Pro-Nuclear Now: Why My View Changed, And What I Learned Along the Way -- Part 1

By Frank Jablonski

What I think about a lot.  

I have, for a long time, been thinking about three important interlinked crises. I put them in these general categories: 1) energy and climate, 2) human development and well-being, and 3) ecosystems and biodiversity. 

Protection of the climate requires drastic reduction or elimination greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from the energy system. 

Development adequate to provide a decent standard of living for everyone requires a sufficient supply of energy. 

Preserving ecosystems and biodiversity requires us — the species that, in the formulation of Stewart Brand – are “as gods here” — to preserve and enhance the planet’s environments. 

Overall, the challenge that rivets my attention involves making things better for people while protecting, restoring and improving ecosystems.  

These crises have a moral dimension. The moral dimension gives rise to responsibilities.  Meeting the responsibilities requires rigorous thinking. Rigorous thinking is logical, fact-based, and informed by the most reliable science we can find. This is the only way to make it more likely we will make the right choices.  

It is no foregone conclusion that our problems will be favorably solved. We are not living in some Hollywood movie where Spielberg gets to deliver, at the last minute, the satisfying happy ending we want to see. If the script for this story is being written by our current choices, we are writing a script with an ending we don’t want to see. 


Beginning. 

I was standing over my bike at the traffic light where my bike path intersects a four-lane street.  It was probably late April or early May of 2003. It was a soft mid-western mid-spring morning — the kind with warm sunlight, mild humidity, and cool air. An SUV drove past with an endangered species license plate with a wolf logo on it. Buying endangered species plates sends some money to the related wildlife programs. It’s a good thing to do. Then another vehicle, and then a third, all with the plates, which was a little surprising even for my neighborhood. Some drivers might have been people I know. I noticed each vehicle carried just one person.  

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The year 2003 was 24 years past the “No Nukes” concerts that seemed to confirm, in an emotionally compelling way, how everyone who was sincere, good, and committed to a better world would be absolutely,  unalterably, and categorically against nuclear energy and in favor of renewable energy “instead”.    

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It was fifteen years past James Hansen’s climate change testimony to congress (1988), eleven years past the UNCED Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (1992), six years past adoption of the Kyoto Protocol (1997), and 89 years past the Popular Science article that had posited it to be “highly probable” that “a few years hence” “solar engines and solar heating apparatus will then make it economically practicable for us to use at least a small portion of our now wasted sunshine to run our factories, light our streets, cook our food, and warm our houses.” (October, 1934). 

It was also eight years past  the release of a study titled “The Green Plan: Energy, Jobs, Opportunity and Economic Development for Wisconsin” (where I live) (1995). I was the document’s organizer and lead author. It was sponsored by the state’s lead environmental and renewable energy advocacy organizations, Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (predecessor to the current Clean Wisconsin) and RENEW Wisconsin. The Plan posited that Wisconsin’s energy needs could be met by expanding the use of renewable energy and by constraining demand through energy efficiency and conservation. You will see policy prescriptions touting the same theory now, 23 years later. 

By that spring morning in 2003, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere had risen by about another 10 parts per million (ppm) from when we released the Green Plan, from about 360ppm to more than 370ppm. They now exceed 400. 

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Greenhouse gas concentrations and their effects were a thing we were pouring our energies into doing something about. Our belief that the dangers posed could be avoided by improving efficiency and using renewable energy didn’t matter. The numbers continued to go in the wrong direction. We were not doing very well. We still aren’t.   

A decision out of character.  

The SUV with the wildlife license plates stuck in my mind as a kind of reminder or reality-check. People sensitive to wildlife — people who probably thrill to the natural landscapes here, to the sight and sound of wild geese in the sky, to the feeling that you get when light pours through breaks in the pine forest, to the sparkle of hard sunlight bouncing off lakes, to the sound of cool streams, alive with life, flowing over old rocks – people who view themselves as deeply committed to environmental responsibility and pretty much in love with nature were still going to drive SUVs, drive alone, live in houses, fly places in airplanes, and, generally, live developed-world lives of high energy consumption. People are not going to erase civilization and its comforts because they are concerned about climate.  

