Positive Energy

Friday, May 25, 2007

2. Carbon Emissions

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on carbon emissions from new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The UK government states that nuclear power carbon emissions are about the same as wind generated electricity. This estimate is much too pessimistic for nuclear power. Wind stations have to be fully backed up - typically with coal. When the wind turbines are producing power the backup coal system has to run in idle mode which releases dangerous fossil fuel waste. When the wind turbines are not producing power the backup system has to run in full production mode which releases even more dangerous fossil fuel waste. Any national system with a significant wind generation capability releases a lot of dangerous fossil fuel waste to keep the wind system backed up. A national system with a significant nuclear generation capability does not release any carbon dioxide due to the nuclear component. Nuclear power is much cleaner than wind power.

The claim could be made that wind could be backed up by nuclear, and then wind power would be as clean as nuclear. This is not reasonable. If we have a full capability based on fission as needed to back up wind, then there is no need for the wind system in the first place. It should not be built - it will only add cost and destabilize the distribution system.

The UK government states that nuclear power alone cannot tackle climate change. Why not? It is politically expedient to say that other technologies have a role, but there is no technical justification for this. All the electricity needed for a modern culture can be drawn from a fission source. Further, once one reactor has been built the decision has been made that the consequences are not catastrophic. From that point the only logical path is a full conversion to nuclear power.

The UK government states that new nuclear production could mitigate climate change, without any evidence that this is so. Reducing carbon dioxide pollution by eliminating coal will also reduce particulate pollution, making the atmosphere clearer, allowing more sunlight to reach the ground, and probably making the world hotter. On the other hand, heat released from new nuclear plants could be used to make very white clouds that would reflect sunlight back into space, cooling the planet. The UK government has no idea how to work with all these variables.

The entire discussion about carbon emissions is disingenuous, and reduces people's trust in the UK government. The UK government should make clear the amount of carbon released by the UK, and the total amount being released in the world. From this it would be seen that the UK government is powerless to do anything to mitigate climate change. The UK government can cooperate with international efforts to set a good example, but this is all. Given this reality, the mandate of the UK government must be the provision of stable and reliable energy as needed for a modern life style. The UK government's attempts to side step these frank discussions make it appear devious, and increases distrust.


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