Study touts nuclear power as way to slow global warming
The Boston Globe, July 30, 2003
WASHINGTON - Expanding the production of nuclear power in the United States and around the globe would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, according to a study released yesterday by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The two-year study, led by former CIA director John Deutch and Ernest J. Moniz, a former undersecretary of energy, produced a range of recommendations for promoting nuclear energy through increased safety, economic incentives, waste management, and better antiproliferation measures.
''The generation of electricity from fossil fuels, notably natural gas and coal, is a major and growing contributor to the emission of carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming,'' the report says. ''We share the scientific consensus that these emissions must be reduced and believe that the US will eventually join with other nations in the effort to do so.''
According to the study, a nearly threefold increase in the number of nuclear reactors worldwide, including increasing the number in the US from 100 to 300, could help reduce incremental carbon emissions globally by up to 25 percent.
President Bush pledged during his campaign to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Upon taking office, he said that mandatory reduction in the emissions would be too economically disruptive and that further research was needed into the causes of global warming.
Members of the panel included Deutch, who teaches chemistry at MIT, Moniz, who chairs the school's Department of Physics, and six others from the MIT faculty, including one each from the departments of political science and economics. John P. Holdren, a professor in environmental policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, also took part. The study also had an 11-member advisory committee which included former Representative Phil Sharp, Democrat of Indiana, former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who was White House chief of staff during the first Bush administration.
The report advocates for tax credits that would go into effect for production of power once plants are on line, as well as a tax on carbon-producing systems.
At the same time, the panel argued, the US should focus its resources on current nuclear technologies, which use fuel once before it is discarded, and work to improve those systems instead of trying to develop ''closed'' systems that recycle fuel. The report recommended that the Department of Energy develop a ''Nuclear System Modeling'' project to simulate data on economics, safety, waste disposal, and antiproliferation.
''We have not found, and based on current knowledge do not believe it is realistic to expect, that there are new reactor and fuel cycle technologies that simultaneously overcome the problems of cost, safety, waste, and proliferation,'' the report states.
Current international nuclear nonproliferation treaties and oversight are too weak, the report said. The report recommended closer control of nuclear fuel, augmenting of export controls and strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency.