Nuclear power is the greenest option, say top scientists

Nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, some of the world’s leading conservation biologists have warned.

Rising demand for energy will place ever greater burdens on the natural world, threatening its rich biodiversity, unless societies accept nuclear power as a key part of the “energy mix”, they said. And so the environmental movement and pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace should drop their opposition to the building of nuclear power stations.

In an open letter to be published next month in the journal Conservation Biology, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment.

  • Drunk_by_Noon

    Jane Fonda weeps.
    (OK, I could find the pic of Hanoi Jane that I wanted, and besides she was way better looking)

  • AlanUK

    I worked in the nuclear power industry for more than half my working life: partly in technical support but for the last part of my career in a nuclear power station during the construction and early operation phases.
    I and anyone else in the industry could have told these new “experts” this decades ago (if any of them had wanted to listen).
    Fossil fuels are still the best choice for countries without the technical support needed.

    • Brett_McS

      For countries without the technical infrastructure I believe there are new developments in sealed, maintenance-free reactor units.

      • AlanUK

        Brett McS
        Yes. There are plenty of options. Personally, I would rather see a country like, say, Nigeria using its oil to produce electricity than to have nuclear power stations, sealed or not.
        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head over cleavage issues.

        • Brett_McS

          Oh yes, coal and oil make more sense than nuclear in many countries (including Australia). It’s just fun to watch the faux-enviros squirm.

        • Minicapt

          Cleavage is an issue which deserves deeper discussion but less coverage.


    • Xavier

      I too was on the tech end of power generation – all types. Let’s not forget that nuclear is a “base” because it doesn’t ramp up and down quickly; it’s best suited to provide up to the minimum amount of power that is needed 24/7. You still need coal, water, and gas (or unicorn farts) for increased production in the daytime as homes and industry demand it.

      • AlanUK

        Agreed. You need a constant, reliable, source of base load for which nuclear is ideal. On top of that you need a tranche of flexible plant. My very first activity was on that kind of plant. Coal fired, 3 x 120 MW. The plant came off overnight – staged reduction over several hours – and started up in the early morning (my first task was to sit up close and personal to a turbine at 06:45 or thereabouts and collect water samples). The turbine went from cold to 120 MW in under 30 minutes and had been doing that every day (missing some weekends) for over 10 years. Try doing that with wind power (better, don’t bother). Gas turbines for peak loads and pumped storage for dramatic changes in demand. (The classic example was the half time adverts for the Miss World Final. The demand surged as people turned on multiple kw of kettles and went to the rest room/loo/lavatory/bog up and down the country. All the flushing and kettle-filling caused a sharp drop in water pressure and that led to electric pumps cutting in automatically. 2000 MW taken from the grid to 2000 MW sent to the grid i.e. an injection of 4000 MW in a matter of minutes.)
        You need a mix of plant, rooted on a highly reliable source of stable base load. In my book that means nuclear and gas/coal.

  • Brett_McS

    Nuclear power is such a cleavage issue: It splits the greenies neatly into those who actually care about the environment and those who only want to use environmentalism to further the socialist agenda.

    • Good point. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be pursued with vigour.

  • BillyHW

    We really need to get away from this CO2 is bad idea. The earth is better off with more CO2 in the atmosphere than we currently have now. It will lead to, ironically, a greener earth, via more plant growth and a reversal of desertification. And to the extent that it contributes to global warming, which is probably negligible, a warmer earth is a better earth (and again, greener earth). More carbon = more life.

    Nothing against nuclear. We should use it where it’s cheaper and more appropriate to do so. Still need to keep it out of the hands of terrorist entities though.

  • mobuyus

    Don’t forget nuclear is old white-man technology.The race card will be played.

    • Blacksmith

      And there is the problem. I think we should boycott all the technologies of old white men, that will certainly raise the standard of living for the world……

    • DD_Austin

      So is coal… and oil, in fact everything except wood and cow turds…
      considering much of Africa and Asia cut down all their forests centuries ago
      and never replanted… well that just leaves them shit.

  • Thinking From First Principles

    Please forgive me getting technical here, but please do spread the word!
    We currently use pressurized water reactors (PWR) based on uranium fuel … as a legacy of the atomic weapons development program.
    There is a CLEAN nuclear alternative – the thorium fuel reactor with liquid sodium coolant – that is being ignored … in part because the cost per kWh generated is slightly higher than a PWR, and in part because they have absolutely no use in atomic weapons development.
    1) They have a much, much, much lower life cycle cost because they do not produce high level radioactive waste that needs to be stored for millennia.
    2) They can be used to ‘burn up’ the existing waste from our old PWRs.
    3) It is impossible to have a melt-down. The thorium is not naturally radioactive and requires an injection of neutrons for the reactor to start. If the reactor gets too hot then it expands to the point that the reaction shuts itself off … and it won’t re-start ever without an injection of neutrons.
    4) Thorium fuel is more abundant than uranium.
    The bias against nuclear is so high that this technology – capable of providing clean and affordable energy while cleaning up old radioactive waste – is being completely ignored.
    The correct thing to do (IMO) is to mandate conversion of existing generation plants to thorium-liquid sodium when the existing PWR reactors need to be decommissioned, and mandate that they be operated at least until all of the old waste has been destroyed.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      You lost me at ‘mandate’.

      • Thinking From First Principles

        A valid point. I’ll retract the ‘mandate’ part.

