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New Brunswick environmentalist does a 180, now supports nuclear

Saint John, New Brunswick

The growing movement of environmentalists supporting nuclear came to Canada in March.

CBC News reported that New Brunswick environmentalist Gordon Dalzell has dropped his opposition to nuclear power and now sees its role in the fight against climate change.

“The world is really at a disastrous tipping point and we need to really seriously consider nuclear power as a viable option, because we know how serious it is,” said Dalzell, who CBC described as Saint John, New Brunswick’s “best known environmentalist.”

Dalzell told CBC News he no longer believes energy efficiency, wind and solar alone can contain the growth of emissions as developing countries rise out of energy poverty.

In other countries, a large number of prominent environmentalists have come over to the pro-nuclear side due to the urgency of tackling climate change. This includes people like former California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, author Gwyneth Cravens, Kirsty Gogan, executive director of Energy For Humanity, Ben Heard, director of Bright New World, and Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

In Canada, fewer environmentalists have joined the pro-nuclear movement, which begs the question why?

Is it a refusal to recognize the benefits of nuclear energy, which includes a large amount of power with a small environmental footprint, safer new technologies and, most importantly, carbon-free electricity generation that addresses climate change?

Environmentalists have interpreted a recent United Nations report as suggesting that there is only a 12-year window for governments to take action and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“We do not have much time,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May recently stated. “If we miss the goal of reducing emissions globally by 45 per cent in 12 years, that one last chance is lost. Forever.”

Assuming we only have 12 years left, then why can’t more people in the environmental movement have open minds about nuclear? They don’t have to necessarily be supportive, just be open to viewing it as one of the tools, along with all other clean energy technologies, available to tackle climate change.

CNA2015

Leading Climatologist Dr. James Hansen to Speak at CNA2015

James Hansen - cropped

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Dr. James Hansen is one of the world’s leading climatologists and former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Dr. Hansen will speak to the CNA2015 crowd about the impact of emerging technologies and discoveries on our ability to maintain a sustainable climate.

“The sheer size of China’s electricity needs demands massive mobilization to construct modern, safe nuclear power plants, educate more nuclear scientists and engineers, and train operators of the power plants,” according to Hansen.

Perhaps the most prominent pro-nuclear environmentalist, Hansen has been credited for being one of first to warn politicians and policy makers about the dangers of climate change.

Hansen was one of four environmental scientists who wrote a 2013 open letter urging the green movement to give up its opposition to nuclear power.

“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 letter said.

Hansen has argued “nuclear seems to be the best candidate” to help the world move off of fossil fuels to generate electricity.

He’s thinks part of the problem going forward is with the public understanding.

“Nuclear energy is harder for people to understand, the idea of radiation,” he noted. “It’s been painted as very dangerous but it hasn’t been compared with the effects you will get from burning coal, which are very substantial and well known. It’s hard to get the public to understand and make that scientific comparison.”

Hansen has worked on increasing that understanding. In 2013, he published a paper with Pushker Kharecha that concluded nuclear power has saved 1.8 million lives by displacing fossil fuel sources between 1971 and 2009.

“Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning,” the researchers concluded in their study.