warmwell.com

12/03/2006

http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/12/nnuke12.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/12/ixhome.html

Should Britain go nuclear?


(Filed: 12/03/2006)

They are both environmentalists, but Zac Goldsmith and James Lovelock disagree on how to meet our energy needs. In the week a Government advisory body came down against a new generation of reactors, they debate the issue by email

Dear James,

The threat of climate change dramatically outweighs the dangers of nuclear power. So if it were the case that nuclear power is the only viable solution to climate change, I would embrace it. But given what we know, I would do so begrudgingly. Nuclear is so expensive that without massive government support, it wouldn't exist. It is so dangerous that the insurance industry will cover it only if the government agrees to cap its liabilities. And it is dirty. In this country, we face a staggering £70 billion clean-up bill.

Of course these costs are worth paying if nuclear represents a solution to climate change. I don't believe it does. First, with a programme of energy efficiency, we could easily achieve energy savings equivalent to double the energy currently generated by nuclear, at a fraction of the cost. Pound for pound, that's the best use of money, as the successes of companies like Dupont have shown.

Second, the nuclear lobby is prone to exaggerations. Even if we replaced existing nuclear reactors with gas and coal, we would raise carbon emissions by between just four and eight per cent. And, contrary to claims, nuclear isn't carbon neutral - every stage of the nuclear cycle, other than fission itself, produces carbon dioxide.

The alternatives exist, and we should embrace them.

ZG


Dear Zac,

The crux of our climate problem is an imminent heat age that could last as long as 100,000 years and nothing that we now do will stop it. The Green Movement's recommendations of sustainable development and renewable energy are well intentioned but a hundred years too late.

By unremitting growth and development, we have committed our once lush and lively planet to an arid and barren existence quite unable to support the billions now on Earth. Soon, the Arctic and perhaps these islands may be the only habitable places left and life on Earth will try to move here.

We cannot save the world but we can do something to save ourselves in the United Kingdom. For this, we need secure indigenous supplies of food and energy. Our only immediately available energy comes from coal and nuclear, our gas and oil will soon be gone and we can not rely on supplies from abroad.

We need urgently to recommission, not decommission, our nuclear power stations. The stories of vast costs and of dangers from nuclear wastes are unreal and no more than fearful imaginings born from Cold War propaganda.

Jim


Dear Jim,

We can argue indefinitely about the costs of nuclear - but to simply dismiss them is cavalier. Indeed, the City itself has rejected nuclear, both here and in the US, because of the high costs. And the waste figure I quote is from our (pro-nuclear) Government.

But, that aside, it's worth repeating that even if we replace existing nuclear reactors and double the number, we would see an eight per cent reduction in carbon emissions - and not until 2035. It is a gain, but a miniscule one, and at a huge cost.

What's more, nuclear power is not "immediately available". It will take at least 10 years for new plants to become operational. That's not the case with energy efficiency, which can happen today. Nor is it the case with the combined heat and power (CHP) systems that already flourish in parts of Britain and Europe, and which are demonstrably cheaper, cleaner and safer.

ZG


Dear Zac,

The City rejects dull, safe long-term nuclear power when they have subsidies for renewables and enjoy the glorious returns from the ever-rising prices of carbon fuels as supply fails to meet demand. Nuclear electricity is now the safest and the cheapest; it is the UK's only reliable and secure indigenous source and there is ample uranium at negligible cost for many decades from now.

The French build nuclear power stations in four and a half years. With a pro-nuclear Government so could we. By recommissioning nuclear energy, we can give some of the older reactors a longer lease of life and replace obsolete reactors on the same sites. It would be far cheaper and quicker than new build. Do you think the Finns, with ample Russian gas at their frontier, are mad to democratically choose a nuclear new-build programme? Maybe they know something we don't.

Jim


Dear Jim,

In the past 20 years, OECD governments have provided nuclear energy with $160 billion for research and development alone. Add to that the waste and security bills, the cost of cleaning up uranium mines, and your comment about subsidies for renewables looks absurd.

Similarly, your assertion that nuclear is the "safest". Even British Nuclear Fuels has described the prospect of an airplane crashing into a nuclear plant as "unthinkable", a view echoed by the International Atomic Energy Authority.

Finally, without imported uranium, nuclear energy couldn't happen, so to describe it as an "indigenous" energy source is misleading. What's more, it's hard to know exactly how much uranium exists, but some of the world's best-known commodity traders are betting on a huge price rise on the back of already-dwindling reserves. Some analysts believe that uranium supplies will deplete on roughly the same timescale as oil and gas.

Nevertheless, we agree on the need to reduce emissions, and to provide energy security. So I have two questions: First, if energy efficiency can deliver energy savings that greatly exceed the energy currently provided by nuclear - and more cheaply -why do you not support such a programme as a first priority?

Second, given that there are plenty of examples of combined heat and power systems reliably catering for large urban areas - at greatly reduced financial and environmental cost - we know already that alternatives exist. We also know that decentralised energy is less wasteful, and importantly, in light of your dire warnings, more adaptable. Why, then, do you not encourage their rapid adoption?

