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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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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