Thursday, 14 September 2017

Nuclear cheerleaders' fake news

Your incisive editorial (“The Guardian view of offshore wind: cheaper and greener,” 14 September; makes many strong points, not least highlighting the exigencies of  potential security compromises and terrorism vulnerabilities of the planned new  nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point.

But there is a fatal flaw in the arguments you set out, which merits challenge. The Editorial asserts: “Nuclear power has a trump card: it is a zero-carbon technology which delivers a continuous, uninterrupted supply.”
This is demonstrably untrue.
On the latter point, you only have to consult published the operating record of nuclear reactors to see this is an unsustainable claim. All reactors have  lengthy planned outages (shut downs) for operational reasons; some have significant unplanned outages due to operational failures; and in the extreme case of  post-accident safety prudence, such as in Japan, their  54 reactors were all closed for years ( nearly 50 still are closed) after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, and become hugely expensive “stranded assets.”
On the former point on  alleged zero carbon status of nuclear plants, you repeat a similarly erroneous assertion made in your editorial of  I October 2005 (“Pre-empting debate,”) where you wrote: “The big advantage of nuclear generation is that it does not produce environmentally degrading emissions in the way that fossil fuel generation does."
You kindly printed my response to this assertion (“There is nothing green about Blair's nuclear dream: to assess the industry's environmental impact, we must look at the whole fuel cycle ( in which I set out in some detail the various ways the  carbon footprint of nuclear power is substantial, if the whole ‘cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel chain ( ie uranium mining, milling, enrichment, fuel production, in-reactor fuel irradiation, storage and ultimate final long term management), is properly calculated.
I pointed out then that  nuclear industry proponents, such as those  gathered at this week’s World Nuclear Association  jamboree in London, are fond  of spreading deliberate fake news such as  describing nuclear energy as "non-carbon emitting."
It is about time this  dangerously misleading falsehood was confined to the dustbin of history.

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