Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Future of Energy: Nuclear in New England

Apricot Torte at street cafe in Saumur, France
New England and France

I just returned from a trip to France, in honor of our 50th anniversary.

When I arrived home, I received an email about planning a meeting.  I am a member of a group that plans many meetings about energy. The group is supposed to be impartial.

 The email included the following words about the upcoming meeting:

 (Consider) ….discussing the emission impacts of using natural gas as the swing fuel for covering the intermittence of renewables, versus other fuels (oil, coal). 

The sentence jumped out at me.  I wrote the following response, slightly edited for this blog.

What about nuclear energy?

Dear group members:
Gardens at Chateau Villandry

In reviewing the correspondence about planning (and I know it was a VERY preliminary correspondence!) I noticed there was no suggestion for a comparison between "renewables-plus-gas" and nuclear power.

I know, I know, lots of people don't like nuclear, and I am not trying to persuade them.  But nuclear is 20% of U.S. electricity, and more than half of the low-carbon electricity produced in the U. S. Both the EPA and President Obama say nuclear needs to continue to be a part of our country's energy mix.  If our group doesn't mention nuclear when we are doing comparisons, we show ignorance.

Lots of people don't like wind turbines, but our group does comparisons that include wind turbines.  For our group, "not-liking" cannot mean "we pretend it doesn't exist and we don't mention it."  We can't appear ignorant.


I hope to see complete comparisons at the next meeting.  D'accord?

Yes, I just returned from more than two weeks in France, the country with one of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in Europe, and one of the lowest electricity rates, too.  I don't understand why some Americans are so in love with the "German example" of wind, solar and lignite, and why they ignore the French success of nuclear energy.

No matter how individuals feel about different technologies, our group is a special group with a charter. As a group, I think we must compare all reasonable options, whether or not those options include our top-favorite technologies.


Backup Links:

European electricity prices:

Germany: households   0.297 Euro per kWh,  industry  0.152 Euro per kWh ( 2014 numbers)
France: households  0.175 Euro per kWh, industry  0.091 Euro per kWh (2014 numbers),_second_half_of_year,_2012–14_(EUR_per_kWh)_YB15.png

CO2 emissions per capita

Germany: 9.115 tonnes per capita, 2.2 % of world total
France: 5.556 tonnes per capita, 1.07% of world total

If I had looked a little harder for just the electricity sector, I am sure that the carbon emission differences between France and Germany would be even more in favor of France.

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