Reframing the Race Against Climate Change

In response to Robert H. Socolow and Alexander Glaser’s article Balancing risks: Nuclear energy & Climate Change, I found the prospect of multinational ownership of nuclear power plants to be the most intriguing, and in particular its relationship to the disarmament of nations possessing nuclear weapons. In the article’s discussion of the disarmament process, Socolow and Glaser suggested a new way to frame the nuclear debate with relation to climate change. When thinking of nuclear power purely in terms of mitigating climate change, numerous problems arise which are stated in the article: the potential for nuclear weapon proliferation, the fact that rapid nuclear expansion would lead to a crisis for storage of spent fuels, the debate over reprocessing, etc. For nuclear energy to have a significant impact on climate change the expansion must be global.

Therefore, I would like to put forth specific point made in Socolow and Glaser’s article as a critical to the argument for nuclear expansion at the same time as nuclear disarmament. They propose, “a world considerably safer for nuclear power could emerge as a co-benefit of the nuclear disarmament process” (Socolow, Glaser, 31). This description of nuclear expansion posits it as a “by-product” of the disarmament process. From this perspective, nuclear power’s ability to slow climate change would also be a “by-product.” When thinking of the desire to mitigate climate change it seems that this reframing of the debate could be extremely powerful. While it is important to set goals for climate change mitigation and prioritize it, if the debate is focused more significantly on nuclear disarmament and relating solutions such as multinational power plants, safety can remain the first and foremost priority of the nuclear power debate. This would have other benefits, for example Glaser and Socolow mentioned that another reason why countries other than current nuclear weapon holders don’t build nuclear power plants is a lack of engineers and scientists with the experience to create and run a plant. Making power plants multinational would therefore be able to help such problems and ease tensions with less developed countries.

Ultimately, nuclear power is but one “wedge” out of the many required for a real different to be made to the looming climate change. Therefore, safety should be the most important factor. Re-defining the debate as one of nuclear disarmament is one way to not overlook the most significant threats to the safety of nuclear expansion. — Mikaela

17 thoughts on “Reframing the Race Against Climate Change

  1. I was surprised when reading about the potential energy we could get from nuclear power and its relatively low carbon “cost” (one tenth of the CO2 emitted by coal power plants).

    Yet a certain section near the end of the article worried me. The authors admitted that “A nuclear-weapons-free world would be more stable and more secure without nuclear energy” (11). While the primary point of the article was that disarmament, nuclear power, and climate change mitigation could go hand in hand in hand, this strategy would ultimately require a lot of new regulations and new international organizations to enforce these regulations.

    Although it would be ideal to standardize a “once-through” nuclear power usage technique, and to eliminate civilian-separated plutonium, some risks will never go away. The article names some of these risks, such as a nuclear plant “accident” in the vein of Chernobyl, or the possibility that a plant would be targeted by the military. However, the Langewiesche article entitled “How to Get a Nuclear Bomb” details one of the worst risks facing this prospective shift to nuclear power from nuclear proliferation. Although the promises of disarmament and green energy are enticing, we must prioritize making a plan to combat government corruption and laziness in this venture.

  2. Mikaela is correct that nuclear power is only one facet of mitigating climate change and that we should focus on safety when debating nuclear expansion. Nuclear disarmament should be a goal in itself in which making the world safer for nuclear power is a happy side-effect. Therefore, governments should continue striving for disarmament, and maybe nuclear power will one day become an engine of economic growth in developing countries.

    Unfortunately, as Socolow and Glaser note, “the world is not now safe for a rapid global expansion of nuclear energy.” As global warming is a pressing threat, it would be impossible to offset it responsibly by relying on nuclear power. The global community’s short-term focus should be expanding other forms of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric. In the long-term, if nuclear power proves to be cheaper or more effective than other renewables, nations could come to rely on it. However, if the development of other renewables increases their cost-effectiveness, there will be no reason to expand the use of nuclear power given the security risks it poses and the nuclear waste it produces.

