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Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer in a Time of Climate Change

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Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer in a Time of Climate Change


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What do you get when you mix climate change with nuclear power?

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Nuclear power may seem like a perfect, low-emission answer to a climate-compromised world, but recent years have only validated concerns that the marriage of nuclear and climate change is an unfortunate one. Wildfires and melting glaciers release radiation from long-ago nuclear tests, and symptoms of climate change produce outsized effects in coastal regions where nuclear power plants are often built utilizing seawater as a convenient coolant. So what is the answer? Stony Brook University’s Heidi Hutner may tell you what you already know: renewables, renewables, renewables.


Climate change is exacerbating the nuclear industry’s dirty legacy.

Storms, floods, tsunamis and wildfires are taking their toll on decades-old nuclear installations. For example, Southern California’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory is home to a nuclear research facility currently owned by Boeing. The site has long suffered the environmental impacts of rocket tests, radiation releases and the failed 1959 sodium reactor experiment that caused a partial meltdown. A 2006 report suggested that Santa Susana Field Laboratory workers and nearby residents show higher than average levels of radiation and industrial chemical exposure of the sort that’s associated with higher rates of cancer. In 2010, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) issued...

About the Authors

Heidi Hutner is the director of the Sustainability Studies Program at Stony Brook University and producer of the documentary Accidents Can Happen: The Women of Three Mile Island. Erica Cirino s a science photojournalist, covering stories about wildlife and the environment, most often related to biology, conservation and policy.

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