imgNuclearIcon Nuclear

Encourage or discourage building nuclear power plants. Nuclear power production does not release carbon dioxide, but it produces harmful nuclear waste.



  • Public information campaigns to raise public concerns about the risks of nuclear power.

  • Policies to retire existing nuclear power plants.


  • Government policies aimed at handling nuclear waste and reducing costs of nuclear power.

  • Corporate efforts to promote public acceptance of nuclear power plants.

Big Message

  • Nuclear is not a huge driver of future temperature and competes with the growth of renewables and new zero-carbon technology.

  • It could be part of a suite of climate action if one is willing to accept the environmental costs – e.g., handling waste materials and the risk of radiation damage near the plants.

Key Dynamics

  • As you subsidize nuclear, watch Nuclear (light blue area) grow, and Coal (brown area) and Natural Gas (dark blue area) decrease in the “Global Sources of Primary Energy” graph. Nuclear displaces some fossil fuel sources, which keeps more carbon in the ground and helps reduce temperature modestly.

  • Nuclear competes with all energy sources available, so notice also what happens to Renewables (green area) when nuclear is incentivized —it decreases too.

Potential Co-Benefits of Discouraging Nuclear

  • Risk of exposure to radiation from a nuclear meltdown or hazardous waste is reduced.

  • Nuclear energy can use more water than coal for electricity production, so discouraging nuclear power can increase water security and help protect wildlife habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. 1

  • Nuclear energy is fueled by uranium which can be harmful to mine, so discouraging nuclear energy can reduce risks to miners.

Equity Considerations

  • Nuclear power plants, uranium mines (which provide the fuel for nuclear power), and waste sites are often located in low-income, marginalized communities that often lack resources to advocate for stricter environmental regulations and oversight. 2

  • Mining uranium poses significant health risks to miners as well as surrounding communities due to water contamination and toxic waste.

Slider Settings

The following table highlights the numerical ranges for the labelled input levels of the Nuclear slider. Each of the energy supply sliders is set to reflect a similar percentage cost increase or decrease for each input level.

highly taxed


status quo


highly subsidized

Change in price per kilowatt hour (kWh)

+$0.07 to +$0.03

+$0.03 to +$0.01

+$0.01 to -$0.01

-$0.01 to -$0.03

-$0.03 to -$0.07

Cost increase or decrease

+60% to +30%

+30% to +10%

+10% to -10%

-10% to -30%

-30% to -60%

Model Structure

This sector tracks several stages of nuclear power plants, or energy supply capacity: capacity under development, under construction, and actually producing energy, including delays between each stage.

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Union of Concerned Scientists. (2013, July). How it Works: Water for Nuclear.


Kyne, D., & Bolin, B. (2016). Emerging Environmental Justice Issues in Nuclear Power and Radioactive Contamination. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(7), 700.