Keywords: green economics, nuclear energy, nuclear power, energy security, sustainability, sustainable development, global warming
Nuclear energy: a fuel for the 21st century? A green perspective
Global warming has put green economics in an uncomfortable position. Should we support nuclear energy, long considered an anathema, as a temporary expedient? Or should we resist nuclear energy's seductive appeal as a palliative for global warming? Is green economics forced to choose between the lesser of two evils – global warming and nuclear energy? Or is there a more palatable alternative consistent with our moral beliefs, our stated principles and concern for humanity? The objective of this paper is to develop a green economics position on nuclear energy. This is essential given the renewed interest in nuclear energy in the USA and Europe as part of a judicious mix to improve energy security and attenuate global warming. Schumacher (1989) wrote a generation ago, 'When a thing is intelligible you have a sense of participation; when a thing is unintelligible, you have a sense of estrangement' (p.89). The goal of this paper is to make nuclear energy 'intelligible' in order to formulate a green position on nuclear energy. Section one of this paper will briefly discuss the urgency of global warming and section two, the fundamentals of nuclear energy. The third and fourth sections discuss the pros and cons of nuclear energy respectively; and the final section develops a position on nuclear energy consistent with the principles of green economics.