New Internationalist

Is nuclear power necessary for a carbon-free future?

June 2011

The recent devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan have confirmed the worst fears of nuclear power critics. Governments everywhere are re-evaluating their nuclear plans. But are fears of nukes misplaced? Chris Goodall and Jose Etcheverry are both environmentalists – but stand divided on the nuclear debate.

Every month we invite two experts to debate, and then invite you to join the conversation online.

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Chris

I am looking at a website that tells me how much electricity is coming from various sources around Britain. After a decade of financial incentives, wind turbines are currently producing about two per cent of our electricity. Excluding a small amount of hydro, all our electricity is coming from fossil fuels and nuclear. Britain’s 10 nuclear power stations are now producing 10 times as much energy as comes from 3,000 turbines.

I would love it if we powered our entire economy from renewables but I see no political will to achieve this aim. We would need to invest billions now in renewable technologies. Without nuclear, reducing carbon emissions at high speed is impossible. We might end up keeping old coal power stations open for the next 30 years.

People say that we simply need to work harder to persuade a largely indifferent public to accept huge numbers of turbines and to invest billions in other renewable technologies. Such idealism is irresponsible: if we truly believe that climate change is the greatest threat the world has ever faced, we cannot risk failing to achieve the growth in low-carbon energy sources. However much we may regret this, nuclear is the only technology capable of delivering large amounts of power within the next decade. We in the environmental movement have failed to get the UK to invest in renewables and we now have no alternative but to welcome nuclear power.

Jose

Nuclear plants need to be phased out because they are dangerous, toxic and impede the adoption of the three key options needed to build a carbon-free energy future: conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. Conservation and efficiency (i.e. doing more with less) represent two of the three most profitable opportunities to create new jobs and address climate change. To visualize the potential: Canada and the US use electricity at embarrassingly greater per capita rates compared to leading industrialized nations like Denmark and Germany.

Those two nations have not only minimized the way their citizens use power, they’re also constantly innovating efficient design and they’ve become world leaders in the development of renewable energy sources.

Their success is based on developing pragmatic renewable-energy policies, such as feed-in tariffs, which quickly enable entrepreneurs to innovate in vibrant markets that guarantee easy interconnection, fair long-term prices for all types of renewable energy and investment stability.

Germany’s renewable-energy policies in the last 10 years have become the most important climate-mitigation strategy in Europe and are a strong engine of industrial innovation and employment creation.

Germans and Danes have understood that nuclear plants cannot complement renewable- energy sources, as they cannot be turned on or off easily. Furthermore, they also understand that building nukes forces you to sell vast amounts of electricity, which acts as a clear contradiction to efforts at conservation and efficiency.

These lessons are starting to be understood by 148 other nations that have formed the International Renewable Energy Agency to develop rapidly a new paradigm of energy security and climate protection.

Chris

If we believe that climate change is the world’s greatest threat, we cannot risk failing to achieve the growth in low-carbon energy sources. Nuclear is the only technology capable of delivering large amounts of power within the next decade

Almost all of us welcome the rapid growth in renewables but even in Germany only 17 per cent of electricity comes from these sources. The key question is whether renewables have any prospect of growing fast enough to replace fossil fuel sources completely. In the UK and almost everywhere else, I don’t think anybody pretends that low-carbon sources are increasing at anywhere close to a fast enough rate. That is why nuclear is vital – not because we don’t want renewables.

The second illusion is to believe that energy-efficiency measures can significantly reduce demand for electricity. All independent sources predict a rise in electricity use because of home heating and the need to switch to electric vehicles. Conservation efforts are barely denting the demand for power. Environmentalists can bemoan the lack of interest in efficiency. But we need to deal with the world as it is, not how we want it to be. We may not like today’s consumerist, high-energy use lifestyles but we cannot change the world’s priorities overnight. Nuclear power is necessary to meet people’s demands for electricity.

Jose

I’d like to set the record straight on nukes:

  • Nukes are toxic and pose great dangers to present and future generations (Fukushima is now a level 7 catastrophe, the same as Chernobyl).
  • Nukes take at least a decade to build and are highly context-dependent design projects (i.e. a nuke design from Canada cannot be cut and pasted in seismically active places without major design modifications, which by definition involve higher costs, longer timelines, and trial/error experimentation).
  • Nukes are not cheap and uranium is a finite, non-renewable toxic mineral.
  • Nukes can easily be diverted for atomic weapons – one reason the technology has ‘strong’ fans.