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Although I am not an SUV owner, I certainly fall into that category. If I had some kind of greenhouse gas budget –  though it seems like that budget would ideally, and impossibly, be “0” – then any gains from my bicycle commuting would certainly be spent out, and then some, by flying. Marginal or even dramatic changes to energy efficiency were not mattering. Fast growth in small contribution energy resources like wind and solar weren’t mattering either. Taken together, they were nowhere close to canceling out the relentless year-over-year growth of greenhouse gas concentrations. (They still aren’t.) It doesn’t matter how many photos of wind turbines and solar panels appear on utility Company websites. It doesn’t matter the number of articles enthralled journalists write to proclaim the imminent arrival of the renewable energy paradise, or how many people are seduced by sunny narratives they ardently want to believe. Small changes don’t amount to much against the scale and scope of the problem.  

The notion came to me that, in the interest of doing something about climate, I at least ought to think about whether nuclear energy should be re-considered.  

This idea was “out of character” to the degree I was, and mostly remain, pretty much your standard-issue environmentalist. I was president of a high school club that started a city-wide recycling program in the 1970’s and was named the state’s “Outstanding Young Conservationist” the year I graduated high school. My first position out of law school was with the state’s largest environmental group. I felt at the time, and still recognize, that it was a privilege to get that position. I was able to represent the aspirations of a community of committed people I deeply respected. 

So, I was part of the mainstream environmental movement. The same movement that has stoked fear of nuclear energy and done everything it could to stop nuclear energy and drive up its costs. Curiously, it wouldn’t have had to be this way. Environmentalists could have advocated for deployment of nuclear to displace coal and its emissions for optimal operation of existing plants, and accelerated development of improvements to address the technologies’ issues. But that is not how it worked out. Some roots of the movement and the evolution of its position and strategies on nuclear energy, are described (unsympathetically) here and here.  

The motivations I observed seemed purer than portrayed in the links in the previous sentence, but I witnessed those sentiments as well. I also saw activists who were willing to endure large personal sacrifices in the interest of what they believed to be right. To work long hours, to get arrested, to live without much money or security. While some individuals had resources, overall, we were badly outnumbered, under-resourced and often poor. Since fear was so entwined with the choices we made on nuclear, using fear to convince others seemed more than appropriate. It seemed imperative.  

My first appearance in court as a lawyer was to try to shut down a nuclear power plant by opposing replacement of its electrical generation equipment. I was “all in” with unwavering opposition to nuclear power. I worried about melt-downs and radiation and nuclear waste and proliferation.  

But in 2003, eight years after the Green Plan, I could no longer ignore that the renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements we advocated were failing to accomplish much on climate. The idea that I should at least re-think the nuclear question would not go away. So, I started to restudy my many objections. It took a couple of years. This series of short essays is about what I learned in that re-study, and how it changed my mind.  

“Deadly radiation.”

I believed the actual and potential radiation impacts of nuclear power plants posed potent, unacceptable hazards both to our health and, through genetic impacts, to future human generations. These shared beliefs were hardwired. They justified labeling nuclear energy “poisonous”, and they animated our determined and relentless opposition. Since this was a core issue, a lot of my initial re-study of nuclear energy focused first on radiation.    

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Studying the issue with the best science I could find destroyed my fixed beliefs. Radioactivity is an unavoidable property of our world and a common phenomenon in our bodies. Across time – geological time – the levels on our planet have fallen, because radioactivity is a type of activity that wears away under most conditions on our planet. Background levels of radiation were much higher in the past than they are now. Natural nuclear reactors under the surface of the earth operated for hundreds of thousands of years as life evolved. Our planet, and everything and everyone on it, derive from nuclear reactions in supernovae explosions long ago. Without radioactivity we would not exist.  

I quickly found some numbers I had never really thought about: the average additional exposure to radiation that Americans experience from background sources is about 310 - 320 millirem, although I also saw it “officially” estimated at 360 millirems – a number that I believe included averaged radiation exposures from medical procedures before CT scans became as common as they are now.  

 For comparison’s sake, the additional average radiation exposure of Americans due to commercial nuclear power operations is less than 0.1 millirems/year. This means that the average exposure from commercial nuclear energy is about 1/3100th of your average background dose. One part in three thousand one hundred. A 1991 study by the National Cancer Institute, "Cancer in Populations Living Near Nuclear Facilities," concluded no increased risk of death from cancer for people living in counties adjacent to U.S. nuclear facilities.

On average  — obviously averages don’t work all that well here, since cancer patients undergoing treatment will be exposed to a lot of radiation while luckier people just have occasional dental x-rays — this 0.1 millirems exposure is also about 1/3100 of an American’s medical exposure. The average medical exposure has gone up since CT scans became more common. Now it approximately doubles the average background exposure. 

