Letter Prof Anton van der Merwe and Emeritus Prof Wade Allison: Martin Wolf, in ” The shameful inaction over climate change” (October 24), reports that, in order to minimise the risk of catastrophic climate change, net greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced rapidly to zero. But how may this be achieved with any confidence? France and Ontario have already shown that building nuclear reactors allows greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced very rapidly at low cost. So why aren’t other countries rapidly expanding nuclear power? Largely because of two tragic misconceptions. The first misconception is that radioactivity is very dangerous. Fear of radioactivity is absurdly high, given actual evidence of its health risks. Even the most catastrophic nuclear accidents, such as at Chernobyl and Fukushima, caused few deaths (43 following Chernobyl, none after Fukushima). Indeed, nuclear energy has a much better safety record than fossil fuel generators, and is as safe as any renewable energy. Fear of radioactivity has resulted in onerous regulations, which have made nuclear energy unnecessarily expensive. The second misconception is that renewables can meet our energy needs. Unfortunately their low energy density means that unfeasibly large (country-sized) installations of solar panels/wind farms and hydroelectric schemes would be required, immensely damaging to the environment. More serious is the intermittent supply, which requires renewables to be backed up by carbon fuel generators. No storage technology on the scale required to overcome this intermittency is available or likely.
FT 29th Oct 2018 read more »