Monday, February 27, 2012

Greenpeace's arguments against nuclear power

Here is some important text from a new Greenpeace document, Renewable energy is the future: nuclear energy is the past that sums up the arguments against nuclear power and for renewables.

Nuclear energy and the conflict with renewables 

The nuclear industry often claims that nuclear energy is needed to combat climate change.

This is wrong.

Research by Greenpeace and others shows that continuing to operate nuclear plants prevents the large-scale integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid.

Nuclear also channels investment away from renewables where investment can make a difference in fighting climate change.

The argument that nuclear power could help fight climate change is seriously flawed.

If the entire global fleet of reactors was quadrupled, a completely far-fetched scenario, this would lead to, at most, a 6% reduction in global CO2 emissions, and only after 2020, well beyond the deadline that climate scientists have set for avoiding catastrophic climate change.

A key problem with nuclear power is that it must run around the clock with a constant output capacity, which is called ‘baseload’.

The nuclear industry presents this as an advantage, which it is not.

First, a permanent power generation mode –̶ independent from the actual need in the power grid – is needed to generate as much electricity as possible to make generation costs low.

If the operational hours were reduced to half, the cost would double.

So the ‘baseload’ strategy is more an economic than a technical concept.

Second, unlike modern gas turbines, which can react within seconds to fluctuating demand in the electricity grid, nuclear power stations are unable to react to the demand curve, and demand must follow the operation mode of nuclear power plants.

This leads to the inefficient use of electricity.

In almost all countries with a winter heating demand, a large share of nuclear in their power mix goes hand in hand with the expansion of highly inefficient electrical heating systems.

For example, France, with about 80% nuclear in its power mix, had an overall power demand of 101GW on a cold day in February 2012, while Germany, which has 15 million more people than France, with 20% nuclear in its power mix had a demand of just over 50GW on the same cold day.

(Bunesnetzagentur – German Grid Authority – 9 February 2012).

Germany has far better insulated houses and a significantly lower share of electrical heating systems.

The inflexibility of nuclear reactors has a negative effect on renewables.

For technical and safety reasons, nuclear plants cannot easily be turned down so wind operators are often told to shut off their generators to give priority to electricity from nuclear plants, an economic and ecological mistake.

As a result, nuclear energy blocks the development of renewable energy technologies by commandeering space on the electricity grid and reducing income for wind operators.

Renewable power plants can be built much more quickly than nuclear and are safe.

In addition, renewables can replace several times more of the carbon that is leading to climate change for the same cost as nuclear and at a far faster pace.

At present, over 90% of the Japan’s reactors are offline. The rest may be offline by May 2012.

Given that only three of 54 reactors are operating and there have been no significant problems with the electricity supply, Japan has shown that it can survive without nuclear power.

No comments: