David Farrar recently posted this post on climate change and the use of nuclear power. The title of the post was “A message for children about climate change” and the post itself is as condescending to young people as the header.
Although he did take a slightly different tack. Rather than criticise young people for being passionate about something that is not actually happening it criticised them for not being supportive of nuclear energy.
Yep all those passionate young people criticising the political leadership that has got us into this mess should be cheerleaders for energy that after Chernobyl and Fukushima and Three Mile Island should be treated with the utmost caution.
He quotes Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon who says this:
Nuclear energy used to be dangerous, back in the olden days. Today’s nuclear power plants (the ones built in the past 20 years all over the world) have killed zero people, and are considered the safest form of energy in the world. More people have died installing solar panels and falling off roofs than have died from nuclear power problems anywhere in the world for the past few decades. And nuclear energy is the obvious way to address climate change, say most of the smartest adults in the world, because it can provide abundant, cheap, clean energy with zero carbon emissions.
Note the rider about the ones built in the past 20 years? Chernobyl melted down because of design flaws and inadequately trained staff. Fukushima also had design flaws that meant that it could not resist the effects of a major tsunami. Three Mile Island partially melted down and caused significant adverse health effects to local residents. Mother nature has the ability of throwing curve balls at human designed structures that pose problems that are not foreseen.
Then DPF said this:
Not quite zero as constructing the plants causes emissions. But it is 12 units per kWh compared to 820 for coal, 490 for gas and 41 for solar.
His figures may come from this Wikipedia page which refers to this IPCC paper. He leaves out some other important figures. For instance when the report was written offshore wind turbines had the same rating as nuclear power and on shore wind turbines are slightly lower.
The figures are from a 2014 paper. Things have changed significantly since then.
For instance the IPCC noted in this 2018 report:
The political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage technologies has improved dramatically over the past few years, while that of nuclear energy and carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) in the electricity sector have not shown similar improvements.
In mid-2019, new wind and solar generators competed efficiently against even existing nuclear power plants in cost terms, and grew generating capacity faster than any other power type, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) showed.
“Stabilizing the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Mycle Schneider, lead author of the report. “It meets no technical or operational need that low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper and faster.”
The report estimates that since 2009 the average construction time for reactors worldwide was just under 10 years, well above the estimate given by industry body the World Nuclear Association (WNA) of between 5 and 8.5 years.
The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit CO2 while awaiting substitution.
“To protect the climate, we must abate the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time,” Schneider said.
Nuclear is too unsafe. The worst thing you can have from a solar spill is a sunny day. The worst you can get from a nuclear reactor mishap is a permanently poisoned local environment. And most importantly implementing nuclear is too slow.
Rather than lecture young people for not supporting a technology that will not save us DPF should applaud them. And he should persuade the dinosaurs in his party that we are facing a crisis that requires an immediate response.