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Is It Time to Expand Nuclear Power?

For decades, the development of nuclear power has sparked staunch debate among scientists, politicians, and activists alike. Should nuclear energy fuel our future?

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Overview

For decades, the development of nuclear power has sparked staunch debate among scientists, politicians, and activists alike. For its proponents, the promise of nuclear energy is clear: It's the most effective means of reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change while still meeting the world's growing demand for energy. And to date, nuclear energy produces approximately 10% of the world's power and rakes in billions in revenue in the United States alone. But its critics argue that expanding nuclear energy is dangerous and ill-advised. They cite the high costs of building powerplants, the potential consequences of a meltdown, and the challenge of managing waste. Rather, they argue, we should look to wind and solar to meet our energy demands. Should nuclear energy fuel our future? Arguing for the motion is Kirsty Gogan, co-founder and executive director of Energy for Humanity with Daniel Poneman, former deputy secretary of energy. Arguing against the motion is Gregory B. Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission with Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Featuring a keynote conversation from Bill Nye, scientist and CEO of the Planetary Society. John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on January 23, 2020.

FOR:
· Cutting fossil fuels to meet climate targets requires using every clean energy option available. Renewables alone can't meet the world's energy needs.
· Renewables are inconsistent - the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow - but nuclear power can operate nearly every day of the year.
· There are fewer nuclear-related fatalities than those related to fossil fuels; nuclear power isn't as dangerous as the public assumes.
· The low operating costs of nuclear power justify the high initial investment. The next generation of reactors will recoup the cost of earlier models.

AGAINST:
· Meeting climate targets requires switching to the quickest, cheapest carbon-free energy possible. Nuclear plant construction is too costly and time-consuming.
· There isn't sufficient regulation and governance to monitor nuclear energy at a large scale.
· Nuclear infrastructure could be weaponized by both governments and terrorists.
· Uranium mining and radioactive waste remain dangerous and the United States still doesn't have a permanent solution for dealing with nuclear byproducts.

About

John Donvan (Host and Moderator): The moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. debates since 2008, John Donvan is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has served as ABC’s White House Correspondent, along with postings in Moscow, London, Jerusalem, and Amman. John is the coauthor of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (Crown, 2016). In addition to premiering his first one-man show, “Lose the Kid,” in 2013 in Washington, D.C., John is a four-time Emmy Award winner and was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2010.

Arjun Makhijani (Against the Motion) is the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the author of "Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for US Energy Policy." He has spent decades studying nuclear disarmament and energy efficiency. Makhijani has a Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in nuclear fusion.

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Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society and to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. After Nye attended a 2014 Intelligence Squared debate on GMOs, he spent time with panelist Dr. Robert Fraley and publicly changed his mind on the topic. He is CEO of the Planetary Society, a space-interest group, and hosts the “Science Rules!” podcast. Nye is best known for hosting the children's science show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," “Bill Nye Saves the World,” and is the author of multiple bestselling books.

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Daniel Poneman (For the Motion) is a former government official and nuclear energy executive. Under President Obama, he was the Deputy Secretary of Energy and also served as a COO of the Department of Energy. He is now the president and CEO of Centrus Energy, a global energy company that supplies low enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power plants. He is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and author of the recent book “Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change.”

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Gregory Jaczko (Against the Motion) is the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), where he handled the American government’s response to the Fukushima meltdown. After leaving the NRC, he wrote “Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator” and founded the wind energy company Wind Future LLC.

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Kirsty Gogan (For the Motion) is the co-founder and executive director of Energy for Humanity (EFH), an NGO focused on decarbonization and energy access. EFH led a delegation of climate scientists to defend nuclear energy at the Paris Climate Conference. A founding director of CleanTech Catalyst, Gogan has advised the UK government on nuclear power and evaluated the national response to Fukushima.

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Debate: Is It Time to Expand Nuclear Power?

01: Debate: Is It Time to Expand Nuclear Power?

For decades, the development of nuclear power has sparked staunch debate among scientists, politicians, and activists alike. Should nuclear energy fuel our future?

103 min