has now quantified what it takes to keep obsolete, uncompetitive nuclear power plants running: $300 million a year for about four plants. Imagine how much truly clean, safe, sustainable energy that money could provide. Similarly, economists calculate that the WPPSS-2 nuclear plant at Hanford is costing the Pacific Northwest $85 million annually to run. That is the difference between its cost of production and the market value of its product. That's a lot of solar panels and wind generators foregone. Shutting down the WPPSS plant now would free up that much money and get us on the long road to decommissioning, which only gets more expensive as time goes on. By Roger Lippman, April 25, 2018

The Case Against Nuclear Power: Facts and Arguments from A-Z  A downloadable handbook with clear, succinct arguments for the phase-out of nuclear power. Chapters include:
Introduction     Overview     Radiation and harm to human health     Climate change and why nuclear power can't fix it
By Beyond Nuclear, March 2018

Our local pro-nuclear propagandists By Roger Lippman, January 23, 2018

Are outages homogeneous among nuclear power technologies? Nuclear electricity production has been constrained over the last decades by a low availability factor of plants, about only 2/3 on average. This paper focuses on unplanned outages that particularly affect the availability of nuclear power plants adversely. By Stefan Seifert, et al, DIW Berlin, 2017

A dozen reasons for the economic failure of nuclear power The nuclear industry’s collapse is stunning, but it should come as no surprise. This is exactly what happened during the first round of nuclear construction in the United States, in the decade between 1975 and 1985. History is repeating itself because of a dozen factors and trends that render nuclear power, new and old, inevitably uneconomic. By Mark Cooper, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 17, 2017

The Harm Caused by Radioactivity The basics about the dangers of radioactivity to human health. The article was prepared for the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, Ontario. By Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, July 2017

Top nuclear power disasters Eight of the worst ever, and not just the ones you've heard of. Energy Business Review, July 28, 2017

Fourteen Alleged Magical Properties That Coal and Nuclear Plants Don't Have and Shouldn't Be Paid Extra for Providing Energy efficiency, grid flexibility, and modern renewables enhance grid reliability and do so at a lower cost than heavily-subsidized nuclear power. By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, July 21, 2017

Nuclear Power's Annus Horribilis 2017 will go down with 1979 (Three Mile Island), 1986 (Chernobyl) and 2011 (Fukushima) as one of the nuclear industry’s worst ever ‒ and there’s still another six months to go. By Jim Green, July 9, 2017

More than half of US nuclear plants losing money The US nuclear sector is losing $2.9 billion annually. Thirty-four of the nations 61 nuclear stations (including sites with multiple reactors) are losing money. Nuclear plants receive $20 to $30/MWh for their electricity, while it costs $35/MWh on average to generate it. Bloomberg News, June 14, 2017

Smokescreen This 2-minute animation shows why building new nuclear plants is a lost opportunity for humankind with precious time and money wasted on the wrong choice. At least $8.2 trillion would be needed to build the 1,000 atomic reactors the nuclear industry wants – that’s 1 reactor every 12-days for 35-years. By the year 2050, these reactors would have offset less than 10% of the CO2 reduction needed. Fairewinds Energy Education, 2017

Why more nuclear power plants can't be built "New," "clean," "safe" nuclear technologies are promoted all the time, but none of them actually exists. Actual existence of a design is a precondition for testing, approval, and licensing. The promoters are still playing in the fantasy league. By Roger Lippman, May 18, 2017

Fusion Scientist Debunks Fusion Power Problems with fusion power reactors (if one can ever be made to work): Easy to produce weapons-grade plutonium-239; huge parasitic power demand; daunting cooling demands; neutron radiation damage to the reactor vessel wall (worse than fission reactors); fire and explosion hazard of molten lithium coolant; tritium leakage; immense cooling water demand; high operating costs (twice the number of employees of a fission reactor). By Daniel Jassby, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 19, 2017

Astroturf pro-nuclear group raises ire of environmental watchdog The nuclear industry has a track record of creating front groups like the new Generation Atomic. By Maxine Joselow, E&E News, April 19, 2017

In a blow to nuclear power industry, Westinghouse files for bankruptcy Toshiba, which bought nuclear contractor Westinghouse in 2006, has written off more than $6 billion in losses connected to its U.S. nuclear business and has pulled back from new projects under discussion in India and Britain. Westinghouse is in charge of constructing four new reactors in the southern U.S. These projects are over budget and behind schedule. Washington Post, March 29, 2017  See also New York Times story.

'Centralized model of power production is dying' - EDF executive Les Echos, the French business newspaper, carried an extraordinary article from a Senior Vice President of EDF, the largely state-owned French utility that will build the nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in England. Mark Boillot contends that ‘large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as baseload are challenged by the more flexible decentralized model’. He says that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand. Not only will this be cheaper in the long run but customers are actually prepared to pay more for solar electricity and actively work to reduce usage at times of shortage. His conclusion is that ‘the traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from ... hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized’. In most jurisdictions Mr. Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EDF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley? Nuclear Monitor issue 838, February 21, 2017

The Murky Future of Nuclear Power in the United States Engineers know that among the goals of quick, cheap, and high quality, you can pick any two. The nuclear industry still hasn't learned that, and they, of all industries, need all three. New York Times, February 18, 2017

Toshiba's Chairman Resigns as Its Nuclear Power Losses Mount Financial mess, flawed business decisions, spiraling cost overruns, scandal, contribute to the failure after Toshiba's acquisition of Westinghouse. Plants the company is building in Georgia and South Carolina are three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Plants in China are also behind schedule. Toshiba says it will write off more than $6 billion and withdraw from the business of building nuclear plants. Wouldn't you think they would have known better in the first place? New York Times, February 14, 2017

U.S. lists 17 nuclear reactors with parts from forge under probe Authorities in France have opened an investigation into decades of alleged forgery of documents relating to the quality of parts produced at Le Creusot and used in power plants around the world. Reuters, January 10, 2017
French regulator says Creusot Forge "ill-equipped" to make nuclear components Beyond Nuclear, March 22, 2017
For a list of U.S. nuclear power plants using the suspect parts, click here (Source: NRC)

Taxpayers face bill for French nuclear crisis The liabilities of Électricité de France (EDF) − the biggest electricity supplier in Europe, with 39 million customers − are increasing so fast that they will soon exceed its assets, according a report by an independent equity research company. Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable. The cost of producing electricity from its aging nuclear reactors is greater than the market price. The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers. By Paul Brown, Climate News Network, December 2, 2016

Nuclear Power: Game Over Debunking pro-nuclear arguments. By Derek Abbott, Australian Quarterly, October 2016

Closing Diablo Canyon will save money and carbon Nuclear power incurs an operating cost that has become very high. Saving and reinvesting that avoidable cost can buy a larger quantity of cheaper carbon-displacing resources, saving even more carbon. By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, June 22, 2016 (Originally published in Forbes magazine.)

Wall Street Journal fakes a green shift toward nuclear power Environmental groups cited in the Journal article deny that they support nuclear power. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, June 24, 2016

The Sierra Club still opposes nuclear power A recent Wall Street Journal article reflects wishful thinking on the part of the nuclear industry but doesn't accurately represent the position of the Sierra Club. By Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, June 23, 2016

Illinois energy and a note on nukes Natural Resources Defense Council takes issue with the Wall Street Journal article and reaffirms NRDC's support for clean energy. June 20, 2016

Anomalies and suspected falsifications in the nuclear industry: a dozen countries affected On May 3, 2016, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that Areva had informed it of "irregularities in components produced at its Creusot Forge plant." The problems concern documents attesting to the quality of several parts manufactured at the site. The ASN specifies "inconsistencies", pointing to shortcomings in quality control (as a best-case scenario) but also mentions "omissions or modifications" related to the potential falsification of manufacturing reports. By Clément Sénéchal, Greenpeace France, June 16, 2016
A list of US nuclear plants that have suspect components from Areva's Creusot Forge List provided by Areva to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, December 15, 2016

Mikhail Gorbachev: 30 years after Chernobyl, time to phase out nuclear power Now 85 and a committed environmentalist, he's campaigning to bring the failed nuclear experiment to an end before further disasters follow. By Linda Pentz Gunther, The Ecologist, April 26, 2016

NRC gives Entergy pass on falsifying fire safety reports at Waterford and Pilgrim nuclear power stations The NRC is willfully ignoring enforcement of federal fire safety laws that came about from the very real fire at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant. Beyond Nuclear, April 13, 2016

