Climate scientists endorse nuclear power in letter to environmental groups

Four leading climate scientists are going to bat for nuclear power before environmental groups, saying that while renewable energy is beneficial nuclear power is still needed “in the real world.”

 “While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power,” the climate scientists said in a Nov. 3 letter posted on the Internet.

The letter was drafted by four Phds. They are: Ken Caldeira, Senior Scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, Atmospheric Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Columbia University Earth Institute; and Tom Wigley, Climate Scientist, University of Adelaide and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change,” they say in the letter.

“We call on your organization to support the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as a practical means of addressing the climate change problem,” they write. “We can only increase energy supply while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions if new power plants turn away from using the atmosphere as a waste dump.”

Quantitative analyses show that the risks associated with the expanded use of nuclear energy are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks associated with fossil fuels. “No energy system is without downsides. We ask only that energy system decisions be based on facts, and not on emotions and biases that do not apply to 21st century nuclear technology,” the scientists said.

“With the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology that has the potential to displace a large fraction of our carbon emissions. Much has changed since the 1970s. The time has come for a fresh approach to nuclear power in the 21st century,” the scientists said in their “open letter.”

The letter was immediately praised by Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Marvin Fertel. “The letter puts an exclamation point on a phenomenon that has been unfolding for several years, namely the steady growth in support for nuclear energy from leading environmentalists—Stewart Brand, James Lovelock, Mark Lynas and Patrick Moore, to name just a few.”

Fertel also noted that the much-publicized Robert Stone documentary on nuclear power, “Pandora’s Promise,” will air on CNN Thursday, Nov. 7.

Text of the letter can be found at

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at