Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to NPR, since 2001 there has been a surge in young people graduating with nuclear engineering qualifications, who are driven by the desire to convince their fellow greens to embrace the nuclear path to a zero carbon future.
As Nuclear Struggles, A New Generation Of Engineers Is Motivated By Climate Change
June 15, 20185:01 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
The number of people graduating with nuclear engineering degrees has more than tripled since a low point in 2001, and many are passionate about their motivation.
“I’m here because I think I can save the world with nuclear power,” Leslie Dewan told the crowd at a 2014 event as she pitched her company’s design for a new kind of reactor.
Dewan says climate change, and the fact that nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, are the big reason she became a nuclear engineer. And she is not the only one.
“The reason that almost all of our students come into this field is climate change,” says Dennis Whyte, head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“If you are concerned about climate change, or concerned about the environment, you should be very concerned about the future of [Three Mile Island],” says David Fein, Exelon’s senior vice president of state governmental and regulatory affairs.
TMI parent company Exelon announced last year it will close Three Mile Island Unit 1 in 2019 unless there are policy changes that would make the plant profitable again. A different reactor on the site near Middletown, Pa. — Unit 2 — was involved in the country’s worst nuclear accident in 1979.
Fein is among those who argue that nuclear plants should be recognized as clean energy and paid for the public benefit of not emitting greenhouse gases or other pollutants. It’s a strategy that has worked in other states: Illinois, New York and — most recently — New Jersey.
I’m good with green nuclear engineers. Even if they are wrong about climate change, at least their vision for the future makes economic sense.
France proved in the 1970s that you can go full nuclear without ruining your economy. France kept costs down with mass production, by churning out standardised nuclear modules and by large scale reprocessing of spent fuel.
I suspect the green nuclear engineers may have trouble convincing some of their fellow travellers. On the other hand, maybe its the old style watermelon greens who are out of touch, who foolishly believe there is any chance of convincing Generation Z to give up all their electronic toys and embrace a repressive shivering cold green dictatorship for the sake of the planet.
I suspect these green nuclear engineers will find a receptive audience with a younger generation of greens who are used to unlimited convenience and lifestyles of profligate energy expenditure and long distance travel, who view their green parent’s low energy vision of regimented communities living off the land like medieval peasants with something between incomprehension and disgust.