Friday, December 10, 2004

Not quite as simple as that, John.

I wake early these days, and lie in bed listening to Today on Radio 4, waiting for something to give me a kickstart. Nuclear power (NP) is the motivating force this morning. Not the perennial boring problem of we-don't-know-where-to-put-the waste-products (the answer to that one is obvious - just put it Somewhere Else), but the casual remark by the interviewer that NP is the solution to the global warming problem.

It is the casual remarks of broadcasters that are if anything more influential than their fangs-bared attacks, because they set the frame of reference to peoples' view of the world.

So I start the day with an email to John Humphrys, Today programme, BBC radio.

Dear John

This morning you mentioned in passing that nuclear power is going to have to make a comeback in order to let us meet our commitments on global warming.

This is coming to be a common view, but I am sorry to say it is not quite as simple as that. When all the energy costs of nuclear power - mining, construction, ore refinement and decommissioning - are taken into account, electricity generated by NP does indeed produce CO2.

"The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much CO2-emission as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required to achieve this reduction are, however, so limited that if the entire present world electricity demand were to be provided by nuclear power, these ores would be exhausted within three years. Use of the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors would produce more CO2 emission than burning fossil fuels directly." - ref: here.

And for NP to produce a historically significant amount of electricity requires that we kiss goodbye to any notion that we might keep nuclear weapons out out the hands of terrorists.

Sorry to disappoint.



So. The day is under way. Off to work we go.

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