  3. There is general agreement that nuclear disarmament is necessary for the maintenance of global security and well-being. At the current level of power that nuclear weapons have, even small conflicts could result in world-wide turmoil/ nuclear winter.

    The question remains, however, whether nuclear technology can be used as a source of energy, without the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be built alongside the power plants. Mikaela and Jenna have summarized the issues very well, in that nuclear power can mitigate climate change, but, at the current time, is too unsafe to expand to a point of real consequence.

    I agree with Jenna in her point that the world is not yet ready for the expansion of nuclear power. In my opinion, there has to be real progress in international relations before nuclear power can be seen as solution to climate change. The Solocow/Glaser wedge theory describes the issue well: nuclear power cannot yet be adapted to the entire globe because we cannot install power plants in nations that are unstable or developing (for fear that world-wide weapons will result). Therefore we cannot affect real change in emissions, because developing countries account for a massive percentage of that CO2.

    I believe that the most effective, realistic and rapid response to climate change should come from policy changes. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens, so it is the government that should take the lead in combatting CO2 emissions. The most accepted form of this is an effective increase in the cost of corporations emitting CO2.

    Businesses are driven by the bottom line, so in order to change how businesses affect the environment, the government needs to shift the bottom line. A significant price needs to be put on the amount of CO2 a corporation emits. If this means that it is not profitable for businesses to burn fossil fuels, then that will drive change to cleaner methods.

    This can coupled with Jenna’s idea of making renewable energy sources more cost-effective, but the two must happen in tandem. Also, nuclear power may be the long-term solution to our world’s energy needs, but at this point in time national interests are too sharp to allow for real effectiveness in that form of energy.

  4. The article only briefly addressed several important aspects of nuclear power that will undoubtedly slow, or even stop its expansion. While a majority of Americans may support the expansion of nuclear power (some public opinion polls report a ten percent spike in support for expansion in the last two decades), there still exists an overwhelming “not in my backyard” sentiment linked with both the construction of new plants and the disposal of waste from existing plants. I grew up 10 miles from Three Mile Island, the site of the US’s worst domestic nuclear power incident. My parents can still vividly describe the evacuation of the state capitol. The uncertainty many people still feel about the safety of nuclear power, in conjunction with the lack of a definitive plan to deal with high level radioactive waste (since the halt of construction at the Yucca mountain waste repository) does not indicate an auspicious future for nuclear power.

    Secondly, Glaser and Socolow’s article did not extensively discuss the dual threats of power plant sabotage and nuclear terrorism that would come hand in hand with an expansion of power generating capabilities. More nuclear power plants would shift a terrorist’s focus from building a nuclear weapon to tampering with the existing nuclear infrastructure, potentially leading to a Chernobyl or Fukushima-like meltdown where large swaths of land are rendered uninhabitable for generations.

  5. I agree with Mikaela’s post. The idea of nuclear disarmament and the decoupling between nuclear weapons and energy leading to a safer world in which nuclear power can be relied on is interesting. However, I am skeptical that this can come to pass. Additionally, I am worried about the result if decoupling is aggressively researched now but only a partially sufficient answer is found. It will be tempting to try and go forward with the solution anyway. It would also be difficult to assess whether the world is ready for more semi-safe nuclear power on a large scale, and yet the costs if wrong would be astronomical. Climate change is clearly a problem, but the more immediate threat of nuclear sabotage by hostile nations or terrorist groups is significantly more concerning. Additionally, sabotaging nuclear energy plants can cause far more damage on the environment than climate change, hurting the very thing we are trying to protect.

    Even if most nations are able to disarm, terrorism or enemy states will likely always be a threat. Until there is a way to fully protect against the kind of catastrophes that can occur with sabotaged nuclear plants, this does not seem like a prudent idea. The authors of the article write that “the next decade is critical.” Unfortunately, I doubt we can achieve a world where this is a good idea even in the next half century.

