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Environmental Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 3, Fall 2016

Jame Schaefer
Pages 259-286

Imprudence and Intergenerational Injustice
The Ongoing Vices of Opting for Nuclear Fueled Electricity

Despite the U.S. government’s failure to isolate from the biosphere the highly radioactive spent fuel that has been accumulating at nuclear power plants for sixty years, some governmental officials, scientists, nuclear industrialists, and environmentalists are urging increased reliance on nuclear-generated electricity as part of the strategy to mitigate global warming. An ethical analysis of their proposal is warranted, and one promising approach is the theologically grounded process of making prudent decisions like those that Thomas Aquinas outlined and explained in the thirteenth century. Following his detailed method of discovering the facts, identifying a justifiable course of action, and commanding its implementation, it can be concluded that adding more nuclear capacity to our nation’s energy mix is imprudent and will produce intergenerational injustice until the isolation of the spent fuel at existing plants is underway and space is assured for the spent fuel removed from new nuclear reactors. The primary motivation for converting from the ongoing national vices of imprudence and intergenerational injustice to a nation characterized by the virtues of prudence and justice is love for others when expressed and demonstrated inclusively.

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