Balancing Risks: Nuclear Energy and Climate Change

by Robert H. Socolow and Alexander Glaser

Nuclear power could make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation. To do so, however, nuclear power must be deployed extensively, including in the developing world. A “one-tier” world will be required–that is, a world with an agreed set of rules to govern nuclear power that are the same in all countries.

In this article, we argue that the world is not now safe for a rapid global expansion of nuclear energy. Nuclear-energy use today relies on technologies and a system of national governance of the nuclear fuel cycle that carry substantial risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. The risks that a global expansion of nuclear power will facilitate nuclear proliferation and incidents of nuclear terrorism, or even lead to regional nuclear war, are significant. Nuclear war is a terrible trade for slowing the pace of climate change.