  6. Zach brings up a great point which relates back to the theme of low frequency, high-cost events. In this case, the high-cost event is nuclear sabotage. A single successful terrorist attack on a nuclear plant could result in devastating costs. Even if all countries disarm, the threat of terrorist organizations weaponizing nuclear materials or sabotaging a nuclear power plant remains. The likelihood of this dangerous contingency occurring only increases as nuclear power expands globally. In other words, as nuclear energy is made more accessible worldwide, it becomes more vulnerable to sabotage.

    The challenge here is weighing the risk of this contingency. How do we minimize the risk of sabotage if nuclear expansion occurs? Are the benefits realized by nuclear expansion more than the expected costs?

    There is a significant danger that comes with nuclear expansion. Perhaps resources should be devoted to other energy efforts first, rather than focusing on nuclear expansion. In particular, I agree with Sam’s proposal to influence businesses using policy. A specific policy that would be useful in the fight against climate change is a carbon tax. A carbon tax would incentivize businesses to look for cleaner sources of energy. This may not result in the same dramatic benefit as nuclear expansion, but it would also not include the possibility of extreme danger.

  7. The conclusion of Glaser and Socolow’s article suggests that there are two main hurdles in implementing nuclear power in the coming decades: 1) Issues related to coupling to weapons must be resolved, and 2) the cost of nuclear electricity must be demonstrated to be competitive. The article along with our readings have demonstrated that disarmament is a sticky issue, making the decoupling nuclear weapons and nuclear energy possible but unlikely, however suggesting that the second hurdle might be more plausible given a push towards increased technologies and cost reduction, and the support from climate change activism. However, I question whether the risks of climate change and nuclear weapons should even be issues viewed together and “balanced” as such.

    The first question of the cost effectiveness of nuclear energy is whether nuclear power plants can actually mitigate the effects of global warming? My research points to an answer of no. Nuclear energy is used to generate electrical power, therefore it is only possible to reduce the emission of CO2 if nuclear power plants are used instead of other CO2 emitting technologies. This is applicable to electrical generation fueled by coal, oil, or gas, meaning CO2 emission can indeed be reduced, if electrical power plants driven by fossil fuels are being replaced by nuclear power plants. However our world’s energy consumption is heavily reliant on fossil fuels themselves and not electricity. The application of nuclear power, however unfortunately is highly problematic even not considering nuclear proliferation. Nuclear energy generates nuclear waste, risk of nuclear catastrophes, and limited resource uranium. If the focus is put only to avoid the emission of CO2 and if all other side effects are neglected, then nuclear energy can indeed contribute to the solution. However the problem of climate change needs to be solved and discussed in a much wider context of balancing consumption of resources, environmental, and public health. Likewise, nuclear energy could contribute only little to reduce the cause of global warming however it can only be a serious option if you shut the eyes to the many cons of nuclear power. Given that the decoupling between nuclear weapons and energy is uncertain, it seems that this second hurdle cannot be jumped either. To me this suggests that balancing two large and complex issues that are climate change and nuclear proliferation is trying to kill two birds with one stone, with minimal success. We must return our focus to the intrinsic issue of nuclear weapon disarmament and proliferation before we can further expand nuclear energy technologies and take on the issue of climate change.

  8. Socolow and Glaser put it well when they said that “Nuclear war is a terrible trade for slowing the pace of climate change” (1). While climate change is an important issue because of the risk it poses today and for the future, the ways to mitigate climate change should not create more risk. The risks of nuclear energy – nuclear war and terrorism are low probability, but high risk events. There is not only a risk of nuclear being utilized as weapons in war or terrorism, there is always a risk of nuclear accidents. As emphasized in the BBC documentary A for Atom, nuclear reactors are unpredictable and unreliable. PJ’s example of the Three Mile Island incident also exemplifies the unexpected accidents of using nuclear energy. For these reasons, using nuclear energy simply poses too high of a risk to be an option for climate change policy. This should not be a problem because Socolow and Glaser argue that “there are enough options for the portfolio that none is indispensable. Thus, climate change mitigation can succeed without nuclear power.” Ultimately, we can help climate change without using nuclear energy and still be effective. So to answer Richard’s question “are the benefits realized by nuclear expansion more than the expected costs?” I would argue no because there are many other low risk policy options that would mitigate climate change (for example, wind power, solar power, and other forms of renewable energy are all mentioned in the reading). The use of nuclear energy as a net-beneficial policy is thus dependent on the question if nuclear energy can be uncoupled from nuclear weapons, and right now that is not a reality.

