Unite and Conquer
Rezwan Razani - July 13, 2013
Renewable energy is often pitted against nuclear energy. What would happen if they joined forces?
Nuclear v. Renewables in Japan
In Japan Threatens to Restart Nuclear Power Plants, Tina Gerhardt reports:
As a result of the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s 50 nuclear power plants were taken offline for safety checks.
What has this meant for Japan’s energy profile?
Japan is…the world’s third largest economy, according to the UN. And nuclear power plants generate about 30 percent of Japan’s energy needs. During the shutdown of its nuclear power plants, utility companies have turned to coal, oil and gas to supply electricity to industries and households.
Additionally, Japan is the world’s largest importer of liquified natural gas (LNG) (18 percent of energy); the second largest importer of coal (22 percent) and the third largest net importer of oil (42 percent).
To reiterate, until the earthquake, 30% of Japan’s electricity was provided by green house gas free nuclear power. Now they are back on coal and gas.
Note that nobody died directly as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Note that, while there may be an elevated cancer rate in the next few decades, and that is tragic, the expected level does not compare with the ROUTINE cancer and death rates that come from burning fossil fuels. Indeed, the ROUTINE death rate from fossil fuels is 1-4000 times higher than the death rate from nuclear, INCLUDING the occasional nuclear “disaster.”
For more jaw dropping facts about how safe nuclear power is, and how much its reputation has been maligned, see Pandora’s Promise. Immediately.
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize nuclear is much safer than fossil fuel (as you see - THOUSANDS of times safer). Thus, they are not happy to hear that:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been in office since December, has pushed for a restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors.
Divided and Conquered
In terms of human life alone, It is great news that nuclear power is coming back online. So why do renewable energy advocates feel threatened?
If the fossil fuel industry has a “divide and conquer” strategy - it’s working.
Here we have nuclear vs. renewables, while fossil fuels continue to reign supreme. The fossil fuel companies don’t have to sweat: renewable energy advocates will do all the work to keep nuclear offline. The fossil fuel industry can reap the profits from those elevated coal and gas sales.
The article falls under the “divided and conquered” strategy. It recommends “a rapid switch from nuclear reactors, keeping them closed, and a transition to renewables.” The result will be that Japan “could generate up to 43 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.”
Let’s do the math here. Remember, Japan was getting 30% of its electricity from nuclear power before the shut down. That was greenhouse gas (GHG) free energy.
Now, that 30% is coming from fossil fuel.
Each day they keep the nuclear power plants closed, they burn that 30% in fossil fuels, adding GHG’s to the atmosphere, and killing a lot of people from the air pollution. You’ve actually gone backward. You are down 30% in GHG free electricity.
This strategy brings you “up” to 43% electricity from renewables by 2020.
But that is only a net gain of 13% GHG free electricity.
Aren’t we supposed to be eliminating GHG’s as fast as possible?
The United Path: Nuclear PLUS Renewables
Think of what would happen if we were united. It would be Nuclear PLUS renewables, allied against fossils. What an awesome alliance.
Rather than phase out of nuclear, consider a rapid switch from fossil to renewables. This will bring online that 43% electricity from renewables, and retire 43% in fossils.
PLUS you get to keep the nuclear - at 30%.
Now you have 73% green house gas free electricity by 2020. Much better!
Let’s take it further. Double your nuclear and you will have 103% green house gas free electricity. Now you can start phasing in more electric cars.
Keep going. Let’s have a Big Hairy Nuclear PLUS Renewable Energy Goal. A zero carbon footprint, ASAP. Join forces and beat back fossils.
Perhaps it’s time to get over the prejudice against nuclear energy.
On the Path to Fusion
And this is just present day nuclear energy. The even better news here is that nuclear keeps getting better. Next generation nuclear is cleaner and uses up present day waste. This report by the Breakthrough Institute on “How to Make Nuclear Cheap” provides an excellent explanation of why nuclear is so expensive to begin with, and then compares some emerging nuclear options, including our favorite, fusion.