Friday, January 06, 2006

Countering nuclear lobbyists' propaganda

German Minister Dismisses Nuclear Power Lobby

Nuclear power is not the answer to the gas supply crisis in Europe, says the German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Germany should boost renewables instead.

In saying this, he blew away some of the propaganda the nuke lobbyists have been throwing around lately.

Gabriel, environment minister since November, told a news conference on Tuesday that existing reserves of uranium could run out in 30 to 40 years. The industry claims there is enough for hundreds of years. Significantly for Amerrican fuel security, none of the supplies are in North America.

"The technology is expensive and the fuel relatively cheap, but the latter will change fairly soon," Gabriel said.

Gabriel's stance appears to have the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who must hold the fragile coalition of left and right together.

Gabriel's Social Democrats struck a deal in 2001 with utility firms to close Germany's 19 nuclear power plants by 2020, but leading members of their conservative coalition partners are urging a rethink as in Britain.

Gabriel added that those advocating a longer life for the country's nuclear power stations were simply seeking to increase earnings for the affected firms.

E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall Europe operate nuclear plants in Germany.

Roughly a third of German gas comes from Russia.

Gabriel said 25 percent of Germany's electricity could come from renewables by 2020. By then, energy productivity should have doubled compared with 1990s levels.

Unlike in the UK, only a quarter of Germans believe the country should produce more nuclear power. Eighty-one percent want Germany to stress renewables.

Exposing the PR strategy

According to an article documenting nuclear's PR spending in the New Statesman last year: "We are all being taken in by a carefully planned public relations strategy."

Lyn Harrison of the British Wind Energy Association says that "A major part of that strategy is to subtly and quietly undermine the technical and economic ability of wind power to play a major role in electricity supply. In a true wolf-in-sheep's clothing trick, the nuclear lobby pours forth woolly words on "partnerships" with renewable energy, while savaging wind behind the scenes.

"Among the so-called "fact sheets" from the World Nuclear Association is one on renewables. It blithely tells us, after a wicked manipulation of statistics, that Britain's 20% renewables target "is neither technically nor economically feasible." That is a downright lie. Britain's power system planners are not idiots. They have studied the effect of 20% wind alone and there are no technical barriers.

"There are no economic barriers either, as we devote space to pointing out in this issue in a detailed comparison of nuclear and wind costs. It was not an easy exercise. While the cost of wind today can be easily determined from the wealth of available facts, nuclear costs can only be arrived at by accepting what the industry claims it can build plant for.

"Actual numbers are in short supply. But in a comparative study we took nuclear at its word, using its estimates of cost, should it be allowed to build a series of eight stations, 10 GW, in Britain. (Power from just one nuclear plant looks so expensive as to be off the wall chart). We then compared generation costs for nuclear and wind on two level playing fields: if both were funded in the public sector and if both were financed in the private sector. Not surprisingly, wind costs no more to generate than nuclear in the public sector and is 20% cheaper in the private sector. No wonder nuclear tacitly admits it cannot survive without massive government support."

According to an MIT study, "An illustrative deployment of 1000 reactors, each 1000 MWe in size, under this scenario is given... We believe that the world-wide supply of uranium ore is sufficient to fuel the deployment of 1000 reactors over the next half century..."

But this is only a small fraction of what a full blown wind economy can do at a reduced cost.

The above scenario represents a total of 1 billion kilowatts installed, or 8.76 trillion KWH per year (at 100% capacity). That's not even a third of the total power requirements that the U.S consumes. Wind power can yield about ten times that for a cost that will eventually be much lower than all these finite sources.

In the UK, the argument is that nuclear is needed to provide a base load. The DTI / Oxford study referred to last year in this blog, shows this is not necessary. The wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK. And wind would never be mroe than 30% of the total mix, if that. Ocean power in any of its three forms is reliable and also always available.

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