Sunday, August 14, 2005

Nuclear power vs. conservation and global warming

An opinion piece by Mark Hertsgaard in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle is entitled "Nuclear energy can't solve global warming: other remedies 7 times more beneficial." The following comment was posted at Sam Smith's Undernews.
This same argument is even more applicable to industrial-scale wind power. Two billion dollars, presumably for about a 1000-MW nuclear plant, would get at most 2000 MW of also heavily subsidized wind power capacity. But whereas the nuclear industry boasts that their 1000-MW plant will produce an average of 850 MW, the wind industry claims that their 2000 MW of turbines will produce an average of 667 MW. In reality, the nuclear plant may provide an average of 750 MW and the wind plant less than 260 MW (according to U.S. Energy Information Agency data). And not to diminish the huge negative implications of a radioctive plant, the nuclear plant is in a single location over a few square miles at most. Two thousand megawatts of wind power would require about 100,000 acres, over 150 square miles (see www.aweo.org/windarea.html). Further, the wind plant's output is highly variable and unpredictable, requiring the continuing and more inefficient (thus more polluting) use of other sources to compensate. Much of the time, as in Denmark, which must dump almost 85% of its wind plant output, turbines produce well when there is no demand. And (again, not to diminish its very serious problems) nuclear power has proved itself in providing roughly 20% of our electricity, whereas the practical potential for wind power is no more than 5%. Two billion dollars can easily save that amount and more, without industrializing our rural and wild landscapes. Or it could buy 2000 MW of giant intrusive and destructive wind turbines that might provide less that 0.1%.
If nuclear power is a boondoggle whose pursuit detracts from actually solving our energy issues, then that is even more the case with industrial wind power. It's true that wind turbines are nowhere near as dangerous and poisonous, but unfortunately they also don't produce much electricity (let alone other forms of energy) so you'll still have as much "dirty" sources as ever.

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