The Nuclear Option

Climate Confidential

The nuclear energy industry is hoping that a growing sense of urgency on climate issues could reinvigorate the market for their technology. Some climate scientists and high-profile nonprofits are beginning to agree. But if nuclear is to play a significant role in a low-carbon energy future, what will it take to make that happen?

Published June 24 at 3:51 pm


It was the winter of “Snowmaggedon” in Boston, and MIT grad students Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie had just passed their qualifying exams in nuclear engineering. Suddenly, after months of nonstop test-prep work, they had the luxury of time. “We said, we’re no longer studying 16 hours a day,” Dewan recalled, “Let’s do something new and exciting!”

As February rolled by, the two began looking at ways to bring to market different types of nuclear reactors that could solve some of the problems—especially safety and waste issues — that have dogged the traditional light-water reactors that produce nearly all of the world’s nuclear power…

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“We both considered ourselves to be environmentalists, and we felt that nuclear power is the best way to shift away from fossil fuels—and from coal in particular,” Dewan said.