03/21/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Elise Zoli: In Defense of Nuclear Power

In an exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview, clean energy expert, Elise Zoli said, "The N-word (nuclear) is difficult in the context of renewables ...but most experts who look at climate change and energy security believe that there is a significant role for nuclear."

Zoli, a partner at Goodwin Procter, teaches clean tech and climate change at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management and argues that the technology deserves to be considered since it has a favorable balance of environmental impacts. She believes that nuclear should be part of the clean energy mix.

"Every technology, (even solar and wind turbines), have their externalities," she said and framed the issue thus: "On balance, does it advance energy security, our climate change goals?"

Talking specifically about the traveling wave reactor (TWR) -- a type of nuclear reactor that can use depleted uranium and spent fuel - she said that the promise of the technology is to reduce nuclear waste and that the radioactive material will be managed in place instead of having a long-term waste repository.

Although some environmentalists have embraced nuclear power, citing it as a "green energy" alternative, Zoli's view is still a controversial one. Nuclear critics argue against it, pointing to nuclear proliferation risks, safety issues and high cost. In some scientific circles, discussing nuclear power is even taboo. The debate remains red hot, radioactive.

On the subject of energy storage Zoli argues that the term should be renamed, as it's simply "not sexy."

"It sounds like something that you don't want to talk about, something that belongs in the closet," she said and has introduced the term "dispatchable renewable power."

Whatever you choose to call it, sexy or not, energy storage is a crucial component in the viability of major solar and wind generators since it can improve viability by flattening out intermittency issues.

Hear the full interview and other exclusive green interviews with Paul Krugman, Martin Sheen and Vinod Khosla at Fresh Dialogues.