I found this interesting: about 1/8th of the average person’s radiation exposure (39 millirem/year) is from radioactive decay inside the body. Our bodies have, and continuously take in, traces of naturally occurring radioactive materials, mostly radioactive nuclides present in food and in the air. For example, 40K (Potassium 40) is a radioactive isotope of potassium, an element that is essential to life because it aids transmission of electrical signals within our bodies. We get it from many foods, with notable amounts available in bananas and brazil nuts. That potassium, along with tritium (3H) and carbon-14 (14C) contributes to the approximately 4,000 - 5000 radioactive decays of individual nuclei every second in a person’s body, assuming a 175 lb. person. (Some sources estimate the number of decays higher, e.g., 8,000).  

Over the course of a week, these decays within your body add up to about 2/3 of a millirem of exposure. Very little of the usual exposure to radiation comes from any source other than background sources, the exception being if someone is using nuclear medicine, e.g., radiation therapy for cancer or diagnostic medical procedures (e.g., x-rays and CT scans) that use radiation. Background sources – principally radon created as a result of radioactive decay of materials common in the earth’s crust, and gamma rays from space – are far more significant sources of radiation exposure.  

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I also found occupational exposures interesting. The average additional exposure of a person working in a nuclear power plant in the US is about 101 - 115 millirems per year. By comparison, the additional dose that you would get as a full time worker at Grand Central Station, whose grandeur comes from  granite that incorporates naturally radioactive material, is estimated to be about 120 millirems. 

That's right. Your average occupational radiation exposure is higher if you work in Grand Central station than if you work in a nuclear power plant. 

If you have natural gas service in your home, your average exposure from having it is about 9 millirem/year – 90 times higher than the average American’s radiation exposure from commercial nuclear power operations. The 4 – 5 millirems of radiation you get from flying cross-country is 40 to 50 times more than the radiation the average American gets from commercial nuclear energy. Flight-related exposure is due to exposing yourself to more cosmic radiation from space from being up in the sky. 

The greatest variation in radiation exposure arises from differences in background radiation. On the high Colorado Plateau, as compared with the Midwest, you expose yourself to higher levels of cosmic radiation from space and from isotopes that are part of the soil and the rocks there. There, you are exposed to about twice the background radiation you experience in the Midwest.    

In contrast with the average dose actually received at nuclear plants (101 to 115 millirems), the allowable dose for radiation workers is 5,000 millirems – half the level (10,000 millirems or 10 rem) at which scientists are able to discern organism-level radiation effects on people. Below the 10,000 millirem (10 rem) level, adverse organism-level effects on people, if any, are not able to be separated out from other potential causes of the same effect.  

Here are some radiation-exposure comparisons:  

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Some key implications of the table: staying on popular tourist beaches in Brazil would expose you to a dose of radiation about 50 times the average background radiation in the United States. Exposures from background sources in Kerala, India, and Ramsar, Iran, are 40 to over 85 times the average exposure in the USA.  Spa treatments at hot springs expose people to high levels of radioactive radon.  

Although my reconsideration of nuclear energy came before the Fukushima meltdown, it is notable that many background levels of radiation, which are elevated because of natural processes, greatly exceed the levels at remaining “hotspots” in Fukushima Province in Japan, and also exceed most locations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Finally, there is this weird thing: powerful data-based scientific arguments support the proposition that certain levels of radiation exposure stimulate immune response that, in turn, enhances, instead of impairs health – kind of like what vaccines do. A reasonably good general discussion of the associated theory is here.  Some people are not waiting for the science to settle on this. Germany and Austria, both hotbeds of anti-nuclearism – have old mines with high levels of radioactive radon. Those mines are tourist attractions. We have them too.   

The upshot: not so deadly, not so scary, not so different. 

I worry about a lot of things. Radiation is no longer one of them. Radiation is a natural property of our planet, and its smart to think about the same way we think about other properties, substances or phenomena, i.e., to ask how can it be useful in a positive way, and how can we minimize or avoid potential harms. Human beings have been manipulating, concentrating and re-organizing this planet’s available properties, substances and phenomena for as long as we have been able. We manipulate, concentrate, re-organize and relocate minerals, salts, plants, heat, water, energy, nutrients– pretty much anything we can exert control over. We do it  to make things fit our needs and it is our job to manage the things that we manipulate so as to minimize or avoid damage to ourselves, others and the environment. Radiation is one of the things we have to manage. Overall the civilian nuclear industry has managed it remarkably well. It merits care, not fear. 

