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Nuclear Energy | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #15

Nuclear Energy

Be it resolved, Go Green! Go Nuclear!

Guests
Todd Allen
Gregory Jaczko

About this episode

Zero emissions by 2050 and at the latest 2060. That has been the rallying cry for many of the world’s largest economies, including the US, UK, Japan, Canada, and most notably, China. But with almost 80% of carbon emissions coming from energy, demand for electricity continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, and storage batteries still in their infancy, it’s not clear how these countries will live up to their promises. The answer, say an increasing number of environmentalists and energy experts, lies with nuclear energy. They say this much vilified generator of power requires fewer materials and produces the least amount of carbon of any energy source - all with a geographic footprint 50 times smaller than solar. Nuclear energy has also proven itself for almost 70 years, and currently supplies 10% of the world’s energy mix.

Critics say that this seemingly simple solution to the climate change challenge comes with potentially catastrophic costs that far outweigh the benefits. As the accident at the Fukushima Daiichii reactors in Japan demonstrated ten years ago, the radioactive energy released by fission can wreak havoc on the surrounding environment, threatening the long-term health and lives of surrounding populations, and contaminating vast areas of land so that they are no longer habitable. The cost to build but also decommission nuclear plants makes them a far more expensive source of energy than green alternatives. Far better to address the climate change crisis and the world’s energy needs with solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy.

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Guests

Todd Allen

"Nuclear energy produces zero carbon, is the highest energy density source involving the least amount of mining, produces very little waste, and the day-to-day operation of nuclear technology has proven to be very safe. Nuclear needs to be part of the mix of zero carbon electricity sources."

Todd Allen

"Nuclear energy produces zero carbon, is the highest energy density source involving the least amount of mining, produces very little waste, and the day-to-day operation of nuclear technology has proven to be very safe. Nuclear needs to be part of the mix of zero carbon electricity sources."

Dr. Todd Allen is Professor at the University of Michigan and a Senior Fellow at Third Way, a DC base Think Tank, supporting their Clean Energy Portfolio. He was the Deputy Director for Science and Technology at the Idaho National Laboratory from January 2013 through January 2016. Prior to INL he was a Professor in the Engineering Physics Department at the University of Wisconsin, a position held from September 2003 through December 2012 and again from January 2016-December 2018. From March 2008-December 2012, he was concurrently the Scientific Director of the Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility at INL. Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin, he was a Nuclear Engineer at Argonne National Laboratory-West in Idaho Falls. His Doctoral Degree is in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan (1997) and his Bachelor’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering is from Northwestern University (1984). Prior to graduate work, he was an officer in the United States Navy Nuclear Power Program.

Gregory Jaczko

"Decarbonizing electricity in the next 14 years is an aggressive time table and we need solutions that can be constructed in that time frame. Unless nuclear makes significant improvements in construction time, cost, and operational flexibility it's simply not a practical solution."

Gregory Jaczko

"Decarbonizing electricity in the next 14 years is an aggressive time table and we need solutions that can be constructed in that time frame. Unless nuclear makes significant improvements in construction time, cost, and operational flexibility it's simply not a practical solution."

Dr. Gregory Jaczko served as Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2009–2012, and as a commissioner from 2005–2009. As Chairman, he played a lead role in the American government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Jaczko is now a Lecturer at Princeton University and an entrepreneur with a clean energy development company. He is the author of Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator

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