Renewable sources on the other hand:

  • Are much safer, have vastly smaller ecological footprints, and represent strategic assets for current and future generations.
  • Most renewable energy systems are manufactured today in assembly lines and can therefore be deployed and implemented very quickly anywhere suitable.
  • Most renewable energy systems benefit from economies of scale; therefore the more money we invest in them the cheaper they become. Plus they use fuels that are plentiful and cheap (e.g. sun and wind) or can be locally produced at stable prices (e.g. biogas/biofuels).
  • Renewables can promote local resilience and energy autonomy, so diffusing sources of conflict instead of becoming weapons.

Chris

Zhang bin fj / AP / Press Association Images
Carry on regardless: China is pushing ahead with its nuclear power programme, with 13 reactors in operation and 35 more, including this one in southeast Fujian province, under construction. Zhang bin fj / AP / Press Association Images

Fukushima is a horrible disaster but we can reasonably expect that no-one will die as a result of the radiation leaks. Yes, nuclear power is very expensive but so are all low-carbon technologies. Most studies show nuclear costing less than offshore wind. What is more, nuclear will deliver power reliably and throughout the year.

People who live and work near nuclear reactors seem happy to have them as neighbours. By contrast, in Britain at least, onshore wind is widely detested.

I cannot accept that other technologies have ‘vastly smaller ecological footprints’. A new nuclear station will generate the same amount of electricity as about 3,000 wind turbines covering hundreds of square kilometres and requiring far more steel, concrete and disruption to wildlife.

We come back to the core argument. There is no political will anywhere in the world to make renewable electricity happen in sufficient amounts. I deeply regret this. Environmentalists watching the world sleepwalk into multiple ecological disasters have to act responsibly and accept that nuclear power is one of the few ways we have of maintaining standards of living while reducing the CO2 production from electricity generation.

Jose

Nuclear plants need to be phased out because they are dangerous, toxic and impede the adoption of the three key options needed to build a carbon-free energy future: conservation, efficiency and renewable energy

So what do we need to globalize a sustainable energy path?

Massive creativity, courage and political will – plus we need to design global deployment strategies for renewable energy that have tangible local social benefits.

For example, farmers who can own or at least benefit directly from wind turbines see them as a desirable cash crop. Schools with solar roofs see them as versatile teaching tools. Hospitals that can have lower fuel bills and cheap hot water via district energy see biomass CHP technology (combined heat and power) as a smart investment.

Our biggest obstacle to solving climate change with renewable energy, conservation and efficiency is the limited experience that most people have with these options. For all of us the most crucial strategy is to get directly involved in ‘learning by doing’ – and to fully use our creativity, which is itself a renewable and unlimited resource.

Chris Goodall was a 2010 Green Party candidate in the UK and is the author of several books on carbon-free lifestyles. For more details see his website www.carboncommentary.com. Jose Etcheverry is a Chilean/Canadian renewable energy activist and an assistant professor of environmental studies atYork University, Toronto.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 443 This feature was published in the June 2011 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 filip. 21 May 11

    Doesn't this problem ask for a more holistic approach than a purely engineer calculation?

    Is the mining with its environmental damage taken into an account?

    The current network of big centralized grids was built century ago and is highly inefficient. Are we now in a modern age going to build the same, even more centralized and hazardous, or are we going to go off-grid and lightweight, harvesting energies already around us?

  2. #2 ando 23 May 11

    of course not- how can the most destructive, unsafe and environmentaly catastrophic power source ever conceived ever be necesarry? Chris's ’political will’ argument is a load of crap, and if you want to use that argument, we may as well not even bother, as the powers that be want to continue to use fossil fuels, as fossil fuels make them more money- so the politicians need to be brought into line on this one- governments should fear and listen to their constituents, not the other way around. The cost argument is just as fallacious- the one and only reason that renewables cost so much, is due to a deliberate decision to make them more expensive than non-renewables, and this is done purely to keep us using the same old outdated technology that makes these companies and governments more money in the first place. The actual fact of the matter, is that renewable energy is cheaper to produce, as the only actual costs involved are maintenance and installation, unlike non-renewables which have to be mined, processed, transported, converted to power, as well as the initial set up and maintenance costs.

  3. #3 antifa 24 May 11

    Nuclear is plain expensive and likely to get more so; the reasons why states do nuclear has everything to do with cross subsidising equally unnecessary nuclear weapons and very little to do with environmental concern (the energy industry lobbyists help a little too). Renewables aren't cheap, but are likely to get cheaper.

    The more nuclear you build the more likely you are to have an accident.

    Say one in a thousand reactors has a serious incident in a year. Your odds of a serious incident are ten times greater if you have ten thousand reactors than if you have a thousand. And thousands are the kind of numbers that you need to build if you're serious about getting away from fossil fuel. So you're basically saying lets have more Fukushimas and Chernobyls. That's fucking stupid when for the same money you could be building something that has a close to zero chance of annihilating large bits of your environment.

    Why choose the worse option?

  4. #4 Kirsty Wood 25 May 11

    Never safe, not necessary and not carbon-free.

  5. #5 Karen Bowler 25 May 11

    Not necessary - but I don't like this phrase 'Carbon Free future..' think harder.

  6. #6 dale dewar 26 May 11

    In short, NO. If we believe the statistics about climate change, there is no way it could rise to the challenge. If we built both replacement nuclear power plants and new ones, we would be using the greatest part of the carbon footprint for nuclear at the very time that we need to be decreasing. By the time the plants were carbon neutral it would be far too late. And we are saying nothing about the rest of the cycle - the waste reprocessing or storage and the eventual decommissioning - estimated to require up to 60 years and require an unknown amount of energy (possibly 2x that of construction). Not viable by any standard.

    And we haven't come close to discussing the health consequences of radioactivity.

    Dr. Dale Dewar.

  7. #7 Ant 28 May 11

    Most debates around this issue are largely opinionated and lacking substance and fact. For example the ecological footprint argument cited by both sides above. It sucks to use an argument without any back up data just guess work.
    Nukes have consequences (environmental and cost) that go beyond a generation. Who are we to impose yet another burden for the future haven't we done enough.
    To maintain our 'standards of living' which I assume includes our expectations of increased consumption year on year is nothing less than insanity.

  8. #8 Gareth Cassin 30 May 11

    The overwhelmig success of the anti-nuclear movement is what has led to the continued investment in coal power stations, and although being the opposite of it's intent, has caused emmisions to continue increasing. We now know that we cannot realistically ’switch’ to renewable energy. After years of campaigning renewable is barely significant in Britians energy input and encouraging poeple to use less energy is a good cause but futile in the fight against climate change. Yes we must continue changing our culture to be more effianciant and eventually have an eco-state but this is progressive and will not happen fast enough to prevent climate change. As well as lacking political will we now lack the resources as Europe deals with recession. Nuclear is not the ideal solution but it is the only realistic one, in order to secure a low-carbon future.

  9. #9 Gareth Cassin 30 May 11

    The overwhelmig success of the anti-nuclear movement is what has led to the continued investment in coal power stations, and although being the opposite of it's intent, has caused emmisions to continue increasing. We now know that we cannot realistically ’switch’ to renewable energy. After years of campaigning renewable is barely significant in Britians energy input and encouraging poeple to use less energy is a good cause but futile in the fight against climate change. Yes we must continue changing our culture to be more effianciant and eventually have an eco-state but this is progressive and will not happen fast enough to prevent climate change. As well as lacking political will we now lack the resources as Europe deals with recession. Nuclear is not the ideal solution but it is the only realistic one, in order to secure a low-carbon future.

  10. #10 cheapSolar 31 May 11

    I note with interest that it looks like even [a href=’http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-26/solar-may-be-cheaper-than-fossil-power-in-five-years-ge-says.html’]solar power will be cheaper than fossil fuel within five years. So rather than subsidising dangerous nuclear we could be investing in cheaper renewables -- wind and solar.

  11. #11 BrianE 01 Jun 11

    As with most proponents of nuclear power, I find Chris Goodall's views of very limited focus and somewhat naive. This is very worrying for someone who is associated with the only progressive political party.
    Too many people confuse electricity and energy. At best nuclear produces 19% of the UK's electricity, but this is only 4% of our total energy use. This perspective is needed in order to properly focus on the problem.
    Furthermore the actual net energy gain from nuclear is quite low if the complete fuel cycle is accounted for and approaches zero when low grade uranium ores are used. Nuclear is potentially disasterous in almost all respects and particularly so that concentrating vast funding and effort on this already discredited technology will actually guarantee that we will never achieve energy sustainability.
    Brian Edwards
    Chartered Building Services Engineer

