Nuclear advocates lacking enthusiasm for renewable energy

I have been writing a couple of comments to an open letter Mark Lynas wrote together with George Monbiot, Stephen Tindale, Fred Pearce, and Michael Hanlon to British Prime Minister Cameron at Lynas’ blog.

The letter has this to say:

“Whilst we enthusiastically support research into new technologies, the deployment of renewables, demand-management and efficiency, these combined cannot, without the help of atomic energy, power a modern energy-hungry economy at the same time as reducing carbon emissions.”

It later continues with this gem:

“In addition, if anyone has yet invented an inexpensive low-carbon energy source, we have yet to hear about it – Friends of the Earth today campaigns vociferously in favour of the retention of the solar feed-in-tariff, which delivers perhaps the most expensive, unreliable and socially regressive electricity ever deployed anywhere.”

As I mentioned in one of my comments at Lynas’ blog, “the most expensive, unreliable and socially regressive electricity ever deployed anywhere” does not impress me as “enthusiastic support”.

If anyone wants to support nuclear energy with the argument that it helps with the global warming issue, they better show some real enthusiasm for deploying renewable. Else I will just dismiss them as part of the problem. And those that think nuclear has problems with radiation, waste storage, cost, and proliferation that are more serious than global warming will do so even more.

In other words, anybody without actual and true enthusiasm for deploying renewable energy as fast as possible completely ruins the strongest pro-nuclear argument. This will backfire, as well it should.

And it shows the real damage nuclear does to the climate. It turns around people who in a world without nuclear in the first place would be really “enthusiastically supporting” the only remaining solution into enemies of the climate standing in the way. That is much more serious than a 0.5% increase in cancer risk twenty years in the future which might or might not exist.

This damage to the “enthusiastic support” for the renewable solution is very real and very serious.

Just to avoid any misunderstandings, my position now is that I don’t care either way about deployment of nuclear.

One last point. If you want to oppose renewable energy because you prefer playing with plutonium in deadly Integral Fast Reactors, then say so openly so people can understand your position. Don’t misrepresent it with “enthusiastically support” when you are actually opposed.

And while I’m at it, the list of countries with a high percentage of renewable energy in their electricity generation I compiled on Sunday clearly shows that, yes, one can power a modern energy-hungry economy with renewable only, if one is so inclined. It is done in lots of places already.

4 responses so far

  • Lincoln says:

    I understand your position of encouraging renewable while being neutral on nuclear power because of many pro nuclear advocates attacking the better half of your beliefs. However, just because someone attacks solar power as being grossly expensive and inefficient doesn’t mean they are anti-renewable. They may just be stating an opinion about that particular aspect of renewable and there are other options such as wind and hydro electric power. Unless you think people have to take all or none?

    I would call myself pro nuclear and can relate to what you have said regarding a lot of us attacking renewable as I have done it several times myself. However, I am never suggesting that renewables should not exist, only that the idea of renewables being able to power the world on its own as well as the 74% predicted increase in electricity demand by 2030 is unrealistic and often used to explain why nuclear power should be made extinct. In my opinion maybe renewable could power the world in 50, 100 or 200 years but that is still “maybe” and at what costs (logistical and economical). You come across a lot of people that paint nuclear as the extreme nightmare and renewables as the miracle from heaven that will solve all energies economical, social and environmental problems.

    I am not against your views now and am not trying to change your mind on anything, I just wanted to state my opinion.

    Good luck with your future endeavors.

  • Karl-Friedrich Lenz says:

    If someone wants to support nuclear power for any reason, the dumbest thing one can possibly do is oppose renewable energy. That is a perfect way to alienate a large majority everywhere and increase the number of people opposed. Since there is no shortage of opposition in the first place, pro-nuclear advocacy can’t afford this kind of elementary blunder.

    If someone wants to support nuclear power specifically as a countermeasure against climate change, they better not oppose renewable. No government anywhere world wide even discusses a nuclear only strategy.

    And while Monbiot and Lynas are of course free to be completely wrong about solar, I would prefer that they lay their opposition open. You can’t claim to “enthusiastically support deployment of renewable” and then, in the same article, call solar “the most expensive, unreliable and socially regressive electricity ever.”

    If people want to come out as enemies of renewable energy, I would like them to do so openly.

  • Lincoln says:

    But are they opposing renewables or just solar power? Shouldn’t renewables be prioritizes in importance according to how efficient and cost effective it is to enable renewable to succeed faster. The same with fossil fuels, natural gas should be built instead of coal as it is cheaper and pollutes less but it doesn’t mean I am pro-fossil fuels but things can be prioritized.

    Even within the renewables industry I have noticed first hand the people that are selling solar panels are against wind turbines and probably visa versa (a relative of mine in Denmark sells solar panels for the lights on the streets). It was funny when I visited him last because he was telling me “this wind power stuff isn’t going to work, solar is the only way to go”. I am not suggesting he is right but I had never thought that solar would be opposed to wind and wind in opposition to solar. But he is a salesperson to so might be a bit more competitive than most :). But a lot these renewables companies are on the stock exchange like the other sources.

    So what I was trying to figure out is in your opinion if someone criticizes solar and supports wind and Hydro are they anti-renewable? Is there never to be debate on efficiency or costs of any aspect of renewable? Some people just believe that the mix of wind, solar and hydro should be different and that the solution isn’t black and white.

    Of course there shouldn’t be 100% nuclear, there shouldn’t 100% of anything.

  • Karl-Friedrich Lenz says:

    To be precise, yes, there are different flavors of renewable energy, and people might very well support one of the options over another.

    I recall that there is even an internal debate in the solar camp. Some people support rooftop solar but are opposing what they call “industrial” solar power in the desert, because they want to keep all of the desert space for some desert turtles and other wildlife.

    And if Monbiot and Lynas oppose only solar energy, I may be wrong to assert that their position is anti-renewable.

    However, I still stand by my point that their criticism of solar energy is not compatible with the claim of “enthusiastically supporting deployment of renewable energy”. It would be compatible if they had written “we enthusiastically support renewable energy except solar”, which they didn’t write.

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