Nuclear Power — One Fine Politial Mess

Nuclear Power politics has long fascinated me.   Whenever I meet a global warming gloom and doom  believer, I ask them if they support Nuclear Power.  Invariably they either oppose the issue or are confused by the question.  I have yet to meet one that interconnects the two issues.   This puzzles me.

Nowhere is this more puzzling than in Europe.  Britain has just decided to build two new Nuclear power plants.   The first new plant built since the Fukashima disaster of 2011.  It’s big news and the Chinese are big backers.   People all over the EU are up in arms.

Europeans are trying very hard to reduce man caused carbon dioxide in their lives.  And they are trying to avoid the political third rail that  is Nuclear Power.  Germany has walked away from Nuclear Power, France has pledged to cut production by 40% and Italy has delayed new Nuclear plants.

Japan has pledged to be Nuclear free.   China is building 20 new Nuclear plants.

Suppose, just suppose, that the global warming fear mongers are right.  If they are right, we must seriously change the way we make electricity.  Invariably the green community solution is renewable energy.   For most of the world that means wind or solar.   Hydro and geothermal can work when the environment is right, but most places where people live have neither.

The electrical utility business is an on demand business.   At any given time there must be enough power generation to meet that demand.   Demand varies throughout the day as this chart of New England demand prepared by the EIA demonstrates:

graph of electric load curve: New England, 10/22/2010, electric power demand (gigawatts), as described in the article text

Electrical energy demand peaks at about sunset in October.  Solar works best in the middle of the day.  Wind usually decreases as the Sun sets.   At 7 in the evening, the reality of the power utility business runs directly into the fantasy world of clean energy.   Clean energy become less available when it is needed most.   What are  we to do?

How do we, as a society, meet the evening peak?

No fair counting on technology that does not yet exist.   When a new way of storing electricity is developed, then we can plan on an electrical utility world that is not demand based.  Until then the power that is needed at 7:00 PM on a Monday night must be produced at 7:00 PM on that same Monday night.

Society has but three rational options.

  • Coal fired plants
  • Natural Gas fired plants
  • Nuclear energy fired plants

There are no other choices that will work ….right now.   Thus my confusion.  Only one of these options works well in a carbon doom and gloom society…Nuclear Energy.   So how is France going to reduce Nuclear Power use by 40% without impacting their carbon footprint?   And Japan?   And Germany?

The Chinese solution to the problem is Nuclear power plants….and the British have figured this one out too.  I wonder when the powers that be in the EU will decide.

So far, European politicians appear to be trying to have it both ways.  Clean energy and no Nuclear power.   What magical power source is widely available, carbon free and not Nuclear?  I don’t know of one.   If the IPCC is right, we have no choice.  We must produce less carbon dioxide.

Nuclear Power and carbon dioxide production are linked.  People all over the world appear to be pretending not to make a choice.  But that non choice is a choice.   Either people really don’t believe the IPCC rhetoric or they like living in a fantasy world.  And this puzzles me and has puzzled me for a really long time.

Each of us really does have to choose. Which is worse for the world, carbon dioxide or Nuclear power plants?

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