We should embrace Nuclear Power – it’s the only sensible option

Dr Vernon Coleman

The insane pseudo-environmentalists and the mad greens have campaigned strongly against nuclear power. In Germany they have been so successful that nuclear power plants have been closed down and the Germans are now obtaining their electricity by burning coal. (I wonder if that is quite what the nutters had in mind when they fought to close the nuclear power plants.)

Other countries which have banned nuclear energy include Japan, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium. Many other countries have no nuclear power reactors including Austria, Australia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Malaysia and Norway.

All this is rather odd since the EU has decided that nuclear energy should be considered green and sustainable (even though it relies on uranium which has to be dug out of the ground). Even young Greta has apparently given nuclear energy her stamp of approval!

Other countries, such as France, have for some time been increasing the amount of electricity they obtain from nuclear power. Indeed, France has been generating four fifths of its electricity from nuclear power for years.

China's leaders are well aware that oil is running out fast and so China is now working hard to acquire enough uranium to run the thousands of nuclear plants it knows it will have to build (and has already started building). China is planning to build nuclear power generators to supplement its coal burning plants. The Chinese have also said that they will build strategic reserves of uranium. In 2006, China obtained less than 2% of its energy needs from nuclear plants. By building three large nuclear power generators a year, they will double this percentage.

Even the Arabs are keen to use nuclear energy, though the Americans are opposed to their building nuclear power stations. The Arabs say that nuclear power is the energy of the future and (not unreasonably) that no one has the right to stop them using it. They recognise that their oil and gas supplies are fast running out and they want to sell what they've got left, rather than use it up themselves. Iran, still one of the world's main sources of oil, is one of the countries which wants to convert to nuclear power internally and to sell the oil it produces to outside countries. This, they say, will enable them to continue making money and to have the cleanest fuel themselves. No wonder the American Government cannot understand: it's a policy that makes good sense.

(If the Arabs, who hold most of the world's remaining oil, want to use nuclear power what does that tell us about the remaining oil stocks?)

Britain, in contrast, has been woefully slow to build nuclear power stations. Protests from nutters who want us all to freeze or starve to death are partly responsible. But incompetence has also played its part. Meanwhile, ageing coal and nuclear power stations are being closed, and declining North Sea oil and gas production will make things even worse. Windfall taxes have resulted in oil companies abandoning the North Sea. Britain is reliant on imports of oil and gas from countries which don't much like the British Government and which have ready markets for their products elsewhere.

Nuclear power is clean, effective and relatively safe.

France, which gets most of its electricity from nuclear power, has the cleanest air in the industrialised world and the cheapest electricity in Europe. The French do not store their nuclear waste. Instead they reprocess it. Instead of burying spent fuel rods deep in the sea or underground they have built a massive plant on the coast of Normandy to recycle the used fuel and so reuse it.

Those who complain that nuclear power isn't safe should know that every year the deaths caused by coal mining exceed the number of deaths associated with the entire history of nuclear reactors.

Lighting a candle is dangerous. Having a bonfire is dangerous. But if you're measuring safety then nuclear power is to coal mining what passenger flight is to bungee jumping. In the recent years there have not been any serious incidents at any of the nuclear plants operating in the USA (plants which provide 18% of America's electricity). Around 200,000 coal miners have died as a result of coal mining.

Both China and South Africa are building advanced power plants – to protect themselves from rising coal and natural gas prices and to meet new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions – and the plants they are building seem extraordinarily safe.

During a safety test at a Chinese reactor, engineers did their best to create a disaster. They cut off the flow of the coolant that removes heat from the nuclear reactor and then withdrew the control rods – usually a recipe for meltdown. The reactor simply shut down with no damage or threat.

Nuclear power produces virtually no carbon dioxide and is very climate friendly; it is, it seems, the only cost effective and environmentally acceptable way of creating electricity.

Nuclear power doesn't provide all the answers. It certainly doesn't provide an alternative fuel for motor vehicles, aeroplanes and ships. But it's a start, and those countries which have nuclear power stations will at least be able to provide their citizens with heat and light. And, of course, small and cheaper nuclear power plants will soon be available.

Those who oppose nuclear power point out that uranium is a finite resource. This is obviously true. However, it is usually fairly easy to mine, and can be reused. Some experts say there is enough to last for centuries.

Critics also point out nuclear reactors use a lot of water. They do indeed. But the water that has been used isn't `used', it's just borrowed to cool the reactor and then recycled. It is warmed. Clever scientists could, no doubt, find a way to harness the heat from the water. And far less water is used for nuclear power than is used by people washing out yoghurt cartons and jam jars for the recycling nonsense.

I used to oppose nuclear power.

But unless we are all prepared to go to bed when it gets dark, and to stay in bed when the weather gets cold, there really isn't another sensible option. How many of those who oppose nuclear power will be happy to turn off their television sets, radios, computers and dish washers?

Or maybe those who oppose nuclear power prefer biofuels and are prepared to put up with mass starvation in poorer nations so that they can continue to use their computers?

Nuclear power is inevitable. We should ignore the nutters and hurry up and build more reactors before it’s too late.

Vernon Coleman’s book `A Bigger Problem than Climate Change’ explains the history of oil production (including the geopolitics) and explores the problems caused by the fact that the world is running out of oil. `A Bigger Problem than Climate Change’ is available via the bookshop on www.vernoncoleman.com

Copyright Vernon Coleman February 2024