Australian news, and some related international items

The big mistake of sudden renewed optimism about nuclear power

The global scramble for fuel after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has decidedly ended any debate over whether nuclear energy should be part of the world’s new renewable era. Governments in Europe, Asia and the US have all recently overridden environmental concerns about radioactive waste and nuclear accidents to recommit to nuclear power plants as a part of any transition away from oil and gas.

As the world celebrates Earth Day this weekend, the return of nuclear energy harks back to the 1970s, before the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl scarred its reputation as a safe and cheap alternative to oil and gas.

But the sudden spurt of nuclear optimism from Washington to London is little more than a political feint.
By the time most proposed nuclear projects are paid for and developed, in a decade or more, we will be either well into a new chapter of solar and wind energy dependence or dashed against the globally-warmed rocks of fossil fuel hubris.

Next week, the Biden administration will commit up to $6bn of its infrastructure bill to preserving almost 100 ailing nuclear power plants for future use. Plans to transform closing coal plants – and their
workers – into nuclear facilities, are taking shape. Nuclear power currently makes up about 20 per cent of US energy usage, compared to wind (9 per cent) and solar (3 per cent), according to the US Energy Information Administration.

In Europe, harsh condemnation of nuclear power in places such as Germany, the UK and Brussels has given way this spring to the political expediency of siding with countries such as France, which have
long supported nuclear power. Belgium, for example, has changed its mind and recommitted to building new power plants. Poland plans to build new ones. France has doubled down and even the UK’s Boris Johnson has placed new nuclear facilities squarely within his government’s new energy strategy, even at the expense of onshore wind farms. He wants to move Britain’s nuclear mix to 25 per cent by 2030 from 16 per cent.

The energy crunch caused by Ukraine is an immediate crisis, not one that can be fixed with long-term, expensive solutions. While Europe – and the rest of the world – must think long term to mitigate global heating and stop burning fossil fuels, the decreasing costs of other renewable energies such as wind, solar, and tidal will eventually catch up with expensive alternative plans. Likely faster than we all think, given the reduction in their costs over the past 10 years.

 Independent 21st April 2022


April 22, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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