“Renewables” vs Nuclear Power

George Erickson

In a recent letter to the Reader, Thomas Koehler protested my use of the word of efficiency in an article I wrote. That use was deliberate because, when writing for the public, introducing technical terms about the differences between plate ratings, thermal efficiency and capacity factors can cause readers to turn the page. 

Let’s now compare renewables to nuclear power while keeping Climate Change and the environment in mind and using “efficiency” to indicate the amount of electricity a unit actually creates over a lengthy time compared to what it can produce in the same amount of time under ideal conditions. 
Windmills and solar projects create only about 30% of their advertised capacity on average, relying on burning natural gas to create the missing 70%. Unfortunately, natural gas is largely methane, a greenhouse gas initially 75 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Worse yet, our fracking wells and our natural gas distribution systems leak so severely that, in regard to climate change, the effects are worse than burning coal. 

In addition, burning natural gas creates more carbon dioxide, while 90% efficient nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide and doesn’t rely on deadly natural gas, which routinely destroys homes, businesses and lives. 
One nuclear plant with a 60-year lifespan can equal the output of 3,000 windmills, but the lifespan of windmills and solar facilities is just 20 years, so they must be restored and partially recycled three times to match nuclear’s 60-year lifespan.
Per unit of electricity generated, windmills consume far more steel, copper, concrete and other materials than nuclear plants, which harms the environment. In addition, mining for the rare- earth metals that wind and solar require creates toxic lakes that contain elements like lead and arsenic, which never decay. In contrast, nuclear power does not require rare earth minerals.

Windmills and solar projects are subsidized far more heavily than nuclear power, which is compelled to compete on a playing field that is heavily tilted in other ways in favor of renewables.
Worse yet, windmills, in the U.S. alone, are killing 1 million birds and 1 million bats per year at a time when insect-borne diseases like Zika, malaria and dengue fever are rising due to climate change – and they are killing humans. (http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/)
IN COMPARISON, only at Chernobyl, a so-called “civilian” power plant that was actually producing plutonium for bombs, have there been fatalities at a “civilian” nuclear facility. Even if we include Chernobyl, nuclear power is four times safer than solar and 10 times safer than wind. Real civilian nuclear power has killed zero people.

Even though we have enough uranium and thorium to steadily power our planet for 10,000 years, 90% efficient nuclear power was “classified” as non-renewable by gullible legislators, environmentalists and those who profit from building and supplying fossil fuels required by the power plants that back up 30% efficient windmills and solar farms.

Consider this: Our oceans, which provide 20 percent of our protein and about 50 percent of our oxygen, are already in trouble DUE TO EXCESS CARBON DIOXIDE, but the “alternative energy folks want to replace CO2-free nuclear power with carbon-reliant wind and solar. HOW GREEN IS THAT? (And the newer nuclear reactors are not only safer and more efficient, they can even consume our stored nuclear waste as fuel!)  

When I and others offer presentations on nuclear power versus wind and solar to the Sierra Club and its clones, or to legislators who don’t want to learn that they have erred, we rarely get a reply. However, many open-minded colleges, service clubs and universities have welcomed our presentations. 
Great Britain shares all of these problems – the Guardian quoting James Hansen’s “The conservatives don’t care about… climate change, and the liberals offer solutions that are non-solutions.”
That must change, and running from facts won’t help.

George Erickson is the author of Unintended Consequences: The Lie That Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1540356450, and is a member of the National Center for Science Education and the Thorium Energy Alliance. See www.tundracub.com. Contact him at 218-744-2003 or  tundracub@exede.net.