16 Jul 2013

Nuclear 2.0 Review

The nuclear renaissance is a topic which continues to fascinate and one of the key figures in bigging it up is Mark Lynas, who is now better known for his pro-GMO conversion speech which received a lot of publicity earlier this year.

Mark has just produced an ebook called Nuclear 2.0 which is a distillation of his current thinking and seems to have come about as a result of his involvement with the film Pandora's Promise, the making of which involved filming in such well known holiday locations at Chernobyl and Fukushima. He knows his stuff — it's not an armchair treatise — and he marshalls his facts to present a cogent argument that we should be investing heavily in nuclear power and not just relying on renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage to build a low carbon energy network fit for purpose. I won't argue with this - in fact, I find myself in total agreement.

My only quibble is to wonder about who this ebook is written for? The vast majority of people I know are either totally disinterested in the whole energy debate, or are already in favour of nuclear power - certainly, they are not afraid of it. But then I don't know many Germans and they seem to have a more universal distaste for all thing nuclear (except of course down at their local radiotherapy treatment centres where cancer victims seem quite relaxed about being bombarded with radiation).

In this country, there remains a solid core of energy activists who have dug their heels in and continue to think that nuclear power is the work of the devil, and that the not-insignificant issues with its roll out (cost, proliferation, decommissioning, waste, terrorism, risk of accidents, to name but seven) are simply insuperable. The news is that they're not.

Actually, this solid core is not that small. There is Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (although, as Mark points out, neither of these campaigns very strongly against nuclear power these days), there are a handful of leftish/greenish MPs and there are shadowy bodies like the Nuclear Consulting Group which is not really a consulting group at all but a bunch of anti-nuclear academics. Together this consists of a considerable anti-nuclear lobby with some well known names. My guess is that Nuclear 2.0 is written with them in mind, but I also think it's more than likely that none of them will be bothered to read it and, even if they do, they won't be convinced by its arguments.

Which is a shame. Nuclear power may well be expensive to build and difficult to maintain, but it still wins out as one of the less destructive ways of making electricity. The risks are overstated.