The End of a Controversial Climate Experiment: Lessons Learned and the Future of Nuclear Power Plants

Harvard’s oversight in geoengineering and the push to extend the lifespan of nuclear plants

In March 2017, two Harvard professors, David Keith and Frank Keutsch, discussed plans to conduct the first solar geoengineering experiment in the stratosphere at a small summit in Washington, DC. The proposed experiment involved spraying certain particles high above the planet to reflect sunlight back into space to counteract climate change. However, critics argued that manipulating the planet’s climate system was too dangerous to study in the real world.

The failure of the solar geoengineering experiment raises questions about the boundaries researchers have when exploring controversial subjects. After a decade of planning, Harvard recently announced the termination of the project. The average age of nuclear reactors in power plants worldwide is increasing, with the US having some of the oldest reactors at an average of 42 years old. In Europe, nearly 90% of reactors are over 30 years old. Economic pressures have led to the shutdown of older, especially smaller, reactors, particularly in areas with cheaper sources of electricity such as natural gas. However, older nuclear reactors may still have a significant amount of operational life left.

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