Nuclear Has Scaled Far More Rapidly Than Renewables – The Clean Energy Transition Needs the Atom


Anyone interested in rapidly increasing the production of clean energy should look to nuclear. The most ambitious renewables plan — Germany’s Energiewende — has brought far less zero-carbon energy far less quickly than similar efforts focused on nuclear. Being cool, profitable and popular is fine, but irrelevant. We need a reliable technology that delivers deep energy emission cuts and we need it fast. — Geoff Russell

Please bookmark Geoff Russell’s essay on The Breakthrough. In a very few words Geoff makes it completely clear that nuclear is an essential part of any sane strategy for slashing carbon emissions.  The anti-nuclear activists are the problem.

How do the rollout speeds of renewables and nuclear power compare?

Let’s compare the speed of per capita electricity generation growth in a few countries for renewables and nuclear. I’m guessing nobody will object if we use the German wunderkind as a top performing renewables example. We’ll plot the last 11 years of wind and solar growth, starting 12 months after the beginning of their feed-in-tariff scheme. We’ll also throw in the last 11 years of Chinese per capita electricity growth from all sources. This is just to put their coal/wind/nuclear/solar/hydro build in proper per capita context.

All of our comparison cases, except one, are historical. They aren’t plans, they are achievements. Anti-nuclear campaigners are fond of finding particular nuclear power stations with time or cost overruns to ‘prove’ how slow or expensive nuclear electricity is to roll out. Cherry picking examples is a time-honored strategy when objective argument fails.

(…snip…)

Being cool, profitable, and popular is fine, but irrelevant. We need a reliable technology that delivers deep energy emission cuts and we need it fast.

It’s rapidly becoming crystal clear that the biggest enemy we face in preventing ongoing climate destabilistation is the anti-nuclear movement. They have cost the planet two decades which could otherwise have seen many more countries with clean electricity, and now they are running a distracting strategy promoting technologies which are intrinsically slow to roll out. They have, in effect, created an energy growth vacuum being filled by coal seam gas which is quick to build but which won’t prevent further climate destabilisation.

4 thoughts on “Nuclear Has Scaled Far More Rapidly Than Renewables – The Clean Energy Transition Needs the Atom

  1. Your graphic is oft course wrong. A new atomic power plant X in country Y would produce 0 KWh in 10 years due to the fact that it isn’t built in 10 years!

  2. These words need to go viral:

    It’s rapidly becoming crystal clear that the biggest enemy we face in preventing ongoing climate destabilistation is the anti-nuclear movement.

  3. I’ll try tweeting links to Geoff’s essay. Longest phrase that fits is “the biggest enemy we face in preventing ongoing climate destabilistation is the anti-nuclear movement”.

  4. My first comment ist still not online after at least a week, probably because you guys don’t like the message: comparing nuclear in the 1980’s – after 30 years of mass investment due to mass subsidies – with renewables in 2000+ after only 10 years of development and with comparably low subsidies.

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