Nuclear option is the future

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EDITOR – The wind farm debate has echoes of the past.

In 1967, when the Labour Government was forced to devalue the pound, Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, famously said “the pound in your pocket or in your purse or in your bank (will not) be devalued”.

Of course, as history has shown, it was.

A similar myth is peddled about wind energy. ‘Wind is free’, we are told, suggesting that it costs us nothing. The same must surely be true of coal: it is beneath our feet, and cost us nothing in being there, so it too is free.

However, as we all know, there is cost in garnering, i.e. mining, the coal, and harnessing its power. The same is true of wind energy. Power stations have to be built, in this case wind farms, connections to the national grid, sub-stations built, access roads made, roads and bridges strengthened to take the heavy loads, and many other direct costs.

My point is that wind is no more ‘free’ than any other source of energy.

There are other, hidden, costs in the form of indirect subsidies. Through the system of Renewable Obligation Certificates energy generators are paid a ‘bonus premium’ for the renewable energy they generate.

That premium is not paid by the Government, but by you, the consumer, in an enhanced price for the electricity you use. The consequence of this system will be that electricity bills will increase exponentially as more wind-generated energy comes on stream.

As we have seen during the long, cold spell last winter, the wind did not blow – high pressure means still weather. So, at a time when we most needed energy to heat our homes, none was available from wind farms.

Instead, our survival depended upon power generated by conventional means – coal and gas. It will always be the case that back-up to wind generation will have to be available.

Gas and coal-powered stations emit higher levels of CO2 when powering up or down than when running at a steady rate, so wind energy aggravates emissions to that extent.

Denmark, which has the highest number of wind turbines per capita, has not been able to de-commission one conventional power station. With the increase in the numbers of wind turbines, more back-up capacity is clearly needed, yet the Government has done nothing to plug this enlarging gap.

The result will be more and more outages at times of heavy demand, as in winter.

The inevitable consequence of Government policy will be financial misery and personal distress for many people. Your bills will go up, and you will be without energy when you most need it.

There are alternatives, and nuclear is by far the best one. The disaster in Japan has turned opinion against nuclear energy, which is wrong.

Apart from the obvious fact that Europe is not an earthquake area, nor is it subject to tsunamis, it is worth recording that the cause of the failure in Japan was not the earthquake but the tsunami knocking out the emergency generators for the cooling water, which were located in a basement area.

When the ‘quake hit, the nuclear generators shut down automatically. The future is, or should be, thorium nuclear.

It is in greater natural supply than uranium, cheaper, eats most of its own waste, the power stations are less costly to build as a pressure vessel is not needed, the half-life of the waste is measured in centuries rather than millennia, and it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

It is a source of clean energy.

Christopher Holligan

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