Pro-Nuclear Victory in New Jersey! But at the Cost of a Hefty Subsidy for Solar

Pro-Nuclear Victory in New Jersey! But at the Cost of a Hefty Subsidy for Solar

New Jersey’s passage today of legislation to prevent the premature closure of the state’s nuclear plants is another crucial victory to save America’s largest source of clean energy.

Climate and environmental scientists organized by Environmental Progress urged New Jersey’s Governor Philip Murphy to pass the legislation, and I testified in support of the legislation last December.

But the legislation’s passage came at a hefty price: 18 to 28 times more in subsidies for solar energy than will be received by nuclear plants.

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New Jersey votes to subsidize solar at rate 18 to 28 times greater than subsidy for nuclear

New Jersey votes to subsidize solar at rate 18 to 28 times greater than subsidy for nuclear

New Jersey’s state legislature today passed legislation that will subsidize solar at a rate 18 to 28 times greater than a state subsidy for nuclear, a new Environmental Progress analysis finds.

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Billionaire Energy Speculator Tom Steyer Bankrolls Arizona Initiative That Would Close America's Single Largest Source of Clean Energy

Billionaire Energy Speculator Tom Steyer Bankrolls Arizona Initiative That Would Close America's Single Largest Source of Clean Energy

Tom Steyer, a billionaire energy speculator, is bank-rolling an Arizona ballot initiative that would prematurely close the state’s sole nuclear plant — which is also America’s largest single source of clean energy — and replace it with fossil fuels.

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California in Danger: Why the Dream is Dying and How We Can Save It

California in Danger: Why the Dream is Dying and How We Can Save It

California today is frequently held up as a progressive model — but is it? California’s high cost of living is a major factor behind the state having the country’s highest rate of poverty and inequality. When the cost of living is taken into account, California still spends less on K-12 education than all but four other states.  In truth, California is neither progressive nor a model for other states. What’s behind California’s high cost of living are tax, regulatory, and other policies that are regressive and parasitical. California has routinely reformed its government in the past and must do so again today. This begins with a vision of a high-productivity and high-wage economy.

— Curb corruption with a New Sunshine Act that requires transparency into government contracting, permitting, regulating and other activities, and break up the corrupt California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC);

— Build abundant housing by up-zoning all cities and suburbs to allow modestly taller buildings, and by closing the loophole in the state’s most important environmental law (CEQA) that allows interest groups to file expensive and frivolous lawsuits anonymously and repeatedly;

Create high-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, biotech, and innovative agriculture by leveraging the state's research universities and community colleges in partnership with new and modernized industries and capturing scale-ups from R&D;

— End poverty by raising the minimum wage, embracing automation, including the autonomous vehicle revolution, and mandating high school and college apprenticeship partnerships with advanced manufacturing and other industries;

— Personalize and modernize education by establishing a 9-to-5 school day that results in the elimination of homework for students, and of schoolwork for teachers; an incremental lengthening of the school year; and unleashing the special talents of all students through digital instruction and teacher tutoring;

— Make property taxes fair and sustainable by empowering a representative “citizens jury” to undergo a year-long evidence-based deliberation that culminates in an amendment to California’s constitution;

— Establish and enforce the principle of universal worker rights for all social classes by demanding the federal government create a path to citizenship for a labor force lacking political rights and power; reforming public pension obligations; and making pension contributions the responsibility of future public employees.

This plan can unify workers, employers, and taxpayers. Workers will benefit from higher wages and cheaper housing. Employers benefit from being able to grow their high-wage and high skill business in California. And Baby Boomer homeowners will benefit from the creation of housing their children and grandchildren can afford.  This coalition should be enough to overcome well-funded interest groups. School teachers, principals, and parents will benefit from a modernized school day and year, higher pay, and better outcomes. The labor unions whose members lack housing they can afford greatly outnumber the small number of unions opposing CEQA reform. And pro-density environmentalists are younger and growing in power over anti-development NIMBYs.

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Electricity prices in California rose three times more in 2017 than they did in the rest of the United States

Electricity prices in California rose three times more in 2017 than they did in the rest of the United States

Between 2016 and 2017, California’s electricity prices rose three times faster than they did in the rest of the United States, according to a new analysis by Environmental Progress.

