Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Nuclear power cannot be accurately described as "clean energy"

Letter submitted to The Guardian:

I was really surprised to read this sentence in your new energy correspondent Jillian Ambrose’s report on electricity generation going greener (“Fossil fuels produce less than half of UK electricity for first time,” 21 June; www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/21/zero-carbon-energy-overtakes-fossil-fuels-as-the-uks-largest-electricity-source) viz: "UK homes and businesses will rely more on clean electricity generated by wind farms, solar panels, hydro power and nuclear power reactors."

I cannot understand how she could put renewable energy conversion technologies alongside nuclear, and describe both as ‘clean.’


The former, to be sure, are virtually clean (after manufacture of the conversion technology, such as turbines or panels), but nuclear is certainly not "clean."


Aside from routine radioactive emissions and the huge contamination of the entire nuclear plant in operation leaving a decommissioning nightmare, there is also the creation of nuclear waste, for which no nation has a long term management solution, and the cataclysmic consequences of accidents, with Fukushima fallout costing a fortune to clean up;  and Chernobyl's  radiological contamination still persistent in the far away Alpine uplands in Austria as well as in close-by Belarus and Ukraine.


Additionally, nuclear is not ‘carbon-clean’ either, when the full nuclear fuel chain is a examined, as I pointed out 14 years ago in The Guardian. (“There is nothing green about Blair's nuclear dream: To assess the industry's environmental impact, we must look at the whole fuel cycle,” 20 October 2005; www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/oct/20/greenpolitics.world)


The nuclear industry lobby has tried to brand nuclear as part of a suite of "clean energy technologies." It demonstrably isn’t. Please don't adopt this inaccurate and highly misleading shorthand in The Guardian.

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