Nuclear power, or nuclear energy, is the use of exothermic nuclear processes to generate useful heat and electricity. The term includes nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion. Nuclear power stations provided about 5.7% of the world's energy and 13% of the world's electricity in 2012. There is an ongoing debate about nuclear power, with proponents contending that nuclear power is a safe, sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions, and opponents contending that nuclear power poses threats to people and the environment.
- The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.
- Albert Einstein, Statement on the Atomic Bomb to Raymond Swing, before 1 October 1945, as reported in Atlantic Monthly, vol. 176, no. 5 (November 1945), in Einstein on Politics, p. 373
- If reactors were safe, nuclear industries would not demand government-guaranteed, accident-liability protection, as a condition for their generating electricity.
- Unlike renewable-energy technologies, by law (the Price-Anderson Act) US reactor operators are not liable for 98 percent of major, government-calculated, nuclear-accident damages. Worldwide, most reactor operators have no liability for accidents. Why? Many reactor programs (including those in the United States) began because governments sought nuclear-weapons-grade materials or technologies and, to get them, agreed to the industry demand for avoiding most liability. The public, not industry, thus bears most nuclear risks and costs, even those caused by negligence or illegal activities. Yet, government studies say there is a one-in-five chance that at least one of the 104 US reactors will have a core-melt accident in its lifetime -- and that such an accident could kill 140,000 people and permanently contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania. Renewables like wind and solar, however, enjoy no legally mandated avoidance of liability.
- During the last 50 years, according to MRG Consultants, the United States has provided 33 times more subsidies ($165 billion) to commercial nuclear than to wind and solar combined ($5 billion), if one counts only direct subsidies and three indirect subsidies (for construction incentives, liability, and tax credits). Counting all direct and indirect subsidies, US commercial-fission subsidies have been 200 times greater ($20 billion annually or $1 trillion over 50 years) than those for wind and solar combined, according to the late MIT Nobelist Henry Kendall.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists says commercial-nuclear subsidies, over 50 years, have been so large -- in proportion to energy-production values -- that often it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy electricity on the open market and give it away. As physicist Amory Lovins notes, fission died of an acute attack of market forces. Subsidizing it is like defibrillating a corpse; it will jump but remain dead. The International Energy Agency agrees: High costs have destroyed fission, and by 2030 or sooner, it will supply only 9 percent -- not its current 14 percent -- of global electricity.
- Kristin Shrader-Frechette, "Cheaper, safer alternatives than nuclear fission", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (19 August 2011).
- Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them can stop the time.
- Thus, there are three broad reasons to be concerned about an unconstrained spread of nuclear power to new nations that have not previously managed the technology
First, for nuclear energy programs to be developed and managed safely and securely, it is important that states have domestic “good governance” characteristics that will encourage proper nuclear operations and management. These characteristics include low degrees of corruption (to avoid officials selling materials and technology for their own personal gain as occurred with the A.Q. Khan smuggling network in Pakistan), high degrees of political stability (defined by the World Bank as“likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically-motivated violence and terrorism”), high governmental effectiveness scores (a World Bank aggregate measure of “the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures [and] the quality of policy formulation and implementation”), and a strong degree of regulatory competence. Fortunately, we have a great deal of information measuring these domestic good governance factors across the globe. Unfortunately, the data highlight the grave security challenges that would be created if there were rampant proliferation of nuclear energy production facilities to each and every state that has expressed interest to the IAEA in acquiring nuclear power.
- Steven E. Miller & Scott D. Sagan, "Nuclear power without nuclear proliferation?", Dædalus, (Fall 2009), pp.9-10
- Second, all NNWS under the NPT must accept IAEA safeguards inspections on their nuclear power facilities in order to reduce the danger that governments might cheat on their commitments not to use the technology to acquire nuclear weapons; therefore, it is illuminating to examine the historical record of nnws violating their NPT commitments. Here there is one very important finding about how domestic political characteristics influence the behavior of NPT members: each known or strongly suspected case of a government starting a secret nuclear weapons program, while it was a member of the NPT and thus violating its Article II NPT commitment, was undertaken by a non-democratic government. (The confirmed or suspected historical cases of NPT member states starting nuclear weapons programs in violation of their Treaty commitments include North and South Korea, Libya, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Taiwan, Iran, and Syria, all of which were non-democratic at the time in question.)
- Third, states that face significant terrorist threats from within face particular challenges in ensuring that there is no successful terrorist attack on a nuclear facility or no terrorist theft of fissile material to make a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb.
- Ibid, p. 11
- I happen to be one who believes that we will not get very far in working out a peace program, or in lowering the suspicious fingers which are now being pointed toward America by other nations of the world, until we recognize that, after all, the secret of atomic energy does not belong to America, but that, instead, it belongs to all mankind.
- Wayne Morse, remarks in the Senate (October 22, 1945), Congressional Record, vol. 91, p. 9893.
- Nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn't get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can't drive. A pilot without a plane can't fly.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress (3 March 2015), Washington, D.C.
- We are not bent on conquest or on threatening others. But we do have a nuclear umbrella that can protect others, above all the states to which we are allied or in which we have a great national interest.
- Richard Nixon, on-the-record interview with C. L. Sulzberger (March 8, 1971); reported in The New York Times (March 10, 1971), p. 14.
- Klaatu: So long as you were limited to fighting among yourselves -- with your primitive tanks and planes -- we were unconcerned. But soon you will apply atomic energy to space ships -- and then you become a threat to the peace and security of other planets. That, of course, we cannot tolerate.
- A paper reactor [new reactor concept] has the following characteristics: it is simple; it is small; it is cheap; it is lightweight; it can be built very quickly; very little development is required and it will use off the shelf components; it is in the study phase and not being built now. By contrast a real reactor has the following characteristics: it is complicated; it is large; it is heavy; it is being built now; it is behind schedule; it requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items; it takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems.
- Hyman G. Rickover in pp. 158-159 The Rickover Effect (1992) by Theodore Rockwell, Naval Institute Press.
- Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.
- Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, New York City (September 16, 1954); reported in The New York Times (September 17, 1954), p. 5.
- Fission is a process of deadly fascination; had nature chosen her constants just a little differently, we should have been deprived of its potential for social good and spared its power for social evil. Despite the former and despite the undeniable fact that the latter is responsible for nuclear and particle physics being decades in advance of what would otherwise have been their time, I know what my own choice for the constants would have been.