Didn’t see that coming

I get the feeling that I should have.

Some time ago, while looking into the extreme claims by Extinction Rebellion about Climate Change, I saw this clip of BBC’s Andrew Neil interviewing XR’s spokesperson, Zion Lights:


Lights does not do particularly well, as Neil has actually prepared himself and it all comes off a bit embarassing for XR.

But now Lights has left XR, to become a spokesperson promoting nuclear power. And apparently the interview had something to do with it:

[…] there exist scientifically assessed solutions for addressing climate change, and in the energy arena one of those solutions is nuclear power.

The UK must find ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which are highly polluting and dangerous. We are currently on track to miss our own emissions targets. […]

For many years I was skeptical of nuclear power. Surrounded by anti-nuclear activists, I had allowed fear of radiation, nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction to creep into my subconscious. When a friend sent me a scientific paper on the actual impacts, including the (very small number of) total deaths from radiation at Chernobyl and Fukushima, I realised I had been duped into anti-science sentiment all this time.

Reading up on safety, I found that the nuclear accidents that have occurred in my lifetime were due to unusual and extreme circumstances, or human errors. Chernobyl, for example, occurred due to the use of a flawed reactor design which caused a power surge and explosion at one of the reactors, and Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster was triggered by the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

However, even when including these disastrous events, scientific research has found that nuclear power is still safer than fossil fuels, once air pollution, accidents (from energy extraction) and greenhouse gas emissions are taken into account.

What of renewable alternatives? Alongside my fellow activists, I had been singing the praises of renewable energy for years. But while renewables can and should be part of the mix in supplying energy to the UK, the technology simply doesn’t stretch to powering our country 24/7.

The late physicist David MacKay’s book explains that renewables alone would require unfeasibly massive amounts of storage to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, and although battery or hydrogen storage may be just around the corner, we are in a climate emergency and need all the clean energy we can build right now: renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.

I’ll add these notes:

  • The Fukushima Daiichi disaster was also, partly, a design flaw as the emergency generator was placed in the basement. Never put anything of value in the basement.
  • The number of deaths from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster is much higher than those that can come from radiation. In fact, shutting down the nuclear reactors in Japan led to a large increase in air pollution from other power plants, leading to many premature deaths.
  • I may be wrong, but I absolutely do not think that variable renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, will ever be able to contribute enough as they have too low energy density. I am not even taking about pollution from production and decommissioning of panels and turbines. But I could be wrong, so I’ll keep an open mind.











This entry was posted in climate and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.