Belgium Fears Nuclear Plants are Vulnerable Concerns of terrorists exploding a bomb inside a nuclear plant or of flying something into the plant from outside. Revelation of Islamic State surveillance of a top nuclear plant official.  New York Times, March 25, 2016

The Nuclear Industry Prices Itself out of Market for New Nuclear Plants In the modern era, nuclear power plants have almost always become more and more expensive over time. They have a “negative learning curve” — along with massive delays and cost overruns in market economies. This is confirmed both by recent studies and by the ongoing cost escalations of nuclear plants around the world. Even the French can't build an affordable, on-schedule nuclear plant in their own nuclear-friendly country. By Joe Romm, Climate Progress, March 8, 2016

Status of US Nuclear Power Plants A listing of all operating, decommissioned, and cancelled plants, with details. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, September 2015 (PDF)

How I Became an Anti-Nuclear Activist Video interview with Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, July 25, 2015

Estimating the longevity of commercial nuclear reactors: A demographic analysis of plants in the US. The question of life span of nuclear power plants is now highly pertinent, given efforts to subsidize nuclear units in New York and Illinois. The expected lifetime of these units is going to have a central bearing on the debate. By Robert McCullough, Public Utilities Fortnightly, June 2015

A pathway to 100% clean, non-nuclear, non-fossil energy The Solutions Project, March 2015

Nuclear power's "managerial disaster" still true 30 years later Forbes magazine’s February 11, 1985 cover story headlined “Nuclear Follies.” The business investment journal wrote “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale… only the blind or the biased can now think that the money has been well spent.”  Fast-forward thirty years, and we see the nuclear industry still imploding. Beyond Nuclear, February 11, 2015

Thorium "fuel":

The delusion of Thorium The US tried for 50 years to create thorium reactors, without success. The long effort cost billions of dollars, with billions more still required to dispose of the highly toxic, highly fissionable wastes, which are an efficient fuel for nuclear weapons. By Dr. Helen Caldicott, Independent Australia, September 4, 2019

Thorium - a better fuel for nuclear technology? Thorium is currently described by several nuclear proponents as a better alternative to uranium fuel. Thorium itself is, however, not a fissile material. It can only be transformed into fissile uranium-233 using breeder and reprocessing technology.
Concerning safety and waste disposal there are no convincing arguments in comparison to uranium fuel. A severe disadvantage is that uranium-233 bred from thorium can be used by terror organisations for the construction of simple but high-impact nuclear explosives. Thus development of a thorium fuel cycle without effective denaturation of bred fissile materials is irresponsible. By Dr. Rainer Moormann, translated from the German for Nuclear Monitor, March 1, 2018

Arguments for thorium have little merit but refuse to go away By Jim Green, Nuclear Monitor, April 2015

Thorium: the wonder fuel that wasn't By Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 11, 2014

Thorium fuel: No panacea for nuclear power A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility, July 2009

Ten myths about thorium as a nuclear energy solution Beyond Nuclear, 2009


James Hansen's support for nuclear power:

James Hansen’s Generation IV nuclear fallacies and fantasies Hansen claims that some Generation IV reactors (which are not yet designed, nor has their technology been selected) can convert weapons-usable (fissile) material and long-lived nuclear waste into low-carbon electricity. This article challenges him on both counts. By Jim Green, Nuclear Monitor, August 25, 2017

Exelon-PEPCO merger supported by James Hansen Exelon, the largest US nuclear utility, is taking over the independent utility PEPCO (Washington, DC), in a move that it hopes will salvage three of its aging, uneconomic nuclear reactors in Illinois. Unfortunately,  this process has the misguided backing of climate scientist James Hansen. By Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Monitor issue 822, April 2016

Why James Hansen is Wrong About Nuclear Power
Hansen and a handful of other climate scientists present an argument in which new nuclear power achieves and sustains an unprecedented growth rate for decades. The one quantitative “illustrative scenario” proposed -  “a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonize the global electricity system” — is far beyond what the world ever sustained during the nuclear heyday of the 1970s, and far beyond what the overwhelming majority of energy experts, including those sympathetic to the industry, think is plausible. They ignore the core issues: The nuclear power industry has essentially priced itself out of the market for new power plants because of its 1) negative learning curve and 2) inability to avoid massive delays and cost overruns in market economies. This is doubly problematic because the competition — renewable power, electricity storage, and energy efficiency — have seen steady, stunning price drops for a long time. By Joe Romm, Climate Progress, January 7, 2016

