Climate Change Advocate Goes Rogue!

Dr. James Hansen, a leading world expert on climate change has been my hero for more than a decade. But he now has brought me great disappointment. On November 3, 2013, Dr. Hansen decided to support the construction of large numbers of nuclear plants as way to save the day for climate change [].

Dr. Hansen, what in the world were you thinking?

I applaud the work Dr. Hansen has done over the decades. He was the man who rang the wake-up call before Congress concerning the threat of global warming, and he has dedicated his life to educating the public and looking for safe, viable and sustainable solutions.

Subsequent to my study of this issue in depth, the results were published with my co-researchers/co-authors Jerry B. Brown and Rinaldo S. Brutoco in our book Freedom From Mid-East Oil.

Why then do I believe that Dr. Hansen is categorically wrong in his views on nuclear power?

  1. His reference to a “new and safer” technology refers to breeder nuclear power. This technology has been on the drawing boards for decades and has never been built because, as with all nuclear power technology, it is hugely expensive and cannot compete economically with any other form of safe power generation. Globally, more than $100 billion have been spent over 60 years on breeder reactor research and development. The results are dismal. Nuclear power has always required tax-payer subsidies as well as publicly-financed indemnity in case of an accident. No nuclear plant anywhere has ever been completed on time and on budget. Overruns are most often huge, in the billions of dollars, and these costs are always placed on the shoulders of the taxpayers through an increased rate structure. Furthermore, taxpayers are never informed upfront that when the plant is decommissioned years down the road, it is they who will pay for this decommissioning through increased taxes and these costs are prohibitive due to the requirement to deconstruct a large facility contaminated by long-lived radioactive materials.
  2. Nuclear is not only expensive, but it is slow to build, requiring more than a decade to bring a single plant to commercial fruition. None have been built in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island accident in 1974.
  3. Nuclear is not safe. There have been two catastrophic international accidents (Chernobyl and Fukushima) and numerous smaller accidents for this allegedly “fail-safe” technology. As for Chernobyl, we may not know the full impact of Fukushima for many decades. A number of studies in the U.S. and in Europe have shown that people, especially young children who live close to nuclear plants incur a significant increased rate in the incidence of cancer and leukemia.
  4. Nuclear power provides the possibility of weapons-grade radioactive isotopes falling into the hands of terrorists.
  5. There is no known safe means of storing and processing long-lived dangerous radioactive waste. Billions of dollars and decades of time have been spent looking for a solution with none in sight.

Dr. Hansen, there is a better alternative!!

The negative press on renewable energy, primarily supported by the fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies is nonsense. There is much to be gained in energy efficiency and the world is not only ready for renewable energy, but it is poised to make the shift to this safe and sustainable form of power. Technological progress over the last 5 years, mainly driven by courageous technically-creative entrepreneurs has demonstrated this case. Renewable energy such as wind and solar can be deployed faster, cheaper and safer than any known nuclear power system. For example, over the last 10 years in the U.S., more than 50,000 megawatts (equivalent to 100 large-scale coal-fed power plants) of wind power were built. Not one nuclear power plant was built despite huge tax-payer subsidies. Progress in solar photovoltaic electric power is equally impressive. While taking nearly 40 years to install the first 50,000 megawatts of global solar power, the same amount of solar power was installed in the last 2 ½ years. Another 100,000 megawatts will be installed by 2016. That’s progress and it is accelerating. Furthermore, there are indications that within the next 3 years new technologies will be available that will allow cheap, efficient storage of electrical power. This will be a game changer for sure.

Dr. Hansen, ask yourself this simple question:

“Wall Street investors who pounce on nearly any investment that will make even a modest return, have never shown even the slightest interest in putting up their investment funds for a single nuclear plant. Why is that?”


 James A. Cusumano, Ph.D., is a former rock and roll crooner, movie producer, pharmaceutical CEO, and author of BALANCE, who now owns and operates Chateau Mcely, an award-winning castle hotel and spa in the Czech Republic.