  9. Mikaela makes some very good points about the potential outlined in the Socolow and Glaser Article for nuclear energy to, in a sense, kill two birds with one stone: namely, tackling climate change while supporting the nuclear disarmament process. Indeed, this would allow many would-be and current nuclear weapons states to legitimize their possession of nuclear material and abide by both the international treaty obligations of the new Paris Climate Accord as well as numerous nuclear weapons treaties (Non-Proliferation Treaty, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, etc). What’s more, the multinational approach argued by Socolow and Glaser provides a key mechanism for this transition process, especially for those states whose trustworthiness has come under question regarding nuclear power and weapons proliferations.

    At the same time, the issue of public perception cannot be ignored. PJ Greenbaum made a great comment about the psychological element when attempting to sell nuclear power as a competitive, productive, and all around good source of energy. Many people still hold that sentiment of “not in my backyard” when confronted with the prospect of nuclear energy. All it really takes is a single Chernobyl or Lucens incident to turn people off the prospects of nuclear energy. After Fukushima, Japan, once a leader in the use of nuclear energy with nearly a third of its national energy grid derived from nuclear power, has bowed to public pressure and continues to dismantle its nuclear energy program in favor of traditional fossil fuels like coal. Even in places like New York State, which has never experienced any type of nuclear incident, the state’s Governor has confirmed plans to close the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, despite its 50-year track record for providing cheap, reliable energy to New York City. He, like many New Yorkers, have argued that the plant represents a “ticking time bomb” less than 30 miles away from NYC, and the move “eliminates a major risk, provides welcome relief, and New Yorkers can sleep a little better” (NY Times). Until we can resolve this clear public anxiety about nuclear power and build trust that the energy can be truly safe, we will never be able to use it as a conduit to combat climate change, let alone support the global disarmament movement.

  10. Socolow, Glaser, and Mikaela seem to take it for granted that multinational ownership of nuclear power plants would be an effective and practical way to mitigate the dangers posed by global nuclear power expansion. I argue, that without further detail, Socolow and Glaser’s vision of multinational ownership of nuclear power plants seems utopian at worst and impractical at best.

    The article posits the expansion of global nuclear power on two conditions: 1) adequate technologies and 2) new forms of governance. Focus should be placed on these new forms of governance, which are described as “multinational ownership and control of uranium enrichment facilities.” Socolow and Glaser argue that these institutions will be critical to ensure the security of global nuclear power expansion in politically unstable regions of the world. Multinational ownership and control, the article assumes, will even eventually “alleviate concerns about parallel clandestine programs.” But what does this look like in reality and what are its practical implications?

    Creating a multinational institution to control global nuclear power requires states to cede control “of all existing national enrichment plants to multinational ownership.” I believe this article underestimates the resistance that this provision would meet from powerful nuclear-armed states, such as the United States, Russia, and China. Furthermore, these countries must be given a strong incentive to cede control over their national enrichment plants. The presumed incentive given in this article, the global mitigation of climate change, is not valued equally by all countries (or by all U.S. administrations for that matter). We have encountered the staunch resistance to disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons on behalf on the nuclear-armed states, so one can only presume that the same states would offer similar resistance to relinquishing sovereignty over their nuclear power to an international institution.

    The article ends by claiming that global nuclear power should be reexamined when the world can demonstrate “how to do nuclear power well.” I argue that nuclear power can only be done well once the world can come up with “new forms of governance” that are practical enough to be realistically implemented and ensure the safety of global nuclear power expansion.

