The anti-growth, anti-people extremists who started the anti-nuclear movement were wrong.
Michael Shellenberger is President of Environmental Progress, a new environmental organization advocating ethical and practical solutions for nature and prosperity for all. He is coauthor of “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” “Break Through,” and “The Death of Environmentalism.” He lives in Berkeley, California.
Utilities that own nuclear power plants are in serious financial trouble. While it is tempting to blame low natural gas prices and misplaced post-Fukushima jitters, nuclear's troubles are rooted in regulatory capture - a capture that finds its genesis in the origins of the U.S. environmental movement. This capture is now threatening to bring this climate-friendly energy source to the brink.
Consider that in the U.S., utilities have either closed or announced premature closures of seven plants in three years. At least eight more are at risk of early closure in the next two years. In 2011, Germany announced it would close all of its nuclear plants. Swedish utility Vattenfall announced late last year that it would be forced to close several reactors prematurely.
Everywhere the underlying reason is the same: anti-nuclear forces, in tandem with rent-seeking economic interests, have captured government policies. On one extreme lies Germany, which decided to speed up the closure of its nuclear plants following Fukushima. In Sweden the government imposed a special tax on nuclear. In the U.S., solar and wind receive 140 and 17 times higher levels of subsidy than nuclear. And states across the nation have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards, RPS, that mandate rising wind and solar, and that exclude nuclear.