Email of the day
Comment of the Day

October 25 2010

Commentary by David Fuller

Email of the day

On nuclear power:
"David - given your (and my) interest in uranium/nuclear power, this seemed a thought-provoking bit of reading, from one who would appear to have some understanding of the industry."

David Fuller's view Thanks for this report: Honey, I Shrunk the Renaissance: Nuclear Revival, Climate Change, and Reality, received in PDF format. That title sets the tone for an unenthusiastic and mildly sardonic assessment of nuclear power by Peter Bradford, an academic and former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I note that his article is currently featured on a number of sites which I suspect are mostly lukewarm on nuclear power, at best, such as Greenpeace and Democratic Underground.

Having read the report, I found it somewhat disjointed but the main objections appear to be cost competitiveness relative to coal and natural gas power stations, plus confusion and reticence over the financing of nuclear power plants which are understandably expensive to build.

Fullermoney has previously cited shale gas extraction as a potential 'game changer' and there is little doubt in my mind that its abundance in the USA has helped to keep energy prices lower over the last year and counting than what we would have seen without this technology. Today, any fossil fuel power station is going to be much cheaper to build and run than nuclear.

However, energy related questions for the US government or any other national government are, I suggest: 1) how long will fossil fuels be available at anything close to today's prices; 2) what source of non fossil fuel technology is most likely to make the greatest contribution towards the Holy Grail of energy self-sufficiency; 3) which source of energy will lead to the greatest overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?

The first question is the most difficult to answer, in my opinion. However it would seem naïve and wishful thinking to assume that prices of fossil fuels will remain low, given that extraction costs are very likely to rise as the most easily accessible supplies are exhausted by an energy-hungry world. Renewable sources of energy are obviously highly desirable and their cost will hopefully decline in time, but wind, solar and biofuel cannot remotely equal the output of nuclear energy anytime soon. Consequently, nuclear energy will make the greatest reduction in greenhouse gasses caused by fossil fuels.

I find US inertia over nuclear power worrying. This seems to be a problem of governance although a bankrupt Treasury does not help. Republicans and Democrats remain deeply divided on most issues. Where is the vision?

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