Opposition to nuclear power is irrational – Atlantic Sentinel

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Nuclear power plant in China (iStock)

In my last column for the Dutch opinion blog Wynia’s week, I argue that opposition to nuclear power makes no sense.

  • Deaths from nuclear accidents are paltry compared to the eight million deaths caused each year by fossil fuels.
  • Uranium, the most widely used nuclear fuel, is scarce, like oil and natural gas, but it is two million times more powerful than oil.
  • All the nuclear waste produced in the world so far could fit in a single football stadium. Modern reactors are able to recycle their waste as fuel until there is almost no radioactive waste.
  • The production of nuclear energy does not emit carbon dioxide (CO₂). The environmental impact of nuclear energy barely registers when compared to the devastation wrought on the planet by fossil fuels.

Addiction

France is almost entirely energy independent thanks to nuclear power. It has four times the population of the Netherlands but half of its CO₂ emissions.

With the phasing out of nuclear energy by Germany, the cessation of natural gas production by the Netherlands in Groningen and the phasing out of coal production by Germany and the Netherlands , dependence on Russian gas will increase. Germany imports 94% of its gas. The Netherlands 72%, compared to 29% in 2013. Europe as a whole buys half of its natural gas – used both for heating and to generate electricity – from Russia.

Dependence on Russia not only inhibits European foreign policy; it is worse for the environment and makes European consumers vulnerable to the whims of Vladimir Putin.

  • Environment: Russia’s gas infrastructure has hardly been updated since Soviet times. Large amounts of methane are released into the environment during gas processing and transportation, and methane contributes 84 times more to global warming than CO₂.
  • Consumers: As I wrote here last week, European energy prices are rising because Russian gas exports are falling.

Governments that can afford it cut energy or sales tax to lower electricity and gas bills.

Upside down

In the nuclear debate, everything is topsy-turvy.

  • Environmentalists who (rightly) argue that we need to “listen to the science” on climate change reject the facts and figures on nuclear energy.
  • Billions are spent on subsidies for “green” energy, but when it comes to nuclear power, the subsidies – necessary because governments deny manufacturers economies of scale – are cited as an argument against .
  • Radioactive waste is a problem, but no one is arguing that we should stop solar or wind power because it produces waste. Old solar panels are thrown away in developing countries, where they are burned, giving off toxic fumes. Wind turbines are partly made of plastic – the world’s number one waste problem – and they only last for 25 years.
  • Several companies, including General Electric of America and Hitachi of Japan, are working on small nuclear reactors that could compete with coal and gas power plants in terms of cost. Mini-reactors would also reduce the risk of disaster in the (extremely rare) event of a collapse. But such technologies are not taken into consideration because they are not yet “proven”.

Click here to read it all.


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