Fissures related to nuclear energy are developing in the monolithic movement known as Environmentalism. The Breakthrough Institute has published a good introduction to the schism titled The Great Green Meltdown: How Economic Arguments Against Nuclear Highlight Environmentalist Delusions.
Though this is a simplification, it is generally accurate to describe two sides of the movement that are separating with increasing speed.
One side is led by people that have full time employment — with pensions, health care, and career paths — in major non governmental organizations (NGOs) that long ago declared an official position in opposition to nuclear energy. The professionals — especially the professionals that are engaged in the specific task known as “development” (aka fund raising) — are aware that a substantial portion of their donor base is strongly opposed to the use of nuclear energy. They worry that those donors may reduce their giving if the group stops campaigning against the use of nuclear energy or stops taking action designed to discourage its active development and growth.
Most “rank and file” members of the major environmental organizations do not think deeply about each position taken by the organizations that they have joined; they have many competing demands on their time. For them, membership in the group is a result of general agreement about the stated mission and perhaps group affinity and friendships developed over many years of pleasant community-based activities. They usually trust the leaders and the official positions of the groups they have chosen to join, so they remain opposed to nuclear energy because their leaders and friends remain opposed.
On the other side of the growing gulf are people who care so much about the cleanliness and health of the environment that they devote a large portion of their time, talent and wealth to finding ways to address many of the ills imposed by human society. They have questioning attitudes, engage in research, and are willing to question the statements of the organizational professionals.
Many of the people on this side have become convinced that one of the most important issues of our time is the threat to human society posed by the uncertain effects of continuing to add more than 30 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every single year. They are also concerned about some of the other challenges associated with the effort to provide reliable energy supplies to a large and growing population of fellow human beings. An increasing number of people on this side of environmentalism have decided that nuclear energy is a capable tool whose use should be encouraged, and whose value cannot be dismissed.
The people I know on the pronuclear side of environmentalism are active scientists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, or academics whose careers are associated with environmental issues, but whose income is not from environmental organizations.
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