Nuclear Power is not the answer to climate change mitigation Response to James Hansen, et al, by three Japanese scientists. January 31, 2014

Environmentalists urge Hansen to rethink nuclear Over 300 U.S. and international environmental and clean energy groups say in a joint letter released on January 8 that, while they respect the climate change work of Dr James Hansen and three of his academic colleagues, they take exception to the notion that nuclear power is the solution to global warming. The statement was organized by US organizations the Civil Society Institute and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, in response to a November 2013 statement by James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, and Tom Wigley. January 6, 2014

Why Letter by James Hansen, et al Misses the Mark on Nuclear Power and Renewables By NIRS and the Civil Society Institute, December 2013
Letter of response sent to Hansen, et al, January 6, 2014

Why Nuclear Power Fails Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, speaks at the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investors Event regarding nuclear power and its fate in the future of renewable energy, offering several reasons to avoid nuclear investments, including:
* Nuclear power can't be scaled up enough to have an impact on climate change.
* No solution has been found for the disposal of nuclear waste.
* Even with existing plants, there will be a uranium deficit in the not-distant future.
* Water to cool the power plants is in short supply - over 40% of all fresh water used in France is used to cool nuclear plants.
* The centralized power-plant paradigm is outdated. The future is bringing distributed generation.
Video (4 minutes), published October 8, 2013

Pandora's False Promises: Busting the Pro-Nuclear Propaganda Nuclear power, no matter the reactor design, cannot address climate change in time. In order to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil fuel generation, another 1,000 to 1,500 new 1,000+ Megawatt reactors would need to come on line worldwide by 2050, a completely prohibitive proposition. Beyond Nuclear, May 2013 (PDF)

The "Front End" of Nuclear Power When industry promoters talk about nuclear power, they don’t tell you about what goes on at the “front end” — that is, how a reactor gets its fuel. Front-end industries are not only dangerous and expensive, they also irreversibly pollute our lands and endanger public health and workers. Mining, milling, enrichment and fuel manufacturing consume large quantities of fossil fuel energy, making nuclear power anything but carbon free. Sierra Club factsheet (PDF)

Soft Energy Paths for the 21st Century Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Amory Lovins to outline his reaction to the Fukushima disaster and his suggestions for Japanese and U.S. energy policy  It's a timely contribution to the rapidly growing movement in Japan to accelerate the strategic shift from nuclear power to efficiency and renewables, as Germany is already doing—an approach consistent with sound economics. July 30, 2011 (PDF)

Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable without Subsidies Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less simply to buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away, according to a February 2011 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report looks at the economic impacts and policy implications of subsidies to the nuclear power industry—past, present, and proposed. February 2011

Amory Lovins: Expanding Nuclear Power Makes Climate Change Worse Expanding nuclear makes climate change worse, for a very simple reason. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. The costs have just stood up on end lately. Wall Street Journal recently reported that they’re about two to four times the cost that the industry was talking about just a year ago. And the result of that is that if you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kinds of central plants, in the marketplace. And those competitors are efficient use of electricity and what’s called micropower, which is both renewables, except big hydro, and making electricity and heat together, which takes about half of the money, fuel, and carbon of making them separately, as we normally do. Interview on Democracy Now!, July 16, 2008

New Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America's Energy Needs (PDF) New nuclear power plants are unlikely to provide a significant fraction of future U.S. needs for low-carbon energy. NRDC favors more practical, economical and environmentally sustainable approaches to reducing both U.S. and global carbon emissions, focusing on the widest possible implementation of end-use energy-efficiency improvements, and on policies to accelerate commercialization of clean, flexible, renewable energy technologies. NRDC, February 2007

Nuclear Economics Articles from the Nuclear Information and Resource Center

Map showing the location, operating status and generating capacity of all 667 power reactors that have been built, or are under construction, around the world.


Calendar of events

About us       Contact us       Search this site

Nuclear Free Northwest Home Page