  12. #12 Rosemary Gordon 01 Jun 11

    I was very concerned, as a Green Party member, to see that N.I. had chosen Chris Goodall to give the 'Yes' argument, in the debate 'Is Nuclear Power necessary for a carbon-free future' and that he was given credence by stating he stood for the Green Party in 2010.
    His arguments, in my opinion, were biased and flawed (His statement that 'Fukushima is a horrible disaster but we can reasonably expect that no--one will die as a result of the radiation leaks' beggars belief!) but most importantly, they are totally opposed to those of the Green Party.
    In December, Caroline Lucas MP, the Green Party leader, pledged her support for a campaign 'No Need for Nuclear, unnecessary, expensive and you pay the bill', which asked the Government to change its mind over the building of new nulcear power stations and for a full-scale investigation into the need for them. She asked all local groups to support this. As far as I know this is still the stance of the party and so I feel it should be made clear to readers that Goodall's views are not representative.
    R. Gordon Leicester Green Party Candidate 2011.

  13. #13 Boyd M L Reimer 02 Jun 11

    Chris said, ’There is no political will anywhere in the world to make renewable electricity happen in sufficient amounts.’ That changed this week when Germany announced that they will be phasing out nuclear power by 2022. Germany's announcement, coming from an industrialized country, is a watershed event: a game-changer. It's the thin edge of the wedge that we can all now use, wherever we are, to create even more political will.

  14. #14 AnnaK 03 Jun 11

    The anti-nuclear debater missed a key argument in his favour. That argument is:

    No, we do not actually need nuclear power. 100% renewable energy is possible. The nuclear industry PR machine has been spinning 'but it can't provide baseload' bullshit for years, which is why people don't have faith in RE.

    I suggest you read the second half of this article: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/Nuclear-energy-isnt-needed/

    And then look at the Energy [R]evolution report (www.energyblueprint.info) to back it up, if you need more information.

  15. #15 K Lawson 05 Jun 11

    Although strongly supporting the use of renewable energy, wherever possible, overall I have to agree with Chris's arguments - lack of political will and time has run out.
    Two further points - one hinted at by Chris. Renewable energy production requires significant space - in Europe, where are all the wind farms, solar cells, etc. going to be sited. Didcot A power station is to close shortly. A replacement wind farm would need to be about the size of the Isle of Wight - and you need wind. Estimates suggest Europe needs an area approaching the size of Germany. Is it really practical to fill the North Sea or Mediterranean with say wind farms or rely on solar cells placed in the Sahara neighbouring countries such as Algeria or Libya for our energy?
    Secondly, it costs millions to maintain the synchronization of the relatively few large power stations in the UK. The introduction of many thousands/millions of small-scale domestic generators onto the grid presents a technical problem, which those working on a solution insist is not yet solved. Although they can make a contribution, at present, it is not possible say to supply industry by this means. Since efficiency has been mentioned, it should also be said that small-scale generation has a particularly high cost masked by subsidies.
    Watch Germany to see if such problems can be resolved on a reasonable time scale and at a sensible cost or whether nuclear energy is just bought in from neighbours.
    What is of concern is that by the time it becomes clear, we will be further down the climate change road - and it will not be Germany that bears the brunt of the ensuing problems.

  16. #16 Zoe Smith 05 Jun 11

    Building more nuclear power stations is walking down an energy dead end. Nuclear power has never been economically self sufficient, it is only 'cheap' because it is propped up by government research and energy subsidies. It will certainly not be cheap to store the radioactive waste from the process for thousands of years, long after the energy companies have gone bust.
    Neither is it a low carbon option; when calculating its lifecycle emissions, including uranium mining and transport, building power stations and dealing with waste, the average total from 100 studies was around 66gCO2e/kwh. David forgets to include the devastation wreaked by Uranium mining and processing into his ecological footprint, maybe because it happens on the land of marginalised people such as Australian aborigines and native Americans.
    We hear talk of miracle reactors that will run off their own waste, but this is as much pie in the sky as carbon capture and storage. These are not what are planned to be built in the next wave of power stations in the UK, and would require huge sums in research and development. Money which will be diverted from the implementation of proven renewable energy technology.