ZG


Dear Zac,

Yes, the OECD countries have spent billions on nuclear projects, and we are about to squander £60 billion to turn our nuclear power stations into children's playgrounds. Why not keep them running and provide emission-free electricity? Nuclear is now the cheapest energy source and will save us billions in electricity bills and taxes. Any government foolish enough to decommission will face an angry electorate when the electricity bills hit home. Certainly save energy, but it needs leadership to enforce.

Germany has devastated its countryside with a surfeit of wind farms yet they produce only 16 per cent of their rated electricity output, and Germany now emits more CO2 than it did before they were installed. As a good city needs its parks, so we on this crowded island need the countryside. Incredible that Greens, of all people, should wish to make it an industrial site filled with giant wind turbines. The history of world power production shows nuclear to be the safest - 10 times safer than hydroelectricity and hundreds of times safer than carbon fuels.

Anti-nuclear argument is based on irrational fear, and the prospect of an aeroplane flying into a power station is unthinkable only because it is a waste of time to speculate on it. Apart from plant workers and passengers in the plane, no one would be killed. As a long time Green, I am appalled by the way that our movement has become a theocracy that sustains itself by fear; we should have learnt from the churches who mistakenly tried to keep their flocks faithful by preaching fear of hell fire. Such fears become unsustainable and are misleading now that we face truly great dangers from global heating; for these, renewables are about as practical as an umbrella in a tornado.

J


Dear Jim,

The difficulty is that we don't speak the same language. For me, a nuclear accident would render large tracts of land uninhabitable, and would be disastrous. For you, it wouldn't fundamentally undermine the biosphere, and is therefore not worth worrying about. We are approaching these issues from different perspectives. Perhaps that's why I've failed to extract answers from you to many of the points I've raised.

For instance, if the impact of nuclear on emissions is minimal, how can it represent anything more than a marginal solution to climate change? If it is based on an imported resource that is limited, why do you describe it as sustainable and indigenous? If uncontroversial alternatives, like CHP are proven, why not pursue them?

I share your fear that we are running out of time. But that is not a reason to abandon best practice in favour of a half-remedy that comes with much unwanted baggage. Our politicians are able -- indeed some are eager -- to embark, for instance, on a programme of energy efficiency. And it's not courage that is motivating them. Energy efficiency requires no sacrifice on the part of the electorate, it would save us all a great deal of money. It's one of those rare win-win solutions.

Incidentally, I don't disagree with some of your views on giant wind monocultures. Wind is a useful option, but not at the expense of our countryside.

ZG


Dear Zac,

So we have to agree to disagree. Perhaps we did not try hard enough to find common ground -- we should have because it exists. We know that energy saving works; it did so in the Second World War by tight rationing. But could any of today's political parties, when in government, have the will to enforce it? We both, I think, view with suspicion technological fixes to cool the global climate, and this is something the United States is likely to try.

Where we most seem to differ is over the state of the Earth. You believe that somehow, by good green action, we could turn back the clock and restore the world to its pre-industrial state. I wish that you were right and that we could, but I see the Earth as far beyond recovery and now moving ineluctably to hot and arid landscape.

To me, the urgent task before our government is to plan and spend now to lessen the catastrophe when storms and rising sea levels flood London and other coastal cities. We will need also to protect by embankments the low lying productive farmland of East Anglia that is our best source of food. Food and fuel imports may no longer be available at prices that we can afford.

J

Zac Goldsmith is the editor of The Ecologist magazine and is also helping to organise an energy review for the Conservative Party

James Lovelock is an environmental scientist and the author of The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back - and How We Can Still Save Humanity (Allen Lane)


WIND POWER JUST A GESTURE
Dr James Lovelock proposed the widely respected view that the earth is a ... Dr Lovelock, 84, who in 2002 was made a Companion of Honour by the Queen for ...
www.warmwell.com/04feb3lovelock.html - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

Jasper Gerard meets James Lovelock
This seems to be the message of James Lovelock, celebrated scientist and creator ... Unlike science-bores, Lovelock talks in the vivid lingo of the science ...
www.warmwell.com/06feb5onlovelock.html - 12k - Cached - Similar pages

James Lovelock: The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that ...
Thirty years ago, the scientist James Lovelock worked out that the Earth possessed ... 'The Revenge of Gaia' by James Lovelock is published by Penguin on 2 ...
www.warmwell.com/06jan16gaia.html - 37k - Cached - Similar pages

Andrew Marr on James Lovelock
James Lovelock, however, has to be an exception. He is the man who devised the Gaia thesis, the belief that the dynamic systems of this planet are ...
www.warmwell.com/06feb1marr.html - 3k - Cached - Similar pages

Green awareness Another from the world of science to be honoured ...
Dr Lovelock contends that this system works to maintain the conditions that are suitable for life - organisms not only adapt to the environment, ...
www.warmwell.com/dec31lovelock.html - 2k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

Feb 12 2005 - news roundup - windfarms
Artists Against Windfarms (AAW) has been formed by Christine Lovelock, the daughter of the recognised founder of the green movement, Dr James Lovelock. ...
www.warmwell.com/05feb12roundup.html - 46k - Cached - Similar pages

