26 April 2011

Nuclear fission’s unsafe circular arguments

It is hardly surprising that the usual suspects have come out bashing nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima. The Worldwatch Institute is no exception, dragging in Amory Lovins and Walt Patterson to endorse its latest report The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011: Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World. Of course they endorse it, they have been banging on about the death of nuclear power for your decades, although they no longer go under the Friends of the Earth banner that sheltered them in the 1970s, preferring more prestigious and seemingly non-partisan .

Without paying to read the report, it is impossible to see if objectivity gets a look in. But the press release isn’t promising. It tells us:

“Annual renewable capacity additions have been outpacing nuclear start-ups for 15 years. In the United States, the share of renewables in new capacity additions skyrocketed from 2 per cent in 2004 to 55 per cent in 2009, with no new nuclear capacity added.”

The release implies that this is a black mark against nuclear power. It is, of course, no such thing, merely a reflection of the fact that Lovins, Patterson and the Worldwatch Institute have been very successful in stirring up trouble for half a century. These are, after all, bright people who know how to sell a line, not to mention themselves. we even have the report’s author, Mycle Schneider, billed as someone who has received an award that Worldwatch bills as “Alternative Nobel Prize”, thereby adding fake gravitas to something that will be unfamiliar to most readers.

Had the opponents of nuclear power not been able to run rings around a pathetic nuclear industry for all that time, who knows how many reactors might be out there, reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

The same argument applies to the other statistics that Worldwatch seems to think are a telling case against nuclear power, rather than an indictment of their own role in creating an environment that is conducive to the Japanese nuclear industry’s incompetent management of events like Fukushima.

Fukushima may have killed off nuclear power, but its death will have nothing to do with the fact that “In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulative installed capacity from wind turbines, biomass, waste-to-energy, and solar power surpassed installed nuclear capacity.”

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