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Abstract

This essay explains that such encouragement of nuclear energy production as a “solution” to fossil fuel-induced climate change will create environmental problems equally as grave as those posed by a carbon-based energy economy. Both nuclear energy and fossil energy impose enormous environmental externalities that are not captured by the economics of energy production and distribution. While emissions trading schemes seek to harness market-based efficiencies to accomplish pre-determined reductions, they neither seek to nor succeed in capturing the environmental externalities of energy generation. By creating a set of incentives without capturing all of the externalities, these trading schemes will simply distort the market, possibly leading to a worse overall damage to the environment than global warming by itself. Ultimately, nuclear power production as an alternative to carbon-based energy production simply presents a choice of evils. Efforts to reduce carbon emissions must not come at the expense of distorting energy markets in a way that exacerbates the equally insurmountable problems posed by the multi-millennial storage of hazardous nuclear waste.

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