Clear Facts on Climate Change

The Economist newspaper asks for clear thinking on climate change in their special report. I wrote them a letter to increase the clarity.

Dear Editor,

Your issue on climate change rightly notes that the present efforts of combating greenhouse emissions have been ineffective. At the same time it reveals the reason for that failure.

Writing about energy solutions, you focus on renewables and note that one of the largest solar plants in the world costs less than two nuclear reactors. However, you fail to mention that the energy output from the Moroccan plant, when fully completed, is about one sixth of one nuclear reactor. Such tendency to ignore basic facts of renewable energy solutions lies at the heart of our inability to reduce emissions.

According to World Bank data, France reduced its greenhouse emissions from energy production 60% in the 80s by building nuclear. On the other hand, ten years of heavy investment in renewables in Germany for Energiewende have failed to produce a significant reduction in emissions.

Nuclear power causes the least deaths per unit of production and is fully scalable. As an example, the current stockpiles of nuclear waste already contain enough energy for the world’s total consumption for more than 10 years with next generation reactors. Surprisingly it is China which is leading the development with technologies such as molten salt and travelling wave reactors.

Taking a fresh look at the facts beyond green dogma, it’s clear what is our most sensible tool for producing low emission energy.

Kind regards,

Petrus Pennanen
PhD, Physics
Helsinki

References – please let me know if you notice something to correct here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouarzazate_solar_power_station
Annual generation 370 GWh from first 160MW capacity phase, total capacity when fully completed 580 MW i.e. about 1340 GWh of energy production per year. One 1.1GW nuclear reactor produces about 8700 GWh.

Emissions of France vs Germany from World Bank climate change data:

france germany

Deaths from nuclear vs other sources, large research project funded by European Commission www.externe.info :
Deaths per generated TWh: Coal 60, Oil 36, Biomass 12, Gas 4, Hydro 1.4, Solar 0.44, Wind 0.15, Nuclear 0.04

There’s about 200 000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in the world. With next generation reactors one ton can produce 16 TWh of energy, and all of it about 3M TWh. World’s total energy consumption is about 150 000 TWh per year (IEA 2012).