Swords into Ploughshares
At the end of 2013, Susan Eisenhower reported the end of the Megatons to Megawatts program in which Russia would ship Low Enriched Uranium to the United States so that they could convert nuclear weapons into energy. This program costed no money to the United States tax payer, converted 20,000 Russian nuclear warheads, and produced enough energy to power the United States economy for two years by itself. At the time of the agreement, 1992, the motivation for converting these missiles into nuclear power was to convert something dangerous into something productive and positive. Not only has nuclear been found to provide other important applications, but the motivation for converting to nuclear has changed with our climate since 1992.
As President Eisenhower told the United Nation in his address (“Atoms for Peace”) in 1993, “the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.” This miraculous invention is nuclear power and it has the potentially to conserve millions if not billions of lives. Doctors use nuclear medicine to treat and diagnosis sever medical conditions (on over 20 million people a year in the United States) and nuclear has applications in dealing with food and water safety. However, nuclear energy naturally emerges as the technology’s most important and urgent application. As Susan Eisenhower states, “Nuclear energy is the only baseload form of electricity that does not put carbon into the atmosphere – a crucial consideration as the planet grapples with climate change and its consequences.”
Nearly 6 years ago, Susan Eisenhower highlighted how we had no long term plan for dealing with climate change. Like today, short term market influences overrule the long term benefit of carbon free energy sources. For example, Natural gas has risen recently due to the fact that it is cheap, abundant, and easier to extract than building a nuclear power plant. While natural gas provides us with a short-cut to easy energy, continuing down a path of only focusing a few years down the road is very destructive for the planet. Natural gas still emits half of the carbon as coal and continuing to use it, won’t allow us to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
6 years after the end of the Megatons to Megawatts program, expanding nuclear energy is only a more important and urgent issue. Climate models show the necessity of acting now as we are almost out of time. As discussed in one of our previous news articles, “Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change”, those terrifying predictions and models are actually underestimations. Carbon-free energy is a necessity to our planet for the future and with new technologies coming out in the last couple of years-such as small modular reactors, nuclear energy is developing ways to compete with Natural gas’ short-term market appeal. The message is even more important than it was six years ago: nuclear and now.