The increases came despite 2017 having the highest output of hydroelectricity — the state’s cheapest source of electricity — since 2011.

Electricity prices in the rest of the United States outside California rose two percent, the same as the rate of inflation. 

Between 2011 and 2017, California’s electricity prices rose five times faster than they did nationally. Today, Californians pay 60 percent more, on average, than the rest of the nation, for resident, commercial and industrial electricity. 

Economists agree that “the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector [in California] has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.” 

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Jerry Brown's Secret War on Clean Energy

Jerry Brown's Secret War on Clean Energy

Since he was elected in 2010, Gov. Jerry Brown has gained an international reputation as a climate leader. He has spoken at the Vatican, at U.N. climate talks, and promoted California’s policies in China. Journalists routinely praise Brown for reducing emissions by expanding clean energy.

But is Brown’s climate reputation deserved?

A new, two-year investigation by Environmental Progress concludes that no American has killed more zero-emissions energy than Gov. Jerry Brown — and in ways that sometimes benefited his own family financially.

We publish this story on the day the Brown-controlled California Public Utilities Commission has voted to kill Diablo Canyon, California’s largest single source of clean energy, and the state’s last nuclear plant.

They did so despite being under federal and state criminal investigation relating to the closure of yet another nuclear plant, San Onofre, in 2013.

What makes this corruption story matter is that it resulted in rising emissions and electricity costs.

Had the Brown administration’s repeated self-dealing resulted in lower emissions and cheaper energy, this would just be the story of yet another crooked family’s political dynasty.

What makes EP’s investigation even more significant is the crucial role Brown played in legitimizing anti-nuclear ideology, and creating the anti-nuclear movement — one which has replaced nuclear plants with fossil fuels in Germany, Vermont, Japan, Taiwan, and other nations around the world.  

The story begins in the 1960s with the construction of Diablo Canyon. The goal of the state’s electric utilities was, at the time, to reduce dependence on coal, oil and natural gas, which were expensive and dirty.

But the same year the Sierra Club endorsed the building of Diablo Canyon, Brown’s family came into extraordinary oil wealth — wealth that depended on maintaining the state’s dependence on imported foreign oil.

On taking power in 1975, Brown and his allies aggressively wielded power in ways that directly benefited Brown’s family, including by killing nuclear power plants.  

All of the evidence and sources we cite come from credible newspaper, historical, archival, and court evidence, and none of the facts we present have been, to our knowledge, contested by any of the parties involved.

While little of the evidence we present is new — and most of it is, in fact, decades old — EP has presented comprehensive evidence that the war on nuclear energy has a strong financial component.

We are not suggesting that financial motives alone explain the anti-nuclear movement, but the heavy and sustained involvement of Gov. Brown and others with a direct financial interest in killing the main competitor to petroleum and natural gas can no longer be ignored as a key factor to its rise and continuing power.

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Environmental Progress Urges US Justice Department Action Against Corrupt California Public Utility Commission

Environmental Progress Urges US Justice Department Action Against Corrupt California Public Utility Commission

Environmental Progress has requested the U.S. Department of Justice to take over from the California Department of Justice the investigation of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for possible criminal activities relating to the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

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Elon Musk's Tesla Calls for Killing California's Largest Source of Clean Energy, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

Elon Musk's Tesla Calls for Killing California's Largest Source of Clean Energy, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

Over the last two years, Elon Musk has been lionized as a climate hero for creating a high-performance electric car (Tesla) and a fast-growing solar panel company (Solar City).

Now, Tesla, which absorbed Solar City last year, has come out in favor of *closing* Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, California's largest source of clean energy.

Imagine the outcry if a nuclear energy company tried not just to kill solar subsidies but actually *remove* Solar City panels from rooftops in order to build more nuclear plants.

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We fought hard, and won big. Now we must press our advantage

We fought hard, and won big. Now we must press our advantage

EP’s work saving nuclear in Illinois, New York, Connecticut, France and South Korea will reduce carbon pollution the equivalent of keeping 22 million cars off the road by 2025

The work of saving nuclear by Environmental Progress will prevent $25 billion in economic damages from climate change damage by 2025, based on the US EPA's social cost of carbon.

If EP were to take just 10 percent of the credit for those victories, every dollar donated to EP resulted in a nearly 2,000-fold impact.

