Humanity faces two challenges in which nuclear power plays a pivotal role: the spread of nuclear weapons and mitigating climate change. Both have human origins, and both are linked to the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is the most prodigious source of carbon-free electricity now available, and could prove pivotal to addressing global climate change and air pollution concerns.
Yet inherent in the use of atomic power is the risk that the technology and materials can be mishandled, resulting in tragic disasters, or diverted to terrorists or hostile nations and used to make nuclear weapons. The key question is whether we can use nuclear energy to reduce the threat of climate change without increasing the risk of nuclear accident or attack. .
Daniel Poneman, senior fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and the president and chief executive officer of Centrus Energy Corp., argues that the world needs an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, one that advances the goal of decarbonizing the environment through all available means—including nuclear power.
Doing so will require well-crafted laws and policies implemented with an ethos of constant vigilance and embedded in a culture that weaves safety and security goals into the fabric of our nuclear programs. The results, he says, would enable government and industry to work together to maximize energy and climate benefits while minimizing safety and security risks.
Drawing on his previous experience as deputy secretary of energy under President Barack Obama and a member of the National Security Council staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Poneman makes a compelling case that we can enhance the ability of nuclear power to combat climate change even as we reduce the risks of nuclear terror.
Poneman’s new book, Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror Through Climate Change (MIT Press), is available for sale and signing.