March mind shifts

While Japan struggles to shift mountains of debris and deal with human tragedy from the gargantuan tsunami, the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident is seeing some significant mind shifts.

George Monbiot’s change of heart has the highest profile. A widely regarded environmental advocate, Fukushima has taught him to stop worrying and embrace nuclear power. He says:

On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power…

(But) there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power

Not shifting is Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountains Institute. He finds nuclear so slow and costly that building plants reduces and retards climate protection.

Here’s how. Each dollar spent on a new reactor buys about 2-10 times less carbon savings, 20-40 times slower, than spending that dollar on the cheaper, faster, safer solutions that make nuclear power unnecessary and uneconomic: efficient use of electricity, making heat and power together in factories or buildings (“cogeneration”), and renewable energy

Who’s right? Barry Brook makes the base case for nuclear safety and why we need it here. Amory Lovins for efficiency, distributed power generation and why nuclear is out of date here.

Image: Fukushima Daiichi March 14 2011