Nuclear Energy


Plaque commemorating Enrico Fermi’s Chicago Pile-1 experiment. His wife Laura dubbed this plaque the Birth Certificate of Atomic Energy. Photo: Olivia Fermi.

This is a page of curated links and other resources generated by my research on the Neutron Trail. [Check back often – will continue to add materials.]

People ask me if I’m for or against nuclear energy. Actually I’m against climate change. But as long as there is an argument about which energy to use, then, unfortunately, in my opinion, we Earthlings are in a triage situation and from this perspective, it looks like nuclear energy is part of the picture.

Nuclear Energy as Part of the Climate Change Solution

“The country which first develops a breeder reactor will have a great competitive advantage in atomic energy.” — Enrico Fermi, Los Alamos, 1945

We should have listened to Enrico Fermi is a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) post about the need to develop clean nuclear energy as part of the response to over-population and climate change. Physicists I’ve spoken with and leading scientists I read about say nuclear energy is part of the climate change solution. Exactly how to achieve it and with which technology differs between them. Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Laureate in physics, suggests thorium as an alternative to uranium since it’s cleaner and more plentiful. Richard Garwin says more research and development is needed to implement the best solutions.

But it’s also about political will, which may or may not materialize. James Hansen leading climate change scientist argues nuclear energy is part of the climate change solution. He advocates a gradually increasing fee and dividend on fossil fuels at source (instead of cap and trade) to stimulate safer energy technologies for our grandchildren’s future.

What Does the Future Hold for Nuclear Energy?

In April 2011, The Economist magazine held an on-line debate about nuclear energy. The debaters were experts in the field: one in favour and one against. Anyone could comment and/or vote. The vote shifted back and forth three times and ultimately pro nuclear energy won 60% of votes.

March 2012 The Economist offered a special issue devoted to nuclear energy, with a fairly pessimistic view for future prospects. (More articles on Nuclear Energy pull-down list.)

My own view is we need to somehow come to terms with the history of nuclear technology (both weapons and energy) to really be able to act logically moving forward. On the Neutron Trail I attempt to highlight key disconnects, for example in this post I wrote for Vancouver Observer March 2012 on the question of how Fukushima derailed Japan’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord.