Intelligence Squared debate: It's time to expand nuclear power

The Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant near Prairie Island Indian Community
The Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant is located 600 yards from the Prairie Island Indian Community in Welch, Minn.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

A new debate from the Intelligence Squared U.S. series, moderated by John Donvan.

For decades, the development of nuclear power has sparked staunch debate among scientists, politicians, and activists alike. For its proponents, the promise of nuclear energy is clear: It's the most effective means of reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change while still meeting the world's growing demand for energy. And to date, nuclear energy produces approximately 10 percent of the world's power and rakes in billions in revenue in the United States alone.

But its critics argue that expanding nuclear energy is dangerous and ill-advised. They cite the high costs of building power plants, the potential consequences of a meltdown, and the challenge of managing waste. Rather, they argue, we should look to wind and solar to meet our energy demands. Should nuclear energy fuel our future?

The debate motion is: “It’s Time to Expand Nuclear Power.”

Keynote speaker: Bill Nye, scientist and CEO of the Planetary Society.

For the motion:

Kirsty Gogan, Co-founder and executive director of Energy for Humanity.
"As a humanitarian and an environmentalist, the real appeal of nuclear energy is its incredible energy density, thousands of times more energy dense than coal, which means it can power whole civilizations with a tiny ecological footprint."

Daniel Poneman, president and CEO of Centrus Energy.
"Fear of nuclear power has killed many more people than nuclear power has killed. Consider Germany. After Fukushima, they closed eight reactors. Since that time, 1,100 people per year have lost their lives because of coal-fired pollution."

Against the motion:

Gregory B. Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"Nuclear power is wonderful. But the practical reality is we cannot build the amount of nuclear power plants we need in order to make a real dent in climate change in the next 10 to 15 years."

Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
"We have a shortage of two things in solving the climate crisis. We have a shortage of time and we have a shortage of money. Nuclear energy is really bad for both."

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.