Former NRC Chair Discusses the Reality of Nuclear Power in 2019

Former NRC Chair Discusses the Reality of Nuclear Power in 2019

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, former NRC chairman Greg Jaczko discusses the reality of nuclear power in 2019. He tells it like it is – stating that nuclear power is, “no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change, nor is it a competitive source of power. It is hazardous, expensive and unreliable, and abandoning it wouldn’t bring on climate doom.”

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Photo: Greg Jaczko as NRC Chairman in 2011 (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A physicist with a doctorate in theoretical particle physics, Greg Jaczko served as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2009 to 2012. For years, he was a nuclear optimist, believing that the industry could improve, and that the dangers of nuclear power were less imminent than the threat of climate change. As a scientist, he was concerned that abandoning nuclear power would lead to a spike in carbon emissions that could catapult us towards “climate catastrophe.” Starting in 2005, however, Jaczko’s opinion on nuclear power began to evolve based on the scientific evidence around him:

“Eight years after Fukushima, that question has been answered. Fewer than 10 of Japan’s 50 reactors have resumed operations, yet the country’s carbon emissions have dropped below their levels before the accident. How? Japan has made significant gains in energy efficiency and solar power. It turns out that relying on nuclear energy is actually a bad strategy for combating climate change: One accident wiped out Japan’s carbon gains. Only a turn to renewables and conservation brought the country back on target.”

Jaczko himself is now focused on offshore wind as a more viable alternative to nuclear, both economically and ethically. At this point, the only thing keeping the nuclear industry alive is the industry itself – lobbyists and insiders. Jaczko sums it up well, “The real choice now is between saving the planet or saving the dying nuclear industry.”


The Washington Post piece, entitled “I Oversaw the US Nuclear Power Industry. Now I Think It Should Be Banned.” can be read in full here on the Common Dreams website.

This article was originally posted in the Washington Post on May 16, 2019.
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