        • DD_Austin

          Retract the “CLEAN” as well

          Thorium reactors have just as many, and exactly the same
          problems as some other reactors, just in different ratios.

          They are better than some, but a final solution they are not.

          • Thinking From First Principles

            Sorry SS, I have to disagree with your assertion. Being immune to melt down is categorically different than other reactors, and the sequence of transmuted isotopes is different. There is no naturally occurring radioactivity in the thorium fuel, which is categorically different than that used in a PWR.
            Bullets and arrows are both ballistic projectiles. The differences in degree are large enough to justify separate treatment as to the danger they pose. PWR compared to thorium technology is at least as large of a difference in degree. They are not just better than some, they are incomparably better than others and they can be put in place now, which is when we need them.
            What form would your acceptable final solution take? What set of characteristics would you insist on?

  • I am a believer in technological advancements.

    Solar power is the ultimate green power.

    If the money spent on trying to clean up Chernobyl and Fukushima were spent on solar R&D, solar power would be the most economic source of power. And the world power problems would be solvable.

    • Brett_McS

      Solar flux may be free and ‘green’ but the technology required to capture and store solar energy is neither. The energy density is low, requiring huge amounts of land. The lack of reliability means that other power sources are required as backup. Same problems affect wind energy.

      • Those who don’t believe it is possible should get out of the way of those who do.

        If is only a small technological step.

    • Except the availability of the sun and how to capture the energy in battery form.

  • Blind Druid

    IMHO The reason that most of the civilized world is not running on solar power today, is that sunlight, unlike oil, gas and nuclear fuel, cannot be brokered as a commodity to make fat cats rich. This is the main detriment to its development. The technology has existed for quite some time, but greed is the enemy.

    • AlanUK

      Sorry, Mr Druid: Brett has some good points.
      A further problem for a country like the UK is that the highest load is invariably in winter (heating) and not summer (air conditioning of homes is virtually unknown. Combine that with winter weather which can include a continuous high pressure area over the whole of the UK for a week or so. No wind (so the turbines TAKE power from the grid) and heavy cloud (virtually no solar).

      • Blind Druid

        Alan UK and Brett. Points well taken – especially since I was born in the UK and witnessed many cloudy summers. Thank you for the respectful responses. But you guys are allowing yourselves to be fettered by the idea of solar energy captivation at the surface of the earth. I’m talking about the kind of money already spent on space projects (especially weaponry) being diverted to orbital sunlight harvesting. Sounds very ambitious, but I believe it can be done. I refer back to my original point that greed is the obstacle. Nobody owns sunlight, so it cannot be brokered for wealth. Love & peace.

        • Brett_McS

          Here is the proof that is has been a long-standing problem:

        • AlanUK

          I haven’t looked much at orbital sunlight harvesting but I suspect there will be serious problems with getting the energy back to the Earth’s surface in a safe way. Perhaps it could be made to work on a small scale (but at a high cost) but I doubt it would be suitable on the large scale required to make any difference.
          re: respectful responses: I am a late 60s year old Englishman (I almost said gent but I leave that up to others to assess). I try to treat others with respect where possible.

          • Blind Druid

            Alan UK — I think we’re on the same page – the answer lies in energy beam technology. From satellite to ground station. The safety aspects would have to be addressed, possibly by downlinking to ground stations in remote areas to avoid issues with air traffic. Efficient aircraft warning systems around the ground station would be an easy hurdle for technology today. We are a smart bunch, I know we could do this. Oh – and I am also a British born and educated retired engineer. Hence the mutual respect. I think in your case “Gent” would be appropriate. Cheers.

          • AlanUK

            Thank you.
            I was educated as a chemist although I quickly moved into “applied” chemistry in the power industry with a particular interest in water chemistry and corrosion. Chemical safety (COSHH), monitoring and control of chemical discharges and Quality Assurance were other areas of involvement.
            So, industrial chemist but with close contact with engineers who I generally found to be a practical and intelligent lot. They soon picked up where I could contribute, especially because I took time to explain things in terms they could understand.
            We may meet again on this site.

          • Blind Druid

            We are Brothers — I am a Chem. Eng.– U. of Wales. Hilarious coincidence — made my day Alan. If that’s not enough, my name is Alan also.

          • AlanUK

            “It’s a small world, after all …”

  • AlanUK

    Dear Mr BCF,
    Sorry for my long posts. As you might guess, I don’t use Twitter – I can’t write anything other than catch phrases in 140 characters.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    Another option is harnessing nuclear fusion, the same form of energy that powers the sun. It would take much research, but I believe it is doable and the material sources (such as seawater) are inexhaustible.

  • winniec

    All of this was well known in the 1970s and 1980s to anyone who could understand the economy of scale. Wind and solar can make small contributions, but falling water is mostly used up, except for tidal power. We don’t want to pollute all our beautiful landscapes with towers and dams. The real reason for the reluctance to expand nuclear was the ‘small is beautiful’ philosophy which totally ignored the economy of scale, thus causing more coal to be used and pollution from the huge amounts of raw materials required for all the other energy sources.
    Now we have paid huge amounts of cash to the Gulf states who are funding ISLAMIC terrorism. Thanks, you idiots. All of this was predicted and the Marxist idiots shouted it down. Why does anyone listen to them?

  • Frank Churchill

    Top scientists also say cancer is caused from bad luck!