“Coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste” is a current meme snaking its way along the Internet grapevine for savvy greenie-weenies. While it is another important reason to stop coal, please avoid the use of such evidence to support a nuclear revival.
The logicians among us can elucidate what logical error the spreading of such a meme represents. Meanwhile, this blog simply will applaud another smart move on the part of the Big Gav.
Nope, this is what I really call a smart move.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, BG is not an elected representative to the United States Senate, although there is more than a passing resemblance to some of its members. So, one can only hope that someone elsewhere than Sydney, Australia is reading and agreeing with Amory Lovins and his argument against adding more nuclear power.
Please note: The above is not a caricature of Amory Lovins or Stewart Brand. Any semblance to any Congress critter is totally coincidental.
I have known Stewart Brand as a friend for many years. I have admired his original and iconoclastic work, which has had significant impact. In his new book, Whole Earth Discipline: an Ecopragmatist Manifesto (Viking), he argues that environmentalists should change their thinking about four issues: population, nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and urbanization. Many people have asked me to assess his 41-page chapter on nuclear power, so I’ll do that here, because I believe its conclusions are greatly mistaken.
Stewart recently predicted that I wouldn’t accept his nuclear reassessment. He is quite right. His nuclear chapter’s facts and logic do not hold up to scrutiny. Over the past few years, I’ve sent him five technical papers focused mainly on nuclear power’s comparative economics and performance. He says he’s read them, and on p. 98 he even summarizes part of their economic thesis. Yet on p. 104 he says, “We Greens are not economists” and disclaims knowledge of economics, saying environmentalists use it only as a weapon to stop projects. Today, most dispassionate analysts think new nuclear power plants’ deepest flaw is their economics. They cost too much to build and incur too much financial risk. My writings show why nuclear expansion therefore can’t deliver on its claims: it would reduce and retard climate protection, because it saves between two and 20 times less carbon per dollar, 20 to 40 times slower, than investing in efficiency and micropower.
That conclusion rests on empirical data about how much new nuclear electricity actually costs relative to decentralized and efficiency competitors, how these alternatives compare in capacity and output added per year, and which can most effectively save carbon. Stewart’s chapter says nothing about any of these questions, but I believe they’re at the heart of the matter. If nuclear power is unneeded, uncompetitive, or ineffective in climate protection, let alone all three, then we need hardly debate whether its safety and waste issues are resolved, as he claims.
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