He shouldn’t have.
Nuclear energy is a ridiculous choice (for new plants) at this point. Has it worked for France? Sure. France is a tiny country compared to the US. If the whole world starting using nuclear power as France does, we would actually run out of nuclear fuel faster than we’re going to run out of oil. That’s insane.
Listen, we know that burning fossil fuels isn’t sustainable. Especially oil (we’ve got a bit more coal in reserve). Not just because of climate change, but because it’s a finite resource that takes tens of millions of years to renew. We know we have to get off it.
If we’re going to do that, why on earth would you choose something else that’s going to run out even quicker? How many non-sustainable energy sources do you think we can keep iterating through?
If we’re going to make a massive shift from fossil fuel based energy, to something else, which involves huge non-recurring costs to do, the only smart decision is to select another technology (or technologies) that we can stick with for a long time. That means renewables. Period.
It would be one thing if there were no renewable technologies ready. But there are. Wind and solar are both already competitive with nuclear. Will solar continue to get better? Sure, it’s still in the early stages. But, it’s already cost competitive with nuclear, depending on where you install it, and which of various solar technologies you use. Add in geothermal, advanced biofuels (not ethanol from corn), biogas, and you have enough options to ensure that all new energy sources in this country can be made without coal, or nuclear.
Of course, solar and wind have the issue that the location where you generate the power isn’t usually the place where power is consumed, so transmission lines are required. And, people don’t like having those in their back yards. Guess what? That issue is magnified 10x when it comes to nuclear waste.
Then, there’s the issue of securing nuclear sites (both from malicious attackers, and natural disasters). The worst case failure mode for nuclear is awful. For solar, wind, biofuels, tidal, geothermal? Tiny by comparison.
I take serious issue with Mooney trying to paint this issue as “if you’re still against nuclear, (despite us just having a vivid example of how even the most high tech, quality-oriented of societies can fail really badly with nuclear), then you’re anti-science”. That’s garbage. I’m not anti-science. I’m an engineer. As an engineer (as opposed to scientists), I have to worry about the implementation details of various technologies that look good on paper. Nuclear is rife with such pragmatic problems. And again, the fuel is in finite supply, and essentially non-renewable!.
I also take issue with Mooney supporting this conclusion with a guy like Mark Lynas. I understand where Mooney is coming from, but as someone with a real science background, I know the difference between a real scientist, and a science journalist. Lynas has degrees in history and politics. And that qualifies him to make tradeoffs regarding complex engineering solutions, how?
By the way, I have science degrees from two of the top 5 science/engineering schools in the country, and have worked in multiple dissimilar engineering disciplines. We need these decisions to be made by multi-disciplinary science and engineering minds. Not liberal arts majors. Sorry to sound like a snob, but it’s insulting that scientists/engineers have to constantly debate their technical positions with people who flatly aren’t qualified to understand the issue in depth.