  11. My view of the role nuclear power will play, and should play, in combating climate change is more optimistic than most of those expressed in the comments above. I think this is because I don’t believe disarmament efforts will completely succeed in our lifetimes. Given the assumption that none of the current major nuclear powers will give up all of their weapons, I don’t think relying more on nuclear power to the point of “real consequence”, in combating climate change, will seriously increase the chance of “nuclear war.”

    According to the EPA, 56% of the world’s carbon emissions are currently emitted by China, Russia, The US, and India [1]. All of these countries already possess nuclear weapons and are capable of building more. It is also worth noting that much of the dreaded growth in electricity consumption in the “developing world” will come from two of these countries, India and China. Although the risk of diversion becomes greater with more reliance on nuclear power, I’m not convinced that if any of these countries used more nuclear power, they would somehow be more likely to use a nuclear weapon. In a world without nuclear weapons nuclear power may increase the risk of proliferation by these countries, but I think this risk is pretty low in scenarios that are likely. Also, the risks of diversion could be mitigated through treaties where countries could agree not to reprocess fuel or cooperate to enact safeguards as the US and Russia did until recently. Its also worth noting that many of the world’s other top CO2 emitters, such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany, already use nuclear power. These particular countries, as well as others, already have the capability to build nuclear weapons, but so far have not wanted to do so. I don’t think being more reliant on nuclear power would make them change their minds.

    Given current patterns of nuclear weapons/power in the world, nuclear power seems like it would make the world significantly safer from the threat of climate change, without making it less safe from the threat of nuclear war. While people have noted a lack of political will to use nuclear power in certain western countries and Japan, I think that the lack of reservations regarding nuclear power in India and China will mean that nuclear power will very likely play a major role in reducing global carbon emissions.

    [1] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data#Country

  12. After reading the Socolow and Glaser’s article and the comments above, I really think we should be more optimistic about the use of nuclear power in the near future. First of all, it should be clear that using nuclear power would significantly reduce the emission of CO2 and slow down the process of global warming. Together with renewable energy like solar power or wind power, it will gradually replace traditional fossil fuel as energy source in the future for concerns about both environmental issue and earth resources.

    Admittedly, there are drawbacks of using nuclear power. The Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster showed us how potentially dangerous nuclear power is compared to other power source, and the essay also made a strong argument that coupling to nuclear weapon is a risk that we probably don’t want to take.

    But that certainly doesn’t mean that we should give up nuclear power. As stated before, nuclear power is a relatively clean, efficient, and stable energy source that a large portion of developed countries are relying on. Even with all the nuclear power plants around the country, the US is ranked 1st on CO2 emission from consumption of energy per person, so removing the nuclear power plants from developed countries like the US would be simply impossible. Secondly, though it was pointed out by some people that some developing countries don’t have the technology needed to safely use nuclear power, we know that in fact, China and India, the world’s most populous countries, and also two of the major CO2 producers, already owns nuclear weapons and are capable of building and maintaining nuclear power plants. The risk of global nuclear war will not rise, if more power plants are built in countries like China and India.

    Some have argued that by adequate government policy, and development of renewable energy like solar or wind power, we could also slow down global warming without taking the risk on nuclear power. But solar power, for instance, is more expensive and more intermittent, therefore could not meet the general need in practical use. I believe that in the near future, nuclear power and renewable energy will be combined in use and gradually replace fossil fuel as the main energy source of the world.

