Nuclear must be part of the low-carbon mix

The Guardian/18 September 2017

Re David Lowry’s criticisms of nuclear energy (Letters, 17 September), it is true that nuclear plants stop generating temporarily for maintenance and repair, but the same is true for most other forms of electricity generation. However, on average these outages represent a much smaller quantity of lost generation compared to the day-to-day intermittency of wind or solar. Nuclear plants spend a high proportion of the time generating at their maximum capacity.

On emissions, some proponents of both nuclear and renewables do fall into the habit of referring to their technologies as “zero-carbon”, even though there are some greenhouse gas emissions produced with all forms of generation. But there is remarkable academic agreement that the emissions from nuclear, wind, solar and many other non-fossil generation sources are similarly low per unit of electricity generated and these emissions are tiny fractions of those associated with burning coal and gas. We desperately need to cut emissions in our electricity mix to as low as possible.

The nuclear industry’s Harmony programme has a goal of 25% of the world’s electricity being supplied by nuclear energy by 2050. The remaining 75% would need to be supplied by a broad mix of other almost zero-carbon generation options, alongside energy storage and smart grids to help deal with intermittent generation and variable demand. We should work together for a strong, clean future for electricity generation rather than quibble while coal burns.


Agneta Rising
Director general, World Nuclear Association


The simple engineering facts that solar only functions less than one-third of the day and wind only functions when winds are just right mean that they are unreliable and must be backed up at a moment’s notice. In most areas, that’s by burning gas in low-efficiency “peaker” turbine plants that never get shut off fully to protect their expensive equipment. So, wind/solar energy is far from free, has high related emissions and is far more expensive than a nuclear plant that runs 90% of every year for decades. Nuclear power provides far better capacity, stability, longevity and jobs than can wind/solar enterprises, all while providing local communities with reliable power and great economic benefit to boot. The combustion industry loves renewables because their use commits poorly informed electorates and legislatures to installing emissions-producing backup.


Dr Alexander Cannara
Menlo Park, California, USA

News Source: The Guardian