  17. #17 Hugh Richards 07 Jun 11

    I agree with Jose Etcheverry that nuclear power needs to be phased out. The question is one of timing, and whether a new generation of nuclear plants is a tolerable part of decarbonising energy supply. I work in the nuclear industry, but I accept that in the long run, nuclear power is not sustainable. Nor, for that matter, would be fossil fuel burning with carbon capture and storage (CCS) – a deployable technology that Chris Goodall overlooked. The fact that Christiana Figueres of the UNFCCC is now talking about needing to sequester greenhouse gases from the atmosphere should tell us that for the next few decades we are going to need every low-carbon technology we can deploy. That means at least some major economies continuing with nuclear and developing full-scale CCS. The environmental movement should accept this, and should focus on creating effective fiscal incentives to drive energy conservation/efficiency and breakthrough of low-cost renewables.

  18. #18 DocStrange 08 Jun 11

    The political will to create nuclear energy was there in the 50ies and 60ies when oil and coal was cheap and abundant - billions were sunk in this outdated high-risk technology because the governments wanted access to weapons grade plutonium - US, UK, France, Russia, and so forth.

    All costs regarding security, toxic waste and insurance have been passed on to the tax payers, all profits remain with the companies because the will for the bomb (and big profits for the companies) outweighed financial or safety concerns of the state and its public.

    If we now create the political will to combat pollution and climate change of course a rapid change could be achieved, money talks, plans are available for many countries.

    What we find is a lack of political will in Chris to stand for the hard choices, opting for the easy 'let's continue as usual and let future generations sort out the toxic byproducts of our greed'.

  19. #19 estepona 08 Jun 11

    First of all I am surprised that you would have a debate on this subject between an assistant professor of environmental studies and a political candidate who has written several books.

    The second thing to surprise me is that in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (May,2011) it was reported that ’the coalition government led by Prime Minister, David Cameron recently announced that it had bound itself to halve greenhouse gas emissions against 1990 levels by 2027 – the most ambitious target in the developed world’.

    The article concludes ’with a population rising to 70 million, little Britain could be almost entirely self-sufficient in food and energy – without NUKES or clean coal (my emphasis) – by 2030 and save on rising oil and gas prices...’

    Surely that puts paid to Chris Goodall's statement ’We in the environmental movement have failed to get the UK to invest in renewables and we now have no alternative but to welcome nuclear power.’

    The UK deserves praise and encouragement for its bold plans. You would think that in Australia we would think ’If the Brits can do it, we can’ but we're too busy arguing with climate deniers to do anything constructive.

  20. #20 Bob Elliston. 09 Jun 11

    The future must be built on renewables and realistic energy use. We are wasting vast amounts of electricity that could be used much better. Even Germany is yet to make the most of renewables; few other countries have given renewables anything other than lip-service.
    The nuclear industry will end up killing as many, if not more than the worst effects of global warming. Climate change is not the only deadly challenge we face. Peak Oil may be an even more urgent reason to change to Solar, Wind and Tidal energy. (It will be difficult to mine either coal or uranium without diesel fuel.) There are vast sources of energy available in Nature if we once get serious about tapping them to make our civilisation sustainable. However, we will have to give up the insane economic system that insists on perpetual growth in economic activity. Homeostasis is the way Nature achieves so much; we need to mimic and work with Nature in order to acheive a sustainable future for ourselves.
    Chernobyl, Fukushima and many other Nuclear disasters are bad enough, but the pollution of the world by ’internal emitters’ such as uranium from DU weapons and plutonium as waste and in nuclear weapons is a much greater crime. Many millions of people will suffer disease and early death for thousands of years to come because of ’the nuclear age’. We must end it as soon as possible!
    There is no debate on this: renewables are the only way forward. Fuels that we have to mine, like uranium, coal and oil, are all a one-way street to our destruction and the end of our civilisation. Nature has so much to offer if only we make the most of it and stop digging, drilling and depleting ourselves into our graves.

  21. #21 cecily Mills 10 Jun 11

    Chris claims that no-one will die as the result of Fukushima. There is no threshold for ionizing radiation's impact on health. Even the smallest excess of radiation over that of natural background will statistically affect the health of exposed individuals or their descendants, sooner or later.
    When the main author of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Volume 1181) suggest the total death toll for Chernobyl up to 2004 would be 985,000 additional deaths, it seemed unbelievable but when you've read 323 pages packed with data it is very credible.