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Saving New Jersey's nuclear plants will save lives and jobs. President Michael Shellenberger's testimony

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Testimony by Michael Shellenberger, Founder and President, Environmental Progress.

December 4, 2017

Mr. Chairperson and members of the committee: thank you for accepting my testimony.

As background, I am a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” Green Book Award-winner, and president of Environmental Progress, an independent nonprofit organization funded entirely by individuals and philanthropic foundations.

I am here today because I am very concerned by the threat that nuclear plant closures pose to the environment, public health, and jobs. 

I was against nuclear energy for most of my life and only changed my mind after confronting key facts about the limitations of renewables. 

New Jersey gets electricity from three nuclear plants. If they close, emissions in New Jersey will rise the equivalent of adding 2.7 million cars to the road. Children, the sick, and the elderly suffering from asthma or respiratory diseases will pay the highest price.

The New York-Newark region is already among the 25th most polluted cities in America in ozone and particulate matter. The American Lung Association this year gave 11 New Jersey counties an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

If you allow your nuclear plants to close, electricity prices will rise and high-skill, high-paying jobs will be lost.

My home state of California stands as a stark warning. Our electricity prices have risen from 13 cents to 18 cents per kilowatt hour since 2011. By contrast, electricity rates nationally rose from just 10 to 11 cents during the same period. 

High electricity prices have driven manufacturers out of California and we today have the highest poverty rate in the country, according to the US Census Bureau.

What happened to California? It’s simple: we closed one of our two nuclear plants, which generate power at a cost of about 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and increased the amount of electricity we receive from natural gas, solar, and wind.

The best available peer-reviewed economic research finds that the value of wind drops 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity and the value of solar drops by half when it gets to just 15 percent.

What about the battery revolution we’ve heard so much about? There isn’t one. As a result, Californians have to pay Arizona to take our unneeded solar electricity so it doesn’t blow-out our grid.

What about carbon emissions? They rose in California by 11 million metric tonnes while they declined 174 million metric tonnes in the U.S. as a whole.

The share of New Jersey’s electricity from natural gas already doubled since 2010, and last year provided 56 percent of your electricity last year. Nuclear provided 39 percent of your electricity last year and is the critical bulwark against over-dependence on natural gas. 

Natural gas is cheap now, but if it becomes 90 percent of your electricity you can expect prices to spike. Once a nuclear plant is closed it’s closed forever. You can’t just go start it up again once natural gas prices rise.

I encourage you to join New York and Illinois in taking sensible measures to safeguard public health, jobs, and consumers by ensuring the continued operation of your nuclear plants.  Thank you.

Why I changed my mind about nuclear power: Transcript of Michael Shellenberger's TEDx Berlin 2017

Why I changed my mind about nuclear power: Transcript of Michael Shellenberger's TEDx Berlin 2017

Like a lot of kids born in the early 1970s, I had the good fortune to be raised by hippies. One of my childhood heroes was Stewart Brand. Stewart is not only one of the original hippies, he’s also one of the first modern environmentalists of the 1960s and 70s. As a young boy, one of my favorite memories is playing cooperative games that Stewart Brand invented as an antidote to the Vietnam War.

I started my environmental career as an anti-nuclear activist and I quickly got involved in advocating for renewable energy. In the early part of this century I helped to start a labor union and environmentalist alliance called the Apollo Alliance and we pushed for a big investment in clean energy: solar, wind, electric cars.

Then, Stewart Brand came out in 2005 and said we should rethink nuclear power. 

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Why is California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom Seeking to Kill Our Largest Source of Clean Energy?

Why is California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom Seeking to Kill Our Largest Source of Clean Energy?

When the utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced last summer that it would close California’s last nuclear power plant, the mainstream news media mostly applauded.

The New York Times gave a loud endorsement of the decision. “Good news from Diablo Canyon,” wrote the paper’s Editorial Board. Diablo’s closure would, “serve as a positive example for other states and nations that may in time need to replace aging nuclear plants without increasing carbon emissions.”
 

But it's now clear that PG&E will take no action to ensure California’s carbon emissions don’t spike when Diablo closes, and they’re telling us loud and clear. The utility’s position is simple: all of Diablo’s emissions-free energy will be replaced by fossil.

It will be all of us who lose if PG&E closes Diablo. But the truth will find a way, and so will Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, and Californians for Green Nuclear Power as we fight this injustice and drag the government and PG&E’s dirty hands into the light.

