Monday, June 11, 2007


Here's another good reason why nuclear power is not the saviour some seem to think it is.

OK, Hunterson 'B' is an older plant, and it's not a total outage this time. Nonetheless, if anything goes wrong, even with just one of the reactors, that's still 4000 GWh - nearly 9% - lost from our total output.

No-one's really going to notice if a single wind farm, hydro scheme or conventional station goes down for any reason. In comparison, even leaving aside all the other 'cons' offered by nuclear, opting for such a generating future would still be putting a lot of eggs in comparatively few baskets.


Anonymous said...

Yeah... Windfarms are immune to unplanned reductions in output, after all.

Richard Thomson said...

Of course they're not.

Point is, there's usually wind blowing somewhere. And when it fails to blow past a windfarm, you tend not to lose such a large percentage of total output with little idea of when it will come back on stream, as has happened twice recently at Hunterston.

We need a mix of generation. For a whole host of reasons, we don't need more nuclear stations as part of that.

Anonymous said...

"Point is, there's usually wind blowing somewhere."

Nice wishful thinking.

Let's do some arithmetic.

If 50% of our generation capacity were wind-power, and the wind was not blowing across Scotland (even though it's a huge continent-sized country with vastly different weather happening across it at all times, of course), there'd be a damn sight more than a 9% drop in our generation capacity.

This particular argument against nuclear is laughable - it just points up the much greater problem with wind power.

Richard Thomson said...

Hardly wishful thinking, but even wishful thinking is still often preferable to binary thinking.

I wasn't suggesting replacing nuclear with windpower on its own. Not even the most avid supporters of the technology advocate trying to achieve 50% of output from wind. After all, even nuclear only accounts for 35% of total Scottish output (not 50%).

That's why I mentioned hydro and other conventional sources, though I might also have mentioned CHP, biomass and microgeneration as well. So, while you're presenting a nice straw man to blow over (or not), the false choice you try to present between wind/nuclear doesn't affect the 'eggs in one basket' argument one whit.

No commercial nuclear outfit wants to build in Scotland anyway. The reasons? They know they can't compete with other sources in Scotland (including renewables) without huge subsidy, and the transmission losses are too high to get the power 'profitably' to where they can sell it in the south of England. It's much easier for them just to build any new stations in the south where there's less public hostility to the idea but more importantly, where the stations will be closer to the markets they are designed to serve.

My hostility to nuclear is on economic and long-term environmental grounds. For so long as there are cheaper and safer alternatives, we should be using them where we can.