  13. How real is the threat of power-weapon coupling? As of now, 32 countries run nuclear power plants, and 9 countries possess nuclear weapons. There are 7 countries that have both; the two countries that do have weapons but do not have any plants are Israel and North Korea. North Korea is probably a good counterexample for the coupling argument. North Korea’s GDP per capita (PPP) is 196th among 228 nations, and its life expectancy at birth is 106th. Even though Socolow and Glaser write “the production or acquisition of these fissile materials is the most difficult, visible, and time-consuming step in the proliferation process,” North Korea’s case implies that the acquisition is nonetheless not an impossible task; if a country as poor and messy as North Korea can develop a nuclear weapon, then most other countries have the same potential. Then how do we explain why other nations that are far better off than North Korea never develop a nuclear weapon? It is because, even if a country feels the need to build one, the international community has an ample sets of deterrence measures that counter such an idea by imposing a tremendous diplomatic, military and economic cost. Even if a country gains access to fissile materials through its power plants, it still has a very long way to go to build an actual weapon, and most countries are not ready to take such sacrifice. Therefore, I argue that coupling is a relative concept. If the international community is given with many different toolkits to strongly dissuade countries from developing nuclear weapon, coupling effect is much weaker, and might be even negligible. In the 1970s, Pakistani prime minister declared: “We will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will have our own [nuclear weapon].” If another country shows up and say they are also willing to eat grass for its own nuclear weapon, it is likely that they do it because they are not afraid enough of all the sacrifice it will have to make, not because they suddenly feel the urge after attaining some highly enriched uranium from their newly built power plant.

  14. It is almost undeniable that climate change is a very time-sensitive and potentially dangerous issue. According to Socolow and Glaser’s “Balancing risks: nuclear energy & climate change,” a “wedge model,” “quantifies global climate change mitigation” and “a stabilization wedge is a campaign or strategy motivated by climate change…that results in 4 billion tons of CO2 per year not emitted in 2050.” Although an expansion of nuclear power would reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, I am not convinced that an expansion of nuclear power would reduce CO2 production enough to be considered a full “stabilization wedge.”

    This seems implausible because, as stated in the article, the OECD countries currently only emit one third of green house gases globally, and by 2050, this proportion will probably be reduced to one fourth. This puts much of the onus of slowing climate change on developing countries. However, developing countries are much less likely to have nuclear power technology and much less likely to be willing to spend the funds to develop this technology and create the infrastructure required for nuclear power production. In fact, the MIT report cited within Socolow and Glaser’s article illustrates a scenario in which in 2050 only 40 percent of nuclear energy capacity would be in non-OECD countries.

    In such a situation how could nuclear power ever be expected to form a stabilizing wedge? OECD countries can’t take on the sole responsibility of consuming nuclear power in order to reduce climate change. Every part of the world will need to diversify their clean energy consumption.

    Later in their article, Glaser and Socolow suggest that multinational nuclear plants as a potential means to decouple nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The establishment of such multinational plants and a one-tier system could not only achieve this purpose, but they could also work to make nuclear power more accessible to developing countries, and thus better spread the burden of creating enough nuclear power to fulfill a “stabilizing wedge” across the world. Multinational nuclear power plants would help create more regional nuclear power hubs across the world, and a one tier system would help make nuclear technology more accessible to currently non-nuclear countries. I therefore think that the establishment of multinational nuclear power plants and a one tier system should be spread, not only to decouple nuclear power and nuclear weapons, but also to facilitate a more evenly spread distribution of nuclear power across the world.

  15. I, like many of my classmates, found the Socolow and Glaser article compelling but improbably. I really like the idea that nuclear power could be used as an invaluable tool in the fight against global warming. However, I argue that the threat of nuclear proliferation is an insurmountable barrier. While there are steps that can be taken to detect and discourage the development of nuclear power, the international community has no way of actually limiting the use of nuclear to strictly civil/peaceful energy programs. Since we live in a world of asymmetrical information, it cannot be assured that the use of this technology is non-military in nature.

