In his case for nuclear power, “It’s time to see nuclear power in a different light” (Ideas, April 24), Jeff Howe misses two important points. First, it minimizes the long-term political risks of the nuclear fuel cycle. Every stage of the fuel cycle is charged – from centrifuges that concentrate fuel that can also be used for bomb-making (think: Iran), to extremely toxic spent fuel, which burdens humanity with half-lives hundred years requiring stability and continuity. management and political regimes (think: Chernobyl).
Second, Howe ignores ongoing investments in energy storage that will allow safe and clean solar and wind power to provide baseload energy cheaper than nuclear. This investment would likely follow a learning curve similar to that of solar panels, whose price over the past 10 years has fallen by nearly 90 percent, which makes solar power often the cheapest form of new electricity generation.
Early proponents of nuclear energy claimed that the technology would be “too cheap to measure,” an emotional boast that turned out to be false. Howe follows the same ominous tradition of emotional argument by downplaying the risks of nuclear power and ignoring the benefits of new energy storage technologies.
The author is a retired clean energy venture capitalist who managed the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund.