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We do not need nuclear power

Last updated on March 1, 2013

By Michael Karnerfors, 2010-06-15

A common argument against nuclear power is this:

“We don’t actually need nuclear power, because we could potentially use other clean sources of energy”.

I am not going to argue against that particular statement, because it is true. We could potentially rid ourselves of nuclear power and have clean energy from other sources.

There are a few implications and practical matters that must be addressed though. So let’s take this kind of reasoning a few steps further. What other areas is this statement true for? What more could we potentially be without?

Not needed?
Do we actually need any of these?

Seat belts

We could potentially be without seat belts. Seat belts in cars restrict our movement and freedom. We wouldn’t need them if it wasn’t for accidents that happen. If we make sure no accidents happen we will not need seat belts. This is potentially possible to achieve, by training all drivers to drive safe and perfect, and restricting the maximum speed for car travel to 20 kph/15 mph.


We could potentially be without vaccines. Mankind obviously made it all the way to the 19th century without vaccines, so saying we need them to survive as a species obviously isn’t true. Now some people may say that getting sick is unacceptable and we need to prevent certain illnesses such as polio, measles, meningitis, and HIV/AIDS. But this need may potentially still be fulfilled by other means, such as restricting travel between administrative regions, using facemasks and condoms at all times, and to quarantine any person that can be suspected to be a carrier of an illness.


We could potentially be without laws. All we need to do is train every citizen to be a good and honest person. Since some persons go through an entire life without acting morally reprehensible it is potentially possible for all 7 billion persons of the world to do it. We don’t actually need laws, law enforcement, courts, and correctional facilities because it would be so much better if people just didn’t commit crimes.

Checks and Balances, Freedom of Speech

We could potentially do fine without checks and balances, or without freedom of speech. All we have to do is make sure that the government does everything we need without having to check up on it, or protest against it when it does something we don’t like. It would be so much better if the government was perfect to begin with.

…and so on.

The examples could go on. When looking at things bare and naked, we only actually need

  • air to breathe
  • food to eat
  • protection from the elements
  • procreation

…to thrive as a species. Every other species on the planet gets by just fine on this. Everything else is not a need per se but instead “nice to have” features.


These goals have not been reached. We are not there yet. And the fact that we could potentially get there one day does not diminish the fact that we are not there now, meaning we cannot ignore road accidents, crippling and killing illnesses, crime or government abuse of power.

When it comes to energy 85% – that is 17 parts in 20 – comes from polluting fossil fuels and similar dirty sources. The external costs for this in terms of loss of life, lowered quality of life, monetary costs and loss of production are not acceptable. There is next to universal consensus that particle pollution and gaseous emissions from the use of fossil fuels is a very bad thing. There is a clear and present need to cut down on or entirely eradicate the use of fossil fuels, because they are killing us, something which also cannot be ignored.

So until these needs have been fixed, I don’t know about you, but I feel rather keen on keeping my seat belt, vaccines, laws, cops, jails, this silly little thing called freedom of speech… and nuclear power.

If you want to tell me that we should not have any or all of these, I will not be satisfied by hearing you say what we potentially could have instead. I want to see you tell me what we will have instead, and back that statement it up with solid guarantees and a time table I can take to the bank. Because I’m not betting my life or health on potentially good things.

Published inBad ScienceCommentaryEnglish