Nuclear energy is neither a viable nor equitable response to addressing the climate change crisis. Despite decades of promises, nuclear energy proponents have left a myriad of concerns unaddressed; the adverse environmental and health effects of uranium mining, operational risks and the associated safety concerns, financial risk and regulatory uncertainty, unresolved nuclear waste management, nuclear weapons proliferation, and adverse public opinion.

Mining Uranium Contaminates Communities

Uranium mining requires continuous mining of a very dangerous and dirty chemical element, contaminating water, air, land, and communities. The Church Rock uranium mill spill in New Mexico, for example, remains the largest release of radioactive material in U.S. history (even more radioactivity than the Three Mile Island accident). Today, there are more than 523 contaminated sites across the Navajo Nation, and some communities have no local drinking water due to contamination from uranium mining activities. Uranium mining also causes lung cancer in large numbers of miners, because uranium mines contain radon gas, which decays into carcinogenic products. Uranium mining is only getting dirtier as the planet’s easily accessed sources are depleted, leaving the nuclear industry to rely on the dirtiest sources of uranium.

Nuclear is in Decline

According to the International Energy Agency, which monitors energy developments worldwide, 25 percent of nuclear capacity could be lost by 2025 and two-thirds by 2040. Today, the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear power in the United States stands at about 20 percent, a percentage that is virtually unchanged since the early 1990s. Little new capacity is being built and much of the current fleet of reactors is nearing the end of its lifespan.

Nuclear Energy is Too Slow

The fight against climate change is a race against time. The nuclear industry cannot rapidly expand production given 20 years of stagnation and declining market investments. From reactor manufacturing, ageing facilities, and the considerable time it takes to design and build a reactor and to pay back the energy debt from construction, the nuclear industry cannot respond fast enough to address our climate change reality.

Nuclear Energy Produces Greenhouse Gas

Claims that nuclear power is “carbon free” are false. At every step, nuclear energy produces greenhouse gases – from the mining and enrichment of uranium, the manufacturing, transporting and reprocessing of nuclear fuel rods and waste, to the building and dismantling of the reactors. Nuclear power is more greenhouse intensive than most renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures. Total greenhouse emissions from nuclear power will increase even more as the world’s high-grade uranium ores are exhausted.

Nuclear Energy is Too Expensive

Investors are turning their backs on nuclear power because the cost of nuclear energy keeps increasing as the cost of renewables keeps falling. According to the International Energy Agency, from 2000 to 2013, 57% of investments in new electricity generation capacities have been in renewables, and only 3% in nuclear.

Nuclear Energy is Not Adapted to a Changing Climate

The realities of climate change mean our world is now increasingly prone to fires, floods, extreme storms, and sea-level rise, and scientific evidence and recent catastrophes call into question whether nuclear power can function safely in our warming world. Unpredictable weather, fires, rising sea levels, earthquakes and warming water temperatures all increase the risk of nuclear accidents, while the lack of safe, long-term storage for radioactive waste remains a perpetual danger. Finally, nuclear energy consumes more water than any other source of energy generation at a time when difficult choices regarding the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources are being exacerbated by climate change.

Nuclear Waste Means Radioactive Pollution for Thousands of Years

The nuclear cycle creates pollution that will remain radioactive for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years. Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to require the federal government to identify a permanent geological repository—a long-term storage site—and begin transferring waste from nuclear power plants to that repository by 1998. That never happened. Almost 40 years after Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Act, our country still has no permanent solution for where to store nuclear waste, leaving the burden to future generations. This means nuclear waste tends to stay where it is generated, typically near low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color.