I wrote this letter, published in the print edition of The Canberra Times of Tuesday 12 June 2012 (and the online edition):
As Paddy Regan points out (“Time to stop fearing the atom“, Times2 p4,
4 June), there is a widespread and irrational fear of nuclear power.
Germany is winding down its nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima,
which killed no-one, and will release an extra 300 million tonnes of
CO2 this decade, because the shortfall is largely being made up by
In Japan, before Fukushima, fossil fuels supplied 64% of power
generation; now, with all reactors shut down, fossil fuel use has
risen to 90%.
A typical coal power station emits more radiation than a typical
nuclear plant. The new generation of nuclear plants, now being
adopted in China, Russia, UAE and other countries, are much safer and
can use existing nuclear waste as their fuel source, reducing the time
that nuclear waste has to be stored from hundreds of thousands of
years to a few hundred years.
There is a role for renewables such as solar and wind in decarbonising
the power system, but most serious analysis shows that there is little
chance of them taking on the whole task in the next few decades: the
scale of the job of replacing fossil fuels is just too large.
The conclusion that nuclear power is an unavoidable part of solving
the climate crisis is shared by leading climate scientists and
significant figures in the climate community. The blanket rejection of
nuclear power by green groups is a deeply irresponsible position that
seriously impedes our ability to contain the climate crisis.