What is going on with UK environmental writers?
Yesterday, Joe Romm corrected Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees, for a piece where he wrote that Japan could not afford to give up nuclear energy because both solar and wind energy would eat up too much available land. As Joe showed, the data Mark used was wrong by 3 orders of magnitude (using the "b" word for the "m" word - as in billions of acres, not millions).
The UK writers, starting with George Monboit have been putting out different pieces about why nuclear energy had to be part of a clean energy future even while the Fukushima situation is still far from being over. Why?
Even without the tragedy in Japan, the case for nuclear power has always been poor. As Joe mentions in his piece:
The fact is that the staggering cost of new nuclear power — and the risks associated with losing a multibillion-dollar asset in a matter of minutes thanks to a disaster and/or human error — are the primary reasons the nuclear Renaissance in this country died before the Japan disaster (see my recent post “The Nukes of Hazard” and the 10/10 post, Exelon’s Rowe: Low gas prices and no carbon price push back nuclear renaissance a “decade, maybe two”). It must be the basis of any serious discussion of new nuclear power in market economies.
The fact that nuclear power was not at all competitive has been known for quite some time. Back in 2005, Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and avid proponent of the value of natural capitalism, wrote that new Nuclear Energy power plants would not be a part of a carbon free future because it could never compete in the market. (original newsletter no longer on line)
The nuclear enterprise has been soundly beaten by its decentralized competitors, even though the competitors received 24 times smaller US federal subsides per kWh in FY 1984 … and were often blocked from fairly connecting to the grid.
Fukushima has gone a long way to showing some of the hidden costs of nuclear power. Nuclear power can only be viable as a state sponsored system because nuclear is too expensive and too dangerous to be something the market will back.
Could it be that the UK environmentalist community believes that none of the other renewable energy possibilities are enough to power their future? Because it is clear the US and Japan could both find significantly better deals than nuclear. If the problem is local to their country, then they should be much clearer about why and when people would have to turn to that resource.