2 January 2017

Introduction: Nuclear power and the urgent threat of climate change

John Mecklin

John Mecklin is the editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Previously, Mecklin was editor-in-chief of Miller-McCune (since renamed Pacific Standard),...

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With the election of Donald Trump as president, the United States confronts a new era of climate change discussion. As I write this introduction, there are some indications that the new president and his administration will approach climate change as the hoax that he claimed it to be during his campaign, and other suggestions that he is more open-minded on the subject. I do not claim to have any idea how a Trump administration will address climate change, if it addresses the subject at all. But I know that this issue of the Bulletin – which focuses on the complicated question of whether nuclear power can be a significant part of world efforts to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions – provides research and analysis that should be taken into account, before hard decisions on climate change and energy policy are made by the United States government, or any other.

In this issue, leading experts in nuclear energy and climate change provide their best judgments on whether and how nuclear power may or may not reasonably be used to substitute for fossil fuels in generating electricity around the world. As you will see, these top experts do not agree about key elements of the possible use of nuclear power to address climate change.