Letter Leonard S Hyman, Sleepy Hollow, NY, US: The view from Oxford certainly is different from here, a few miles downriver from one of America’s most historic nuclear power stations. Professors Anton van der Merwe and Wade Allison of that venerable university assert that nuclear power has been held back by two “tragic misconceptions”, and they are that “radioactivity is very dangerous” and that “renewables can meet our energy needs”. I would assert that they themselves may be labouring under the influence of another misconception, “that building nuclear reactors allows greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced rapidly at low cost”. They cite Ontario and France as examples, but Ontario has not put a nuclear reactor into service for close to two decades and France has struggled mightily to open its latest, extraordinarily expensive and overdue nuclear plant. Nuclear might have been a cheap way to go decades ago. Now it appears that building nuclear stations is one of the most expensive means available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Looking at nuclear power as cheap is itself a tragic misconception; it fails to compare the low costs of running old nuclear stations with the high costs of building and running new ones, and it muddies the waters for any discussion of nuclear power’s future. Whatever its faults or virtues, nuclear power’s development today has been stymied by economic factors first, and we need to face up to that.
FT 31st Oct 2018 read more »
Paul Dorfman: Given the human and environmental risks associated with rampant climate change, it is more important than ever to communicate facts rather than conjecture. While Financial Times readers may be used to competing academics taking ham-fisted swings at each other, here the stakes are too high to let it go. The reality is that professors Anton van der Merwe and Wade Allison ( Letters, October 29) are factually mistaken on all counts. First, nuclear new builds are universally acknowledged to be high-risk projects involving significant delay, vast cost escalation and investor risk, with construction proceeding only with huge public subsidy. Second, the overwhelming scientific consensus, the basis of all international radiation protection, is that there is no safe radiation dose, and “body counts” do little to throw light on the complex reality of radiation risk. By contrast, Prof Allison believes low doses of radiation might be good for you. Finally, the International Energy Agency states that 1tn watts of renewable power, equivalent to 1,000 large reactors and three times the world’s existing nuclear capacity, will be installed worldwide over the next five years. By 2023, renewables will account for a third of total electricity generation worldwide. In this context, nuclear power at the expense of more flexible, safe, productive, cost-effective and affordable technologies does seem rather foolish.
FT 30th Oct 2018 read more »
I have rarely, if ever, read such an egregiously inaccurate letter as that from Professors Anton van der Merwe and Wade Allison of the University of Oxford. What on earth has happened to scholarship at the august academia at Oxford? The authors put France on an energy pedestal, asserting it has already shown that “building nuclear reactors allows greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced very rapidly at low cost.” Just over last weekend it was reported that the French public is becoming increasingly less in favour of nuclear power, with over half (53%) of French people stating they now oppose nuclear energy, in a survey conducted by the pollster Odoxa, compared to 67% who said in another poll five years ago they supported nuclear power.
David Lowry’s Blog 30th Oct 2018 read more »