Why environmentalists embrace nuclear power

A new documentary, Pandora's Promise, has scientists and politicians arguing over the future of nuclear power. It's a movie about how prominent environmentalists went from being anti-nuclear power to favoring it — largely because the alternative, fossil fuel, is so damaging to our ecosystems.

New York Times journalist Andrew Revkin has captured the substance of this debate over at his Dot Earth blog. Earlier today he wrote about moderating a debate at a screening of the film, and now he has posted comments on the film from Richard Rhodes, the award-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Writes Rhodes:

A welcome debate is building about Robert Stone’s new documentary film, “Pandora’s Promise.” The film looks at the reasons why a number of environmental writers and activists have changed their minds in favor of nuclear power. I’m one of them, along with Stewart Brand (Long Now Foundation, Whole Earth Catalog), Gwyneth Cravens (Power to Save the World), Mark Lynas (The God Species, anti-GMO activist), and Michael Shellenberger (Breakthrough Institute).

We all, one way or another, started out opposed to nuclear power. Each of us then learned more about it or confronted challenging conditions — global warming in particular — that led us to reconsider our opposition and change our minds. That intrigued Stone, since we all now speak and write in favor of expanding its use.

Cravens and I, for example, both encountered respected scientists, men of honesty and integrity — in my case, the Nobel laureate physicists Hans Bethe and Luis Alvarez, among others — who quietly educated us in the relative risks and benefits of nuclear energy. As a result, we both concluded, independently, that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.


Read more on Dot-Earth.

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I have a stupid question: Is there a difference between a Hydrogen Bomb, Nuclear Bomb and Atomic Bomb? I hear scientists in old movies using the terms interchangeably so I don't know if I can trust Hollywood. Mind you, the only experience with this level of radioactive destruction I have is what I see in 50's monster movies so please use small words.