I recently had the pleasure of reading Al Gore’s latest volume, The Future. This not particularly tightly written book has among other things a section on biotechnology that shows that Gore’s attachment to science is somewhat fleeting. Of particular interest to me is a comment Gore makes about nuclear power.

In the climate change section entitled “False Solutions,” Gore expresses some skepticism on nuclear power, and writes the following:

There is still a distinct possibility that the research and development of a new generation of smaller and hopefully safer reactors may yet play a significant role in the world’s energy future. We should know by 2030.

Similarly, in a Reddit Q & A, Gore bemoaned new reactor designs being long in the future: “New reactor designs hold promise but they are all at least 15 years away.”

So, new nuclear reactor designs are 15-18 years away from coming about. Certainly not a good situation.

However, instead of moving the clock forward 18 or so years, let’s move it back 19 years. In 1994 the Clinton-Gore administration shut down work on the Integral Fast Reactor, the very type of reactor Gore is complaining about being years away. If this decision had not been made we would not be looking at new reactors by 2030, but instead new reactors up and running right now, and also capable of running on nuclear waste.

So, what we have here is Al Gore using a situation he helped bring about as a reason to be skeptical of nuclear power. Instead what he ought to do is apologize for the wrong headedness of the Clinton-Gore administration on the issue, and support calls for the Obama administration to restart the IFR programme. Gore, unfortunately has long had a blind spot on nuclear power.


Robert Wilson is a PhD candidate in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He blogs at Carbon Counter, where this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @planktonmath.