Jonathon Porritt and Nuclear Power

Posted: 14th June 2021

Johnathon Porritt: Given the scale of the challenge we face, we need to

have very strong grounds for keeping nuclear out of today’s
low/zero-carbon portfolio. Not least as nuclear power, historically, has
already made a huge contribution to low-carbon generation. Since the early
1960s, nuclear power has provided the equivalent of 18,000 reactor years of
electricity generation. We’d be in a much worse place today if all that
electricity had been generated from burning coal or gas. Apart from a few
visionaries in the early 1980s (including Friends of the Earth’s Amory
Lovins and Walt Patterson), no-one really thought that renewables would be
capable of substituting for the use of all fossil fuels and all nuclear at
any point in the near future. And anyone expressing such a view in official
circles was rapidly put back in their box. Happily, there is no longer any
doubt about the viability of that alternative. In 2020, Stanford University
issued a collection of 56 peer-reviewed journal articles, from 18
independent research groups, supporting the idea that all the energy
required for electricity, transport, heating and cooling, and all
industrial purposes, can be supplied reliably with 100% (or near 100%)
renewable energy. The solutions involve transitioning ASAP to 100%
renewable wind – water – solar (WWS), efficiency and storage. So why
are the UK’s politicians (in all three major parties) still in thrall to
this superannuated technology? Some environmentalists may still be taken
aback to discover that the Government’s principal case for nuclear power
in the UK today is driven by the need to maintain the UK’s nuclear
weapons capability – to ensure a ‘talent pool’ of nuclear engineers
and to support a supply chain of engineering companies capable of providing
component parts for the nuclear industry, both civilian and military. The
indefatigable work of Andy Stirling and Phil Johnston at Sussex
University’s Science Policy Research Unit has established the depth and
intensity of these interdependencies, demonstrating how the UK’s military
industrial base would become unaffordable in the absence of a nuclear
energy programme.

 Johnathon Porritt 4th June 2021

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