We have all heard the claim. We need nuclear power because, along with big hydropower, it’s the only low carbon generation technology that can supply ‘reliable baseload power’ on a large scale. For example, the UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, attempted to justify the decision to build the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station on the grounds that “we have to secure baseload electricity.” Underlying this claim are three key assumptions. First, that baseload power is actually a good and necessary thing. In fact, what it really means is too much power when you don’t want it, and not enough when you do. What we need is flexible power (and flexible demand too) so that supply and demand can be matched instant by instant. The second assumption is that nuclear power is a reliable baseload supplier. In fact it’s no such thing. All nuclear power stations are subject to tripping out for safety reasons or technical faults. That means that a 3.2GW nuclear power station has to be matched by 3.2GW of expensive ‘spinning reserve’ that can be called in at a moments notice. The third is that the only way to supply baseload power is from baseload power stations, such as nuclear, coal and gas, designed to run flat-out all the time whether their power is actually needed or not. That’s wrong too. But in all the flexible, renewables-based approaches, conventional baseload power stations are unnecessary. In the words of former Australian Greens’ Senator Christine Milne: “We are now in the midst of a fight between the past and the future”. The refutation of the baseload fairy tale and other myths falsely denigrating renewable energy are a key part of that struggle.
Renew Economy 18th March 2016 read more »