Here’s my case for why nuclear energy is better than solar and wind energy.
Like most things in life, the global energy debate is political. When an idea or practice becomes political, the information that represents that idea or practice flows through filters of carefully constructed narratives supported or rejected by its stakeholders.
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The problem with energy politics
I don’t trust Rick Scott’s tainted perspective on oil and gas. But I also don’t trust Governor Newsom’s obsession with solar energy. Because neither of these men are making policy decisions based on fact or reason, or science. Their policies are motivated by campaign dollars.
As such, lobbyists, lawmakers and citizens alike may hold convictions that might not always align neatly with scientific fact. Therefore, I find it my duty as an independent sustainability advocate to outline the net positive benefits of adopting nuclear energy in the climate debate.
In fact, I think it is necessary to promote nuclear energy, and I would go so far as to say nuclear energy is not just a better form of sustainable energy than solar or wind. It is superior.
Nuclear produces less carbon pollution
According to IPCC data, solar farms produce four times more carbon pollution than nuclear.
For context, solar produces about 20 times less carbon than a coal-powered plant would. That’s why we love solar.
Still yet, nuclear’s carbon impact is a fraction of solar!
Solar and wind take up more land
When I was driving through Central California this summer, I passed through a lot of oil fields and a lot of solar farms. And the oil fields near Bakersfield were ugly.
The process of shoveling dirt to excavate geological masterpieces is certainly no friend of the Earth. But let’s be consistent… solar farms are no walk through Yellowstone.
Mile after mile after mile down highway I-5 I could see solar panels engulfing open pastures.
That includes the world’s largest solar farm at nine and a half square miles in total. That’s a lot of land to only make up 15.43% of your state’s energy use.
Meanwhile, for the same energy output with lower carbon pollution, nuclear energy requires a fraction of the land use. I heard a statistic that all the waste ever produced by nuclear in the last 50 years could be stacked 50 feet high into one soccer pitch.
Solar and wind require more materials
OK, so wind and solar cause more pollution than nuclear energy. And they take up more land. Then wind and solar must produce less waste then, right? That’s why Greta Thunberg keeps talking about it and riding sailboats, right? Wrong.
Like we just learned, California is building millions of solar panels. That’s a lot of steel and a lot of cement. Who’s to say (or regulate) how much of those materials come from fossil fuel? How are we factoring that into the carbon footprint of solar panels?
Meanwhile, these millions of solar panels still produce just 15% of its state’s power. This weak input-output from California’s solar energy market is in spite of the fact that the cost of solar energy is at an all-time low to produce.
Solar and wind require significantly more materials to produce equivalent levels of electricity output for nuclear energy.
Nuclear is more reliable
OK. So nuclear produces less carbon, less waste, and less materials. Now you’re telling me it’s more reliable too?
This is as much about nuclear’s reliability as it is about wind & solar’s lack thereof.
Wind & solar rely on the… wind and the sun. Therefore, they cannot always operate. That requires other forms of energy… the fossil fuel kind.
As Leah Borrows of the Harvard Gazette notes, in order to have enough wind turbines “to cover the actual electricity demand of the USA… [we] would increase the continental surface temperature of the USA by 0.24° C, with the biggest increase occurring at night, when the surface temperature increase would be 1.5°C.”
Nuclear, on the other hand, is extremely reliable.
Nuclear is not dangerous
Well, a lot of time has passed since these tragic events. Just like GM doesn’t build Cadillac Eldorados anymore, nuclear technology has vastly improved since the 1970s. And it will keep improving.
But let’s say it did happen again. With a little context, it is plain to see how these unfortunate events were not as dangerous as one may think.
Environmental Progress is quick to point out that you are 2.8 times more likely of dying from pollution in a big city than you are to die from radiation as a Chernobyl clean-up worker.
Meanwhile, we get more radiation from our food, and global deaths from human conflicts have been steadily decreasing for the first time in 600 years since the invention of nuclear weapons. Scary stuff!
Nuclear isn’t perfect, it’s just better
The main takeaway here is to not believe everything you’re told. The words ‘wind’ and ‘solar’ give off a feeling of clean and helpfulness. On the other hand, ‘nuclear’ is perceived as dirty, or violent.
In reality, energy derived from wind turbines and solar panels pollutes more carbon, produces more waste, requires more land, generates less electricity, and costs more money in the long run.
Nuclear energy is simply better than wind & solar energy.
I’ll leave you with this: If a team of rational aliens with zero human bias were tasked with saving the human energy problem, they’d be fools to not at least seriously consider the worldwide expansion of nuclear energy.