Speaking at a Congressional hearing in support of a massive, costly energy bill that would attempt to slow global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, Al Gore likened climate change legislation to some of the largest events in U.S. history:
I believe this legislation has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940’s. I am here today to lend my support to one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”
He went on to say:
We are radically changing the relationship between the human species and the rest of the Earth. This year, 2009, is the Gettysburg for the environment. It is the time we have the opportunity to change.”
And just as he warned us in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, he lectured on doomsday scenarios that included twenty-foot sea level rises, increased droughts and floods, and stronger hurricanes – all that would lead to about 600 million climate refugees. Although egregious and untrue, Gore’s statements weren’t all too surprising. But for someone who truly cares about climate change, he truly resents the largest producer of emissions free energy in this country: nuclear power.
Myth 1: Gore claims operators make mistakes and alluded that a nuclear accident was likely.
Fact: The reality is that has never been a death or injury as a result of nuclear power production in the history of the United States. The most serious accident in U.S. history involved the partial meltdown of a reactor core at Three Mile Island, but no deaths or injuries resulted. The local population of 2 million people received an average estimated dose of about 1 millirem–insignificant compared to the 100-125 millirems that each person receives annually from naturally occurring background radiation in the area.
The fallacy that transporting nuclear waste is dangerous is also easily refutable. Indeed, more than 20 million packages with radioactive materials are transported globally each year–3 million of them in the United States. Since 1971, more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste have been transported more than 18 million miles without incident. Transportation of radioactive materials is just not a problem.
Myth 2a: Gore argues we don’t have a long-term nuclear waste storage solution.
Fact: We do have a solution to long-term spent nuclear fuel storage, but problems do exist. These problems are strictly political, not scientific of technological. The biggest problem (read: mistake) was entrusting the government to appropriately manage the solution to nuclear waste. The best way to fix the problem of nuclear waste is to get it out of the government’s hands. A free-market approach to managing nuclear waste, with proper government oversight, is the way to ensure that the commercial nuclear industry will be sustainable in the long run. Heritage nuclear expert Jack Spencer details the federal government’s mismanagement of waste and offers market solutions here.
Myth 2b: Furthermore, Gore believes that even if we do develop a solution to long-term storage, the waste can and will be turned into weapons.
Fact: For states without nuclear weapons, the problem is more complex than simply arguing that access to peaceful nuclear power will lead to nuclear weapons proliferation. Nuclear weapons require highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and producing either material requires a sophisticated infrastructure. While most countries could certainly develop the capabilities needed to produce these materials, the vast majority clearly have no intention of doing so.
For start-up nuclear powers, the preferred method of acquiring weapons-grade material domestically is to enrich uranium, not to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Uranium enrichment is completely separate from nuclear power production. Furthermore, nothing stops countries from developing a nuclear weapons capability, as demonstrated by North Korea and Iran. If proliferation is the concern, then proper oversight is the answer, not stifling a distantly related industry.
Myth 3: Gore also goes after cost, saying nuclear is not cost effective because we only have large plants and no one can afford them.
Fact: If nuclear energy is not cost effective, that is a decision to be best made by those in the nuclear energy industry, not politicians or former politicians pretending to be climatologists. But for any energy source, energy production should be based on cost-benefit analysis – an analysis that should be done without including government subsidies, tax production credits or mandate. All energy sources should have the opportunity to compete in the market, so long as they can stand on their own two feet.
Al Gore’s ‘sincere’ desire to save the planet without nuclear is like implementing the Marshal Plan without giving aid to the UK or France (the two countries receiving most U.S. assistance) or having the civil rights movement without Brown vs. Board of Education.
It’s this imperialistic and hypocritical nature of politicians underscoring the entire global warming debate that makes the whole process disingenuous.