Saturday, June 17, 2006

No, I will not support Greenpeace

Chernobyl certificate No 000358 | Greenpeace International

Part of me wants to support Greenpeace. I'm with them on whaling, and their stances on timber, the oceans and so on makes some sense to me.

Greenpeace's stance on nuclear energy, though, doesn't follow. They assert that we don't need nuclear energy because we can meet all our energy needs with safe and efficient renewable energy technologies. Maybe so, but I think almost certainly not for reasons ranging from intermittence to NIMBY to unintended consequences (such as bird kill due to wind energy extraction, shorline erosion due to wave energy extraction or algae blooms due to ocean thermal energy conversion).

I resent Greenpeace raising the spectre of Chernobyl, as if Chernobyl represented the technology of future nuclear energy.

As for inherent danger, life is inherently dangerous, less so on some paths than others. All things considered, the no-nuke path is much more dangerous than the pro-nuke path.

Energy not available from new nuclear energy will come mostly from new combustion of fossil fuel, not from safe and renewable green sources. What is more inherently dangerous than the accelerated increase of the atmosphere's CO2 burden?

Energy available from new nuclear sources will decrease the likelihood of resource wars by some number. What's more inherently dangerous than war?

What's more inherently dangerous than steady growth against limits? There is zero probability of humanity limiting its numbers except by the four horsemen on the one hand, or good standards of living for everyone on the other. I don't think we'll avoid the four horsemen without the energy of the atom.

The globe needs massive amounts of new nuclear energy along with every other safe and renewable source. When Greenpeace changes their anti-nuke stance I'll reconside support.


Tom Gray said...

I don't believe that wind energy, even lots of wind energy, presents a serious threat to birds. Here is what the U.S. Department of Energy has to say on the subject:

"[Myth #9:] Wind turbines kill birds and thus have serious environmental impacts.

"Bird kills have caused serious scientific concern at only one location in the United States: Altamont Pass in California, one of the first areas in the country to experience significant wind development. Over the past decade, the wind community has learned that wind farms and wildlife can and do coexist successfully. Wind energy development’s overall impact on birds is extremely low (<1 of 30,000) compared to other human-related causes, such as buildings, communications towers, traffic, and house cats. Birds can fly into wind turbines, as they do with other tall structures. However, conventional fuels contribute to air and water pollution that can have far greater impact on wildlife and their habitat, as well as the environment and human health."

Source: "Wind Energy Myths," .

Tom Gray
American Wind Energy Association

jj mollo said...

Wind energy extraction, like any other technology, will have unpleasant and unforseeable side effects. We are just not smart enough to see everything ahead of time. But I don't think any true environmentalist is against it. The only argument is whether wind energy can provide a path to a future without Global Warming. I think we should pursue it vigorously, but I don't expect it to be even close to adequate no matter how vigorously we pursue it.

Nuclear energy is necessary to save the planet for human use. And we can't dawdle on that front either.

The problem is that every environmentalist also knows that considerable reductions of CO2 are easily available from the largest most easily extracted and safest clean energy supply in America. That would be conservation. Its potential dwarfs the oil fields of Arabia.

Unfortunately, that source is politically unavailable to us. So are we going to starve to death while staring into the grocery store window? You have to take what you can, and we can get nuclear power if we ask for it.

Steve said...

Thanks Tom. Yes, I agree.

I should have elaborated a bit to say I don't think bird kill is a significant problem with large, modern wind turbines. It was a serious, unintended consequence, though, which is what I was trying to illustrate.

jj mollo said...

I was a member of Greenpeace many years ago, but I decided they were too fanatical and not willing to work the politics to get compromises in the realm of the possible.

What I'm worndering about Chernobyl is whether, for all the damage it did, there was actually less harmful effect than would have been created by a comparable coal-burning plant. If you cound all the lung diseases and acid rain from the mining and the burning and you put a value on the CO2 that would have been, but wasn't, released, is it possible that the Chernobyl power plant actually helped the environment over its lifetime?