The Nuclear Temptation: The Perils of Pushing Atomic Energy as the Climate Change Panacea

Is nuclear power on the verge of a renaissance? Its supporters argue that atomic energy is the only way to satisfy humanity’s hunger for more energy without aggravating the effects of global warming. Critics, however, regard the nuclear hype as over-simplistic optimism fueled by an industry in distress.

The constant drizzle coming down over the Cotentin Peninsula on Normandy’s coast has cloaked France’s nuclear future in a fine mist. Massive electricity towers stand in the wet fog looking like identical giants with slumping shoulders. “British weather,” says Philippe Leigné while looking at the dirty hulks of concrete that comprise the nuclear reactors Flamanville 1 and 2. The construction foreman for French energy titan Electricité de France then points to a pit near the foot of a small rise.

“We have to move 600,000 cubic meters of granite,” says Leigné. There’s not much time left. He has to pour the foundation for Flamanville 3 onto the rocky Norman soil this year to keep what will become the world’s most powerful reactor on schedule to deliver electricity to the grid by 2012. … More


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