Crank of the Week - January 11, 2010 - Don't Nuke The Climate

Of all the ludicrous, wrong headed and down right stupid things to come out of the Copenhagen Climate Conference perhaps the most annoying was the formation of an ad hoc anti-nuclear umbrella organization. Over a dozen NGOs participating in the international “Don’t Nuke the Climate” campaign presented government delegates with a giant postcard and 50,000 signatures calling for a nuclear free climate agreement. There are ~6.5 billion people on Earth so the collected signatures amount to 0.000769 percent of the global population. Where do the rest of us sign up for a dingbat free planet?

Speaking on behalf of the “Don’t Nuke the Climate Campaign” Charlotte Mijeon of Sortir du Nucleaire France said “ We are here to present the signatures we have collected in the last couple of months for a nuclear free climate agreement. In a very short period of time, 350 organisations from 40 countries collected 50,000 signatures from more than 100 countries on every continent. This shows that thousands upon thousands of people around the globe want a fair climate deal where expensive, dirty and dangerous nuclear energy is not part of the package.”

The NGOs were joined by prominent green figures including a former Environment Minister of France, Yves Cochet (French MP); MEP, International alter-globalization movement leader Jose Bove , and MEP Yannick Jadot, Claude Turmes, Margrete Auken , Italian MP Angelo Bonelli, Roberto della Seta and Francesco Ferrante. As can be seen from the image below, all the usual green fringe suspects were on board.

In fact, some of the leading U.S. environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund have quietly or implicitly adopted a pro-nuclear position. Several years ago Environmental Defense’s chief executive played a key role in brokering a deal that killed a Texas plan to vastly expand coal generation, and when the dust settled, it came to be understood that instead there would be much greater reliance on nuclear. But many organizations that have been steadfastly opposed to nuclear—Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Physicians for Social Responsibility—remain firmly opposed.

The anti-nuke crowd claims that it takes 10 years to build a nuclear power plant, yet Westinghouse is doing it in 36 months in China. They claim that nuclear energy's output is trivial because it only supplies 2.4% of total world energy, but that is actually 15% of the world's electricity: 19% in the US, 27% in Finland, 30% in Japan, and 78% in France, some of which is exported to Denmark when the wind doesn't blow hard enough to keep their lights on.

They cite the International Commission on Radiological Protection as saying that any irradiation dose may cause cancers and hereditary disorders. So to be safe, CAT scans, medical X-rays or high flying airplane flights will have to go as well. They claim that nuclear power is too expensive, yet much of the expense is caused by construction delays and the interminable, frivolous law suits brought by the green lobby. For more lies and distortions see their web site.

The anti-nuke clique claims that nuclear power is a distraction from real climate change solutions. If you are a global warming groupie who ardently believe that sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are urgently required, the only way to accomplish that is nuclear. There is simply no way to build enough wind and solar to provide solid base load electricity to fulfill today's demand let alone the future's. Both the EIA (US) and the IEA (UN) project world power use increasing significantly in the future, mostly in developing nations. The EIA estimate is 44% from 2006 to 2030. Total energy demand in the non-OECD countries increases by 73%, compared with an increase of 15 % in the OECD countries. IEA forecasts 40% energy demand growth by 2030, mostly from fossil fuels.

World electricity generation will increase by 77% from 2006 to 2030, and that is not just from rich, developed nations. Non-OECD countries are projected to account for 58% of world electricity use in 2030. The highly optimistic IEA recommends a shift to low-carbon energy sources for 60% of total electricity production by 2030—renewables maxed out at 37% (including hydro and geothermal), nuclear rising a bit to 18% and plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (ie. coal plants) a paltry 5%. The rest will continue to come from gas, oil and primarily, dirty coal. It will take more than solar/wind power, wishful thinking and snappy yellow vests to satisfy growing world energy demand.

Even if enough renewable generating capacity could be installed in 10 years—the magic deadline to limit projected temperature rise to 2°C—wind and solar are intermittent sources of power, and there is no practical way to store renewable energy until it can be used. Beyond that, the power grid, even in developed nations, is unable to deal with the rapid long distance reshuffling of supply and demand such renewable sources require for efficient use. Best estimates for manageable non-hydro, renewable power tops out at around 35% of total capacity, leaving unanswered the question “where do we get the other 65%?”

Unfortunately, even if all the opposition were to evaporate, all the regulatory roadblocks were removed, and costs came down, representatives of the US industry admit that they now are in a position to initiate no more than two or three reactor construction projects per year. At that rate, they could barely replace aging reactors as they are decommissioned. If a dent is to be made in fossil fuel use this just isn't good enough. Perhaps the US should hire the South Koreans, they have contracted to provide the UAE with four 1,400 megawatt reactors for a total $40 Billion by 2020.

The only way to solve this problem is by making nuclear power a national priority in every country. Priority must be given to cutting through the bureaucratic red tape and, above all, providing secure government backed financing for plant construction. Of course that is exactly the opposite of what the neo-Luddite anti-nuke lobby wants. So, for standing in the way of progress and trying to cause the collapse of the entire industrialized world, this Crank of the Week is for you: Don’t Nuke the Climate.