Extract from Letter Andy Stirling, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. It is reasonable to give particular scrutiny both to the style and content of a commentary by Jeremy Gordon published on an article issued last year in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy. This is sadly especially so, because what we see as Jeremy Gordon’s aggressive tone and superficial arguments display behaviour that is sadly growing among nuclear proponents. These are worrying signs of a wider malaise in current nuclear debates. It is a growing problem in nuclear advocacy that those holding contrasting informed and measured views – or who simply question the comparative merits of nuclear power – are so often smeared as ‘anti-nuclear’. It is hysterical to brand someone raising evidence of a problem with something, as being somehow intrinsically ‘anti’ that thing. Yet on nuclear, this is a norm. Even to raise questions about relative pros and cons of nuclear versus renewable based strategies is treated by Gordon as if inherently biased. Gordon criticises us for not analysing coal, oil or gas. Our purpose is to examine associations between carbon emissions and the uptake of two families of technologies that are variously claimed as “zero carbon”: nuclear and renewables. We are ourselves clear in urging further more specific work addressing finer details and wider dimensions. But it is not unreasonable that this pioneering study focuses specifically on technologies for which zero carbon claims are actually made. Whatever ‘side’ one is on, it is striking that as the relative position of nuclear power deteriorates, the invective grows more intense. But perhaps all may agree (on any side), that spurious caricatures and personal attacks undermine themselves? No technology is entitled to immunity either from criticism or obsolescence. Whether nuclear power faces this latter fate is unsure. But if (like many earlier technologies) its time has come, then this past quintessential icon of scientific prowess should not bring down with it the reasoned policy discourse that forms the lifeblood of democracy itself.
Nuclear Engineering International 29th April 2021 read more »