As we move toward a change of government, and as certain voices deny that global warming is even an issue of concern, something very remarkable has just happened. Too often, news headlines about clean energy focus on wind and solar, stumbling over all the problems and impracticalities of those technologies; and nuclear only gets mentioned to report on a plant being shut down or to keep up an atmosphere of misplaced alarm about nuclear weapons.
But last week, in his final month of office, Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that we need to use nuclear power to address the energy crisis. Wind and solar by themselves are not going to cut it. You can read the full transcript of his talk on the Secretary of State website or a brief report on it at Sputnik News.
What’s even more significant is that Kerry stated this in a speech to students at MIT, one of the premier science-oriented schools in the nation. Science was precisely the basis for his remarks and a recurrent theme running through them. Secretary Kerry had recently visited Antarctica, one of those extreme zones that is affected most clearly and most early on by changes in climate and global temperature, and he had talked with scientists there. So he spends significant energy on making the point that science isn’t about denial or propaganda and that it needs to be taken seriously. “We don’t get a second chance on this one,” he says, calling on MIT’s brains to come up with ways to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Wind and solar get front billing as clean-energy technologies because that’s just how it is in the public discourse right now. But, Kerry says, we need more. He concedes that back in 1970 he was on the other side of the nuclear debate. “But given this challenge we face today and given the progress of fourth generation nuclear, go for it. No other alternative. Zero emissions.”
Three short sentences that communicate an enormous amount. You could say that they sum up the first half of my book. Or, you could say that they require my book as background to unpack everything contained within them. My book explains what is “fourth generation nuclear.” My book goes into enormous depth about why there is “no other alternative,” and my book brings out the true marvel of “zero emissions” that could save the day in what Kerry admits to be a bleak situation. Not so bleak! Wind and solar do something. But nuclear is improving all the time, and with zero emissions, there really is no alternative..