Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The Environmentalist's Nuclear Debate: (1) George Monbiot
Things seem to stirring up the debate over nuclear and it's making quite a few greenies hot and steamy, to say the least. So, in order to unravel the issue at hand here is a lazy environmentalist's dummies guide to the issue in hand (part 1):
Earlier this month, George Monbiot posited his thoughts on nuclear. What he stated was that “I no longer care whether the answer (to our future electricity supplies) is nuclear or not” providing all new build meets the following stringent conditions:
1. the government sets a maximum level for carbon pollution per MW hr of electricity production, eg 80kg of CO2 – then leave the rest to the market;
2. so, total emission are taken into account;
3. the public are informed as to where and how waste is to be buried;
4. how much this will cost;
5. who will pay;
6. a legal guarantee put in place that no civil nuclear materials will be used by the military.
His qualified support is predicated on the belief that "we can no longer afford any rigid principle but one: that the harm done to people living now and in the future must be minimised by the most effective means, whatever they might be.”
Interestingly Monbiot, no slouch when it comes to reading pertinent reports (including the TRANS-CSP report), suggests that the likely outcome will progress towards the majority of our electricity being generated by a wide range of renewable energy systems interconnected by transnational supergrid networks, and with the use of storage no subsequent loss in the reliability of power supplies. "Unlike Carbon Capture and Storage," he says, "wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydro and geothermal power are proven technologies. Unlike nuclear power, they can be safely decommissioned as soon as they become redundant." So, a powerful argument in support of renewable energy, Mr Monbiot.
Here's my take on this: Monbiot's position on nuclear is one cushioned with conditionality. In essence he qualifies his view on this basis: nuclear is potentially fine to have in the equation providing certain stringent conditions are met. And, if Monbiot’s conditions are followed to their logical conclusion, the market is more than likely to dictate that other renewable technologies will fill the gap in any event.
Monbiot: Coal Scuttled