Nuclear power has prevented about 1.8 million air pollution related deaths and could save up to another 7 million lives by 2050, a long time campaigner against man made climate change says.
James Hansen, known by some as the "grandfather" or "godfather" of the global warming fight, also says that nuclear has prevented 64 gigatonnes (that's a lot) of greenhouse gas emissions, and has the potential to spare another 240 gigatonnes by mid-century.
Hansen retired this week as the head of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) to spend more time on his climate change fight, including promoting nuclear power as a source of clean energy that does not pollute or emit greenhouse gases (GHG), as fossil fuels do. His analysis of lives and emissions appears in an article he co-wrote for Environmental Science & Technology.
In case any of you have just returned from a long stay in another universe, GHGs such as CO2 contribute to global warming. Nuclear power, like many renewables, does not release GHG in the electricity generation process, while fossil fuels like coal and natural gas do.
On a life cycle comparison of materials, construction, operation and retirement, nuclear emits less CO2 than many renewables, including photovoltaics.
As I reported last year, Hansen joined with entrepreneur Richard Branson and the then head of the American Nuclear Society in writing a letter to President Obama urging the deployment of a type of nuclear reactor called an integral fast reactor that can burn nuclear waste as fuel. A film supporting fast reactors debuted at January's Sundance Film Festival.
NASA's New York City-based GISS specializes in climate studies. Hansen, a Columbia University adjunct professor, had run it since 1981. He has been campaigning against fossil fuels for decades. His protests have landed him in jail several times.
Photo from Tarsandsaction via Wikimedia.
More nuclear nuggets from SmartPlanet:
- The future of energy is thorium. Even 12-year-olds know that.
- Turning Japan’s nuclear past into its future
- New York Times recognizes thorium and other alternative nuclear power
- And the DOE energy innovation award goes to … a new type of nuclear power
- Top scientists recommend alternative nuclear for UK
- Nuclear: Less CO2 than solar, hydro, biomass
- Just a partial nuclear restart would save Japan $20 billion
- Lights! Cameras! Atoms! Sundance to debut pro-nuclear film
- Son of China’s ex-President: Thorium will help shape country’s energy future
- Virgin Nuclear? Branson asks Obama for reactor help. Sir Richard v Bill Gates?
- Westinghouse enters U.S.-China nuclear collaboration
- The Thorium Lord
For a SmartPlanet archive of nuclear alternatives, click here