  22. #22 spotty186 14 Jun 11

    Chris, you've failed to address safety and appear to write off long term illness or death as a non-event.
    ’Fukushima is a horrible disaster but we can reasonably expect that no-one will die as a result of the radiation leaks... nuclear will deliver power reliably and throughout the year... People who live and work near nuclear reactors seem happy to have them as neighbours.’
    These opinions ignore the facts of Fukishima - unreliable, dangerous. 40km exclusion zone now. Meltdown upgraded to category 7. If you continue to fail to address the fundamentals your argument can't be taken seriously.

  23. #23 Tom Du 15 Jun 11

    By most accounts, we have very little time to stave off the worst climate change effects. Mr. Goodall is correct - we need to reduce carbon emissions at high speed. Speed, however, is not the only consideration. The importance of path dependency is notably absent from Mr. Goodall's arguments. Nuclear effectively locks in our energy system for decades, discourages a shift to a culture of conservation, and limits the benefits of renewable energy.

    We always forget one fact: climate change does not miraculously cease becoming an issue if we slide in under 2 degrees. We need to continue to combat climate change - and all its social ramifications - after 2020, 2050, and for the foreseeable future. Nuclear has too many health, security, ecological, and economic problems to be a viable long-term option. Perhaps we should focus on building a portfolio of diversified and sustainable energy instead - one that won't lead our children to the same debate in 50 years.

  24. #24 jason 17 Jun 11

    I would urge anyone who believes that nuclear energy has a place in the future of world energy supply to research the Uranium Mining industry. Also, look closely at the 'atomic energy cycle' in its totality - it is NOT cheap, it is NOT clean and it is NOT sustainable. The only part of the cycle that is relatively clean ( and the only part that proponents ever refer to) is the electricity generation itself - upstream and downstream of this point the cycle is dirty, costly and dangerous.

  25. #25 Trevor Rigg 20 Jun 11

    note with disappointment some prevailing misconceptions and prejudices.

    [i] that renewables means wind power
    [ii] that renewables are expensive
    [ii] that the only [’clean’]way to provide base load power to the grid is by nuclear energy

    Wind power is one renewable form of energy but not the only one. Only once in this discussion is any other source of renewable energy mentioned. All the costing comparisons are between nuclear and wind only.

    The present cost of investment in renewables will pale into insignificance in the long term when nuclear and fossil fuels run out, as they will. Nuclear has received massive public subsidy in the past and will continue to receive it as plants are decommissioned and waste stored safely for hundreds of years, all at huge largely unquantified and unquantifiable cost. In short, the assertion that nuclear costs less than offshore wind is misleading and meaningless.

    The criticisms of the shortcomings of wind power are all valid. It is highly visible, not always harmonious with the landscape, noisy for those nearby and above all variable. Wind clearly will not serve the purpose of providing base load power, neither will photo-voltaics or solar BUT TIDAL AND WAVE POWER COULD, just as hydro-electric does at present. We need a mix.

    I recognise that in the short term dependence on nuclear is unavoidable but we should avoid taking the ’easy’ path and developing more nuclear plants to satisfy our insatiable greed for power. We need to invest in a wide range of renewable energy to meet the needs of the future. Long-termism, not short-termism.

    The problem at present is that we are fixated by wind and the chimera of nuclear as the panacea for all our problems.

  26. #26 Adrian Wolfin 25 Aug 11

    I can't believe that a so-called Greenie can seriously advocate the need for nuclear power. Chris's comments that ’no-one will die as a result of radiation leaks’ and that ’people who live and work near nuclear reactors seem happy to have them as neighbours’ are clearly contradicted by the facts. Thousands died from leukemia and other cancers as a result of the Chernobyl disaster and the city of Kiev is virtually uninhabitable as was demonstrated in a previous edition of the New Internationalist. Japanese people are also unhappy who live hundred of kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The food chain has been contaminated and high levels of radiation have been detected as far away as the west coast of the USA.

    Zero Carbon Australia demonstrates that a mix of renewable energies would be able to meet this country's energy needs.

    however the modern capitalist economy is bulit on growth and consumption. Present economic systems are not sustainable. As Gandhi said the world has enough to meet mankind's needs but not his greed.
    A radical change in lifestyle is required.

  27. #27 Gerry Wolff 11 Jan 12

    Renewables can, in general, be built much faster than nuclear power stations, they are cheaper than nuclear power, they provide greater security in energy supplies than nuclear power, there are more than enough to meet our needs now and for the foreseeable future, and they have none of the headaches of nuclear power.

    See http://www.energyfair.org.uk/misallocation .

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