I recently came across an excellent article by Ben Heard, the director of Australian-based ThinkClimate Consulting, tackling the Nuclear versus Renewable energy debate. The article, which is concerned with the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions in the near future, kicks off with the comment that “Nuclear power is in the best position to replace coal-fired electricity: it’s reliable, proven and the infrastructure already exists.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. The fact is that nuclear power stations provide high baseload energy while emitting low levels of carbon emissions. The high baseload aspect is crucial because modern power grids are designed to run on high baseload energy sources. They can utilise intermittent sources such as wind and solar but only as a minority percentage or you end up with brown outs and multiple other assorted problems.
However, as Ben points out, we should not be talking in terms or Nuclear or Renewables but rather Nuclear and Renewables.
Coal has to be phased out as we move towards a low carbon future and renewables simply cannot replace that much power generation – particularly when electricity demand is expected to grow another 76% by 2030. The power companies know this all too well. You just have to look at the figures to see the growth that nuclear is undergoing.
At the same time, no single source is going to provide all of a country’s energy needs. Even France, which relies on nuclear energy more than any other country (75% according to the WNA), still uses other sources to supplement nuclear power. It’s there, at the margin, where renewables are at their best.
So, if you find yourself wondering if nuclear or renewables will be the preferred clean energy of choice moving forward I think you’ll find the answer is both. The sooner commentators move away from a question of either/or and accept that there are obvious roles for each to play, the better it will be for everyone.
Ted O’Connor, Azincourt Uranium CEO