Nuclear debate isn’t black-and-white (so here are some links to make you think)

The nuclear debate is not a black-and-white one and therefore I have little time for those on either extremes of the spectrum who argue so assertively for or against. Unfortunately, many writers that debate nuclear fail to see the nuances involved. It is an either/or stance.

I welcome Angela Merkel’s decision to temporarily switch off seven nuclear power stations built before 1980 whilst urgent safety reviews are conducted. In the wake of events in Japan, Merkel has quite rightly stated that safety must be the priority at this time.

In neighbouring Poland, the ruling Civic Platform party has pledged to continue with plans to build two new nuclear power plants, each with a 3,000 megawatt capacity. It is hoped these new plants will help diversify Poland’s energy sources away from coal and move the country beyond its over-reliance on gas from Russia to the east.

In the New Statesman, Mark Lynas has come out strongly in support of nuclear power:

Anti-nuclear campaigners may feel vindicated [by the Fukushima crisis], but they should be careful what they wish for: if we abandon nuclear, prepare for a future of catastrophic global warming, imperilling the survival of civilisation and much of the earth’s biosphere.

In the Guardian, John Vidal cautions those in the pro-nuclear camp about the perils of the future:

The world has a generation of reactors coming to the end of their days and politicians putting intense pressure on regulators to extend their use well beyond their design lives. We are planning to double worldwide electricity supply from nuclear power in the next 20 years, but we have nowhere near enough experienced engineers to run the ever-bigger stations. We have private companies peddling new designs that are said to be safer but which are still not proven, and we have 10 new countries planning to move into civil nuclear power in the next five years.

Back in October, I posted this short extract from Tony Blair’s “A Journey”:

The case for nuclear power is now so overwhelming that frankly it is almost irresponsible – faced with an energy crunch and climate change – to oppose its development. I bet many of them know that privately, but it would be such heresy to say so and would divide the movement.

Last month, I blogged about Stewart Brand’s (“pragmatic”) position on Nuclear energy.

There are also worthwhile, and different, perspectives on nuclear in the following publications:

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Stewart Brand on Nuclear Power

Fascinating short interview with Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog. In his recent book, An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto, Brand calls for many more nuclear power stations to be built. Watch the video to find out why he thinks this is a solution, rather than a hindrance to the fight against climate change:

Compelling viewing. But isn’t Brand missing something? Doesn’t nuclear power produce carbon? Isn’t nuclear power a safety and health hazard?

Brand certainly raises some important points – many of which we are still very far from consensus.  I’m still unsure as to where I stand on the nuclear versus renewables debate. However, I do admire Brand’s pragmatism on issues as contentious and shrouded in misinformation as the nuclear debate is.

Con-Lib coalition pledge a "low carbon and eco-friendly economy"

The Con-Lib coalition has agreed on the following environmental priorities for government:

The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.

The creation of a green investment bank.

The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills.

Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs.

Measures to encourage marine energy.

The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.

The establishment of a high-speed rail network.

The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow.

The refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

The replacement of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.

The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.

Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.

Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Continuation of the present Government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.

An agreement to seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

Finally, the agreement also lays out a compromise on new nuclear power plants. The Conservatives will allow new plants to be built with the introduction of a planning policy statement, however, no public money will subsidise any nuclear works. The Lib Dems will in turn be able to abstain on any Commons vote on this issue.

Source: better generation