    I don’t think this is a matter of optimist vs. realism as is Yuyan suggests above. Rather, a matter of international policy prioritization. It is a fact that environmental policy are very rarely prioritized, this evident even in the United State’s reluctance to commit itself to environmental pacts in the past. To suggest that environmental gains may be prioritized over “security interest” is even less plausible. Ray Acheson, our guest lecturer from week three, pushed back against the idea that nuclear powers establishes or helps maintain national security. She proposed an interesting perspective in favor of disarmament that I personally found very compelling. However, I also realize that states would rather have second strike capacity than not. This is exemplified by the large number of Nuclear weapons in US and Russia possession even after the cold war. So, I do not think the spread of nuclear energy can exist in relation to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

    Also, all of the environmental benefits we are discussing would be null and void in the face of nuclear proliferation and a subsequent nuclear fallout. Primarily because of mutual assured destruction, but also from a strictly environmental standpoint. I think it would be valuable to reflect back on our previous readings on “nuclear winter”. According to those theories, nuclear weapons would have such devastating ecological implications. In summary, while I would love to see nuclear power used in a positive way to propel society forward, I agree with Naomi’s argument. The rise of nuclear energy has too many risks to offset the potential benefits.

  16. In response to Taek, specifically:

    North Korea is an interesting case because typically, economic sanctions are used as threats against states that are interested in developing nuclear weapons. For example, in 2000 the United States imposed economic sanctions against a North Korean firm under investigation of providing nuclear weapons to Iran. While North Korea agreed to a moratorium on missile tests, it later reneged on its promise and went back to nuclear testing. On the other hand, the U.S. went back to imposing sanctions along with the United Nations for violations of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000.

    Like Taek said (and this was mentioned earlier), the Glaser/ Socolow article has found that “the production or acquisition of these fissile materials is the most difficult, visible, and time-consuming step in the proliferation process”. Despite the enormous cost, North Korea still pursues nuclear weapons. Why?

    Simply put, despotic states that do not take care of their citizens have little to no concern about the effect of economic sanctions [as long as the government] has the resources it needs to survive. The risk is too high to allow countries like North Korea have access to nuclear power for energy, and nuclear power wouldn’t be that cost effective for poorer countries like North Korea anyway.

  17. I also was really interested in Robert H. Socolow and Alexander Glaser’s piece. My take away, however, was a little different. I found that their reasoning for why we were not ready to take the next step in developing more nuclear plants because we are not ready to prevent nuclear proliferation. They both acknowledged that the step to produce nuclear warfare from nuclear plants was not a large one and that once the information and technology goes global there is little one can do to restrain countries from using it how they see fit. This relates closely to H. A. Feiveson, A. Glaser, Z. Mian, and F. von Hippel’s piece. They outline the fact that when a country has the infrastructure to produce nuclear power and energy they are able to more easily convert that ability to create nuclear warfare. Even with the NPT, allocating certain countries as nuclear weapon states and others and non-nuclear weapons states, a global agency, as Robert H. Socolow and Alexander Glaser promote, would not be effective enough in forcing countries to use the nuclear power as only an energy source. As the previous response mentioned, North Korea poses a real threat as they pulled out of the NPT and there is little a global agency can do to stop nuclear proliferation as they already have the materials and have produced nuclear weapons.

    Looking back at Robert H. Socolow and Alexander Glaser’s, therefore, I have a hard time believing that at least in the near future the global community is ready for nuclear plants, even if they would be an effective means to slow down global warming. As they also posed the fact that other “wedges”, such as solar or wind power, are available and able to do the job, I feel we are better served staying away from nuclear power until it can be better contained. I understand that a nuclear wedge produces more effect than the other wedges in terms of eliminating CO2 from the atmosphere, but I still find a more compelling case in continuing to use more other forms of energy. My other reasoning comes from the film we had to watch this week, “A is for Atom.” This documentary outlines how nuclear power was discovered and considered the power source of the future in the 50’s and 60’s, but that because the governments felt pressured to then produce more plants, they pushed for the creation of large reactors that were no longer deemed safe. While the submarine versions were safe as they provided “absolute containment”, the newer plants, produced by companies like General Electric, had much larger reactors and there was the possibility that if the water system could not cool it down, the core could melt and expand past the containment system and into the neighborhood surrounding it. I thought of this because although more safety regulations have since been put in place, the situation feels similar in that again we might be trying to push a technology too soon. I do not think we are ready for nuclear plants as a clean energy source even if they are capable of greatly aiding the cause.

Leave a Reply