Nuclear energy scares people. The climate crisis is giving it another chance

Growing up in Finland, Iida Ruishalme had a deep affinity for nature — particularly the forest, where she loved to go trekking with her dogs. Now, she’s worried that her daughters won’t experience such idyllic days as the climate crisis accelerates. So last month, she boarded a night train from Switzerland to join protests in the German capital Berlin.

Ruishalme agrees the world needs more wind farms and solar panels. But what she and her fellow demonstrators really want is a commitment to something else: nuclear energy. “We have to give this technology a chance,” the Mothers for Nuclear member said, joining dozens of others who stood with signs outside the city’s famous Brandenburg Gate.

Nuclear power is one of the most reliable low-carbon sources of energy available, but memories of accidents at Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island still loom large, fueling skepticism and fear and deterring investors from funding new projects. Nuclear plants are also notoriously expensive to build. Construction tends to run over budget and time, and wind and solar energy has typically come out cheaper. How to safely store the radioactive waste it produces is another headache.

Germany began winding down its nuclear industry following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, when an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown of three reactors in one of the worst nuclear incidents of all time. All six reactors still operating in Germany should be shut by the end of next year.