Back to warmwell.com website http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists ...
Lovelock has always been an enthusiast. It is, in both senses, a generational ... when Lovelock claimed that "only one immediately available source does not ...
www.warmwell.com/04sep7monbiot.html - 10k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

HOW A GREEN DREAM TURNED INTO A RURAL NIGHTMARE
Prof Lovelock's warnings this year on the accelerating rate of global warming were a shock to the system of governments internationally. ...
www.warmwell.com/04dec2wmnwind.html - 16k - Cached - Similar pages

INBOX - Energy and environment issues and animal and human health
James Lovelock The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as ... 16th January 2006 ~ James Lovelock "By failing to see that the Earth ...
www.warmwell.com/inboxnew.html - 231k - Cached - Similar pages

The Case Against ‘The Mendip Wind Monster’
... syndrome’ of wind-energy include some of our leading environmentalists, such as David Bellamy and James Lovelock, famous as father of the ‘Gaia’ thesis. ...
www.warmwell.com/04jun13bookerwind.html - 6k - Cached - Similar pages

 

Oil crisis fuels nuclear 'buzz'
Last year, British environmentalist James Lovelock, best known for his Gaia theory (which says that the Earth functions like a single, living organism) and ...
www.warmwell.com/05feb13nuke.html - 15k - Cached - Similar pages

Back to warmwell.com website http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main ...
On the opposing side, led by such eminent conservationists as Prof Bellamy and James Lovelock, is an increasingly clued-up army of critics, ...
www.warmwell.com/04oct17booker.html - 14k - Cached - Similar pages

It's this simple: wind farms THE size of London, or safe, clean ...
that means we must recognise THE wisdom of THE green guru James Lovelock’s brave declaration that, For THE mid-term, there is no alternative to nuclear ...
www.warmwell.com/05ap17windstott.html - 7k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

Foot and Mouth Concern
(In yesterday's Sunday Times interview James Lovelock says, ... James Lovelock writes today in the Independent "the most difficult I have written. ...
www.warmwell.com/aboutfmd.html - 161k - Cached - Similar pages

Windfarms - no thanks
Windpower just a gesture Read James Lovelock's article in full ... James Lovelock on "Start the Week" A delight to Listen Again "remember we won't have a ...
www.warmwell.com/windfarms.html - 360k - Cached - Similar pages

Archive of Front Page from April 2003
... written about a presentation by Garry Titley · Journal's article · Fields of Fire · Prince Charles' tribute to farmers · James Lovelock · Press Release ...
www.warmwell.com/archivelinks1.html - 32k - Cached - Similar pages

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china_pr.html
in may, British eminence green James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis That earth is a single self-regulating organism, published an impassioned plea ...
www.warmwell.com/04sep6chinanuke.html - 21k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

What is "Peak Oil"?
... Wired.com ~ " ...in May, James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis that Earth is a single self-regulating organism, published an impassioned plea to phase ...
warmwell.com/poilnews.html - 101k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

democracy-watch: August 2005
Like them, that amiable and brilliant scientist Professor James Lovelock is not impressed with the rush to cover Britain with gigantic windmills. ...
www.warmwell.com/blog/2005_08_01_archive.html - 38k - Cached - Similar pages

inbox new
If only it were possible To get 100% behind Nuclear power as do the highly respected James Lovelock and Phillip Stott. But the risks, unfortunately, ...
www.warmwell.com/2005/03/goldsmith.html - 198k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages


INBOX warmwell April - Mid August 2004
But the UK wind power scheme is, in James Lovelock's words, "not going to cut it. ... While we applaud and indeed, revere, James Lovelock (who is that rare ...
www.warmwell.com/inbox04apriltojune.html - 240k - Cached - Similar pages

warmwell archive FMD pages September - December 2005
asks James Lovelock in the preface to a new book introducing the work of Mary Midgley. He says. ". ... the knowledge science offers is like the discourses ...
www.warmwell.com/aboutfmdseptdec05.html - 162k - Cached - Similar pages

Warmwell Front Page Archive - part 1 _ Spring 2004
Feb 3 - 6~ James Lovelock has told the Western Morning News that he now ... James Lovelock, revered by many for his Gaia theory as well as for being an ...
www.warmwell.com/aboutarchivemar04.html - 388k - Cached - Similar pages

The Wider World - news summaries
James Lovelock writes today in a manner that seems to unify every part of warmwell's rather rambling collection of issues; For many of us his article will ...
www.warmwell.com/inpolitix.html - 422k - Cached - Similar pages

inbox new
Professor James Lovelock, a prominent environmentalist, argued last May that nuclear power was the only realistic way to curb global warming. ...
www.warmwell.com/inboxjanjul05.html - 343k - Cached - Similar pages

about warmwell
Giant turbines, as James Lovelock has said loudly and clearly, are "not going to cut it" - so the government is now hoping to spin itself a public mandate ...
www.warmwell.com/about.html - 407k - Cached - Similar pages