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The Power to Decarbonize

The Power to Decarbonize

This report was born from an ongoing effort by the staff and research fellows of Environmental Progress and other researchers to understand the fastest way to decarbonize national economies (i.e., reduce emissions per unit of gross domestic product) in order to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

We publish it to fill a gap in the scientific literature and the regularly issued reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which are overwhelmingly focused on modeling future scenarios with little regard for real-world historical trends.

We are more than ever of the view that a future-facing climate policy must be informed by backward-facing energy analysis. The attention given by energy analysts, policymakers, and the IPCC to scenarios ungrounded from history is wildly disproportionate to the attention given to the real world experience of deploying clean energy technologies and their impact, or lack thereof, on carbon intensity and emissions.

Given what’s at stake, this constitutes a grave error. Those who insist on ignoring the past, to modify Santayana, should not be allowed to force the rest of us to repeat it.

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Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson Sues Prestigious Team of Scientists for Debunking 100% Renewables

Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson Sues Prestigious Team of Scientists for Debunking 100% Renewables

Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and a group of eminent scientists (Clack et al.) for their study showing that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to claim that he had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar.

Jacobson’s lawsuit is an appalling attack on free speech and scientific inquiry and we urge the courts to reject it as grossly unethical and without legal merit.

Further, we urge all environmentalists — including those that support the 100 percent renewables framework, such as Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — to join us in denouncing Jaconbson’s legal action.

What Jacobson has done is unprecedented. Scientific disagreements must be decided not in court but rather through the scientific process. We urge Stanford University, Stanford Alumni, and everyone who loves science and free speech to denounce this lawsuit.

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Another Pro-Nuclear Victory!! This time in Connecticut, USA! Here's what it means

Another Pro-Nuclear Victory!! This time in Connecticut, USA! Here's what it means

In another big victory for pro-nuclear forces, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has just signed legislation to prevent that state's sole nuclear plant from closing.

The victory comes just a week and a half after the upset pro-nuclear victory over anti-nuclear forces in South Korea, whose citizen jury voted 60 percent to 40 percent to continue that nation's nuclear build-out.

Environmental Progress was intensively involved in advocating to save the plant, publishing an open letter signed by the world's leading climate scientists and environmentalists — as well as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes and Harvard's Stephen Pinker — and publishing an in-depth analysis of the environmental consequences that would result from its closure.

This is the fourth big victory for Environmental Progress and our pro-nuclear allies saving nuclear plants. Last year we won in New York and Illinois. This year we've won in South Korea and Connecticut.

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Saving Power in Danger: Michael Shellenberger Keynote Address to IAEA

Saving Power in Danger: Michael Shellenberger Keynote Address to IAEA

Nuclear power is the only energy source that can lift all humans out of poverty while protecting the natural environment. Why, then, is it in danger of going away? 

In my keynote address yesterday to the IAEA’s quadrennial ministerial meeting in the United Arab Emirates, I trace the anti-nuclear movement’s roots to a famous essay by the German philosopher (and, yes, Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Intermittent renewable energies like wind, Heidegger and his anti-humanist, anti-nuclear followers argued, were the key to restraining human ambition.

Should we thus be surprised that the big increases in solar and wind over the last decade still weren’t enough to make up for even the decline of nuclear over the last decade?

Sting said it best last year: “If we’re going to tackle global warming, nuclear is the only way you can create massive amounts of power.”

Nuclear power’s important for something else, I argue: averting thermonuclear war between the US and North Korea.  

Atomic humanists must take a page from South Korea — whose “citizen jury” decided to continue that country’s nuclear expansion — and seek our saving power precisely where the danger lies. 

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“James Hansen Courage Award” to Be Given to South Korean Labor, Student, and Academic Leaders in Recognition of Pro-nuclear “Citizens Jury” Victory

“James Hansen Courage Award” to Be Given to South Korean Labor, Student, and Academic Leaders in Recognition of Pro-nuclear “Citizens Jury” Victory

Ten South Korean labor, student, and academic leaders will receive the James Hansen Courage Award for their successful defense of nuclear power on Thursday, October 26 in two separate ceremonies in Ulsan and in Gyeongju.

The distinction will be awarded to the 10 South Korean pro-nuclear leaders by Environmental Progress (EP) President and Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” Michael Shellenberger.

The award is “For courageous leadership in fighting climate change with  nuclear energy and preserving the Earth for future generations.”

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