The right must address its nuclear blind spot

Connor Tomlinson

October 6, 2019

Open hostility is unavoidable in the discourse of the modern left. We see this, for example, through congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s taunting critics of her proposed green new deal by calling herself “the boss”, challenging them to build their own plan before critiquing hers.

Even so, leaving radical leftist ideas unchallenged by capitalist alternatives allows the left’s tendrils to coil around the issue of climate change, dragging it deep into the shadow of twentieth-century communism.

This is not to suggest that the centre-right has had no impact on climate change. In 2017, the US led the world in reducing carbon emissions while maintaining high economic growth, despite withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. In contrast, the EU, China and Canada all saw their emissions increase, despite signing up to the agreement.

But the way people are surprised when presented with this information is indicative of the right’s failures. It is far simpler for the public to see sweeping legislation as evidence of politicians’ commitment to the cause. The slow-rolling positive effects of deregulation and various stimulatory measures often go unspoken, unheard and unappreciated.

The most obvious and practical path to reducing carbon emissions is nuclear power – a talking point that is ripe for the taking among right-leaning politicians since both Labour in the UK and the Democrats in the US have given it little attention in their climate plans.

Fission plants are carbon-neutral, with emissions only produced during construction and decommissioning. They also avoid dependency on weather conditions, giving them a leg-up over renewable sources, so they can operate at full power for around 336 days per year, which is almost double the efficiency of coal, oil and gas plants.

Nuclear power generation also produces far less emitted radiation than any other energy source. Coal creates so much in the form of fly ash that some nations are experimenting with extracting uranium from the pollutant to fuel nuclear plants.

The waste produced by nuclear is far easier to manage too. Finland and the USA both make use of dense mineral deposits to store their nuclear waste and could accommodate the world’s nuclear waste storage for the next millennium, should other nations make the switch.

Conversely, coal burning produces airborne toxic chemical waste in the form of mercury, arsenic and lead. Even those skeptical about anthropogenic climate change can agree that breathing inhibitions caused by having such harmful particulates in the air are undesirable.

Additionally, there have only been three nuclear accidents in the sixty years since its implementation, namely Three Mile Island, Fukushima and Chernobyl. In contrast, coal plants’ death toll is five times higher in terms of workplace accidents, 470 times higher in terms of deaths linked to air pollution, and a thousand times higher in terms of emission-related illnesses.

The UK and South Korean international trade secretaries recently signed a free trade agreement for post-Brexit Britain. Britain has made a £2bn profit from the prior EU-negotiated trade deal in place.

Not only could the signing of this new deal improve Britain’s access to the world’s fifth-largest (and growing) electric car market, but it could provide a path for the UK to adopt the same nuclear plants that are the cleanest and cheapest producers of electricity in South Korea. This could revitalise communities left deprived of opportunities since the almost complete closure of Britain’s coal plants through the new plants’ construction and operation.

Fortunately for us, America’s recent foreign policy approach has allowed for excellent relations between Presidents Trump and Moon Jae-in. This could present the US with an opportunity to broker an agreement to install nuclear power plants per South Korean designs.

Such an endeavour would benefit the US enormously, as the 98 plants already in operation provide it with twenty per cent of its net electricity production. All that would be required is the cutting of some preventative red-tape, but slashing regulations to liberate markets has been Trump’s forte thus far.

With Trump’s commitment to negotiating a free trade deal with the UK following Brexit, this also presents us with an enormous opportunity to deepen ties in this field.

Of course, it is undeniable that the emissions contributions of the UK and the US pale in comparison to emerging superpower economies like China. But there is, at least conceptually, hope for change. China currently has the ability to build nuclear reactors for a similarly low budget as in South Korea; both nations spend only onesixth of what is spent to build a reactor in the United States.

China is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of electric vehicles, which gives them a vested interest in “green” products. Incentivising electric vehicle production by removing tariffs on low-emission cars, which Britain will be able to do once it’s liberated from the EU’s tariffs schedules, along with an increased demand for materials to build nuclear plants could persuade Chinese oligarchs to adopt more environmentally conscious business practices.

Ultimately, the political right must adapt its rhetoric by offering more comprehensive capitalist policies to establish itself as environmentally conscious. Currently, regardless of the good done by the British and American governments, their silence has allowed the left’s statist ideas to become dominant and deafening in the climate debate, and any success achieved for the planet through freemarket capitalism is allowed to go broadly unnoticed.


  • Connor Tomlinson

    Connor Tomlinson is the Head of Research at the British Conservation Alliance, and a political commentator with Young Voices UK. He appears regularly in C3 Magazine, AIER, and on talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Con_Tomlinson

Written by Connor Tomlinson

Connor Tomlinson is the Head of Research at the British Conservation Alliance, and a political commentator with Young Voices UK. He appears regularly in C3 Magazine, AIER, and on talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Con_Tomlinson


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