Interfaith Power & Light works to promote ethical, moral, just and sound solutions to global warming and energy needs. The urgency of the climate crisis demands a rapid transition to clean, safe, cost-effective energy sources. While nuclear power plants release no carbon dioxide, there is no nuclear technology being used for energy that currently meets these criteria.
For the following reasons, IPL does not currently believe building new nuclear plants presents a viable solution to global warming.
Cost and Timeline: The high cost and long time frame required to build new nuclear plants is prohibitive, given the immediacy of global warming. Energy efficiency and conservation are the fastest, cleanest, and cheapest ways to achieve significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and this should be our first focus. Taking into account the entire life cycle of mining uranium (a nonrenewable resource) and disposing of the waste, nuclear power production is neither clean nor renewable. Investing billions of dollars in this technology drains funds away from much more cost effective, rapidly deployable, and truly renewable alternatives, such as wind, geothermal, and solar power. (For more information on cost, please see economic studies referenced below)
Safety: From mining uranium to the end of the fuel cycle the technology is not safe. Until scientists find a safe way to deal with radioactive waste generated at every phase, building more nuclear power plants would be irresponsible to present and future generations. The link to weapons proliferation and terrorism cannot be avoided. Placing dangerous nuclear materials in the midst of our communities poses an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic event. Such an event could be a massive release of radiation due to a plant meltdown or a terrorist attack, and could kill tens of thousands of people as well as poison large areas with radioactivity.
Justice: As people of faith, we believe in justice that transcends generations, race and class. Our indigenous brothers and sisters and economically poor communities in the US and throughout the world carry a disproportionate burden of past uranium mining legacies and end waste that pollute water and harm health. Passing on radioactive materials to thousands of generations to come is a profound moral failure. Even a small accident could cause the contamination of groundwater for 300,000 years.
As an additional justice issue, nuclear power plants require enormous amounts of fresh water, a precious resource whose growing scarcity is increasingly at the heart of resource conflicts and the suffering of humans and other species.
Therefore, IPL urges a redoubled focus on energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable resources to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
The Rocky Mountain Institute has conducted extensive economic analysis of the cost of nuclear compared to renewables. See: “The Nuclear Illusion” By Amory Lovins and Imran Sheikh.
The Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research have published an excellent book detailing the possibilities for reaching a carbon free future without nuclear energy: Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy by Arjun Makhijani.
Taxpayers for Common Sense has documented the often overlooked and exorbitant costs the U.S. taxpayers would be asked to absorb in the event of a nuclear accident.