Category Archives: Nuclear

Positive Bilanz des Bundesumweltamtes – Industrie vermindert Kohlendioxid-Ausstoß

Despite switching off 7 nuclear power stations and good economic growth, German industry reduced its carbon emissions by one percent in 2011.

Critics of the nuclear phase-out had predicted big carbon increases. (Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung).

The nukes of hazard: – not safety but exploding costs will be the demise of nuclear

We need to start aggressively deploying all forms of carbon-free power if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming, starting with the lowest cost ones. That’s what makes the events of March 12, 2011 so tragic.”  

Great piece by Joe Romm on his Climate Progress blog about the future of nuclear. Nuclear power is too costly to be a major climate solution.

The dream that failed

A year after Fukushima, the future for nuclear power is not bright—for reasons of cost as much as safety”.  

The Economist has an excellent critical dossier on the tough future for nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy too expensive for France

France does not have the financial means to replace its old nuclear reactor fleet according to a surprising new governmental report.  This is the top headline on the frontpage of Le Monde today.

The new 400-page report by the French Court des Comptes (court of auditors)  has a lot of interesting figures on the costs of decommissioning of nuclear plants that are coming to their end of life by 2022 and the costs of building new-generation nuclear plants.

For more French media coverage, see Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Monde (reaction by Greenpeace) and Libération. The New York Times has good coverage in English.

After Fukushima, the nuclear debate in France (which gets more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear) has really taken off. This report will surely intensify the debate.

EU Energy Roadmap 2050 : time for energy saving and renewable technologies

On 15 December 2011, the European Commission adopted the Communication "Energy Roadmap 2050". The EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 in the context of necessary reductions by developed countries as a group. In the Energy Roadmap 2050 the Commission explores the challenges posed by delivering the EU’s decarbonisation objective while at the same time ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness.“   (Source: European Commission)

Despite some unrealistic assumptions in the modelling (price of oil in 2030-2050; economic growth predictions), the EU Commission study demonstrates that a high renewables and energy efficiency scenarios would not cost Europeans more than business as usual. With the price of fossil fuels most likely going up in the long-term as the industry has to revert to “extreme energy” (hard to extract, expensive, environmentally dangerous) and prices of renewables coming down as technological innovation progresses, the choice for Europe looks pretty clear to me.

3E Intelligency will return later with a more in-depth analysis of the five decarbonisation scenarions. Watch this space.

Monbiot on nuclear: hard-hitting attack on green movement

"This year the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved."   (Source:

UK top journalist George Monbiot is very harsh in his critique of the anti-nuclear movement in Europe and makes the case for the use of integral fast reactors (IFRs).

"Anti-nuclear campaigners have generated as much mumbo-jumbo as creationists, anti-vaccine scaremongers, homeopaths and climate change deniers. In all cases, the scientific process has been thrown into reverse: people have begun with their conclusions, then frantically sought evidence to support them."   

UK’s faith in nuclear power threatens renewables, says German energy expert

“Jochen Flasbarth, who is advising German government on its nuclear phase-out, says UK’s wind and solar industry will suffer…”   (Source: The Guardian)

Maybe Germany should also take the lead of Europe’s energy policy as it is doing for its economic crisis?

IEA draft: Nuclear to fall as power demand

(Reuters) – "The Fukushima disaster could lead to a 15 percent fall in world nuclear power generation by 2035, while power demand at the same time could rise by 3.1 percent a year, according to a.draft copy of the International Energy Agency’s 2011 World Energy Outlook."


Miracles or magic?

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has found himself a new cause: climate change. It took him quite a while to discover the biggest threat to the planet but, then again, for years he did not believe in the Internet either. His gift for foreseeing trends has kind of let him down after he became one of the richest guys on the planet.

That said, when Gates speaks, the world listens. So his presentation at TED 2010 made headlines and is currently one of the hot topics in the blogo- and twittersphere.

Gates wants the world to “innovate to zero”, that is to invest in technology (preferably in which he has a stake) to reach a zero-carbon economy by 2050. His presentation (to be seen here) promoted one of his latest investments as the key to doing that: the Terrapower traveling wave nuclear reactor.

At first sight, Gates becoming the next Al Gore (is he trying to get the 2011 Nobel Prize?) is good for the sustainability community, no? So why am I not convinced?

First of all, unlike Alex Steffen on WorldChanging, Gates focusing in on climate will just add to the story that “global weirding” (again one of those great Friedman phrases) is the most important problem facing the planet. As I have explained in other posts, it is NOT. It is just the tip of the iceberg of a way of life (of consuming and producing) which is unsustainable when it starts to be imitated by the world’s most populated new economic giants.

Secondly, as to be expected from the IT geek, his religious belief that technology will save us is touching but hardly believable. We might wish that “the Force be with us” but that does not make it so. Like carbon capture and storage, the Terrapower reactor (a nicer name for the failed “fast breeder” according to some) is still more of a dream than commercial reality. Without serious changes in lifestyle and behavior we will not beat “The Empire” as Luke Skywalker knew very well. “Be afraid, be very afraid”, we will have to face our deepest fears.

David Roberts of the Grist (“Why Bill Gates is wrong“) has a great analysis of why innovation always seems to mean development of new technology instead of innovation in our social systems: “the way we live together now, the way we govern ourselves, the way we arrange our physical spaces and our commerce, the way we do economics and measure prosperity—all these have to be changed in creative ways if we want to achieve the goal of sustainable prosperity. All these changes require … wait for it … innovation. Innovations in the way we think, interact, and structure our lives require just as much imagination, intelligence, persistence, and funding as innovations in technology”.

Thirdly, we have to suspect the real motives behind Bill Gates’ conversion to the climate cause. Joe Romm on his blog Climate Progress is very clear about this. Commenting on another recent climate contribution of Bill Gates (“Why we need innovation, not insulation”), Romm summarises it as follows: “Bill Gates disses energy efficiency, renewables , and near-term climate action while embracing the magical thinking of Bjorn Lomborg (and George Bush)”. Why? “The only conclusion is that Gates doesn’t actually want to have any market-based policies that stimulate deployment of technology …. He just wants a straight government handout for research”.

So, it is probably not the “energy miracles” but the “magic of money” dear Bill is hoping for? The future will tell.

Sustainability alerts 30 November 2009


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