[ RadSafe ] Claim that "Nuclear power is too risky" (CNN)

Roger Helbig rhelbig at sfo.com
Wed Feb 24 17:21:10 CST 2010

The Know_Nukes group on Yahoo has this recent message about why not nuclear
power - expect it is riddled with less than accurate information.  Anyone
know anything about Mark Z Jacobson - 

Nuclear power is too risky By Mark Z. Jacobson, Special to CNN
February 22, 2010 4:27 p.m. EST
Palo Alto, California (CNN) -- If our nation wants to reduce global warming,
air pollution and energy instability, we should invest only in the best
energy options. Nuclear energy isn't one of them.

Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable
energy and one more dollar spent on making the world a comparatively dirtier
and a more dangerous place, because nuclear power and nuclear weapons go
hand in hand.

In the November issue of Scientific American, my colleague Mark DeLucchi of
the University of California-Davis and I laid out a plan to power the world
with nothing but wind, water and sun. After considering the best available
technologies, we decided that a combination of wind, concentrated solar,
geothermal, photovoltaics, tidal, wave and hydroelectric energy could more
than meet all the planet's energy needs, particularly if all the world's
vehicles could be run on electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

We rejected nuclear for several reasons. First, it's not carbon-free, no
matter what the advocates tell you. Vast amounts of fossil fuels must be
burned to mine, transport and enrich uranium and to build the nuclear plant.
And all that dirty power will be released during the 10 to 19 years that it
takes to plan and build a nuclear plant. (A wind farm typically takes two to
five years.)

Stewart Brand says now is the time for nuclear power 
The on-the-ground footprint of nuclear power, through its plants and uranium
mines, is about 1,000 times larger than it is for wind. Wind turbines are
merely poles in the ground -- with lots of space between them that can be
farmed, ranched or left open -- or poles in the ocean. Geothermal energy
also has a much smaller footprint than nuclear; solar only slightly more.
But while geothermal, solar and wind are safe, nuclear is not.

For nuclear to meet all the world's energy needs today -- 12.5 terawatts (1
terawatt = 1 trillion watts) -- more than 17,000 nuclear plants would be
needed. Even if nuclear were only 5 percent of the solution, most countries
would have nuclear plants.

What's worse, the nuclear industry wants to reprocess waste to obtain more
energy from increasingly scarce uranium. But this only produces more
weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

A global push toward nuclear energy would mean that uranium enrichment --
and efforts at nuclear weapons development -- would certainly grow
throughout the world..

Nuclear proponents argue that not enough clean renewables exist to power the
world. However, part of our work at Stanford University has been to map
world renewable energy resources. Enough wind and solar exist in high-wind
and sunny locations over land to power the world for all purposes multiple
times over. There is no shortage.

Nuclear proponents also argue that nuclear energy production is constant,
unlike fickle winds and sunshine. But worldwide, nuclear plants are down 15
percent of the time, and when a plant goes down, so does a large fraction of
the grid. Connecting wind farms over large areas through transmission lines
smoothes power supply. Combining geothermal with wind (whose power potential
often peaks at night) and solar (which peaks by day), and using
hydroelectricity to fill in gaps, would almost always match demand.

Converting to electric vehicles and using smart charging practices would
also help to match supply with demand. So would storing energy (with
concentrated solar) and giving people incentives to reduce demand. It is not
rocket science to match power demand. It merely requires thinking out of the

Finally, the costs of land-based wind, geothermal and hydroelectricity are
competitive with conventional new sources of electricity; costs of solar and
wind over the ocean are higher but declining. Costs of nuclear have
historically been underestimated.

In sum, if we invest in nuclear versus true renewables, you can bet that the
glaciers and polar ice caps will keep melting while we wait, and wait, for
the nuclear age to arrive. We will also guarantee a riskier future for us

There is no need for nuclear. The world can be powered by wind, water and
sun alone.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Z.

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