Monbiot goes Nuclear

George Monbiot has a moment of clarity:

It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year, the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

As a result of shutting down its nuclear programme in response to green demands, Germany will produce an extra 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. That’s almost as much as all the European savings resulting from the energy efficiency directive. Other countries are now heading the same way. These decisions are the result of an almost medievel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo.

We may have mentioned the Germany faux pas here and here.

What follows Monbiot’s terrible admission is generally a plea to his fellow greenies to look again at nuclear technology, specifically a GEH proposal to build an Integral Fast Reactor at Sellafield in the UK, capable of using the waste radioactive material from other nuclear plants. The alternative plans for the waste – as described by George, at least – do seem far less palatable.

All in all it’s an interesting read and, if one is being rational, then supporting GEH’s plan seems like a no-brainer:

So we environmentalists have a choice. We can’t wish the waste away. Either it is stored and then buried. Or it is turned into mox fuels. Or it is used to power IFRs. The decision is being made at the moment, and we should determine where we stand.
I suggest we take the radical step of using science, not superstition, as our guide.

That last line is the kicker though, and probably explains why George’s is likely be the only green voice calling for a new reactor in Cumbria. Sad, but true.

A fully referenced version of this column is available here.

7 thoughts on “Monbiot goes Nuclear

  1. A moment of clarity? Monbiot has been pushing the nuclear angle for quite a while now and, to my mind, consistently manages to observe facts above ideology. Or, science above superstition as he nicely put it. Unlike many other greens — among countless other groups, sadly — he’s not afraid to recant his opinions in light of new evidence. Two telling examples here and here. For these reasons, he is one environmentalist very much worth listening to.

    Back to the nuclear issue, I strongly agree. But then again I’m biased. Half of my girlfriend’s family live in Cumbria, which effectively means they are employed by Sellafield directly, or something very close to that. Closing that puppy down could only mean one thing: An influx of in-laws. FML.

  2. stickman > Yep – fair comment on Monbiot. He is big enough to admit when he is wrong.
    I guess that I meant more of a moment of clarity for the green agenda generally; this is the first occasion I have seen of him openly suggesting that they should perform a radical u-turn on their beliefs.

  3. @6000

    Cool, gotcha. Still, as I’ve said, Monbiot’s been giving it to fellow greenies on this particular issue for a while. Google his comments on Fukushima, for example.

    Actually, the good news is that there is an increasingly vocal environmental contingent that is embracing the science on things like nuclear and GM crops. Dare I say as consistently as they do w.r.t. climate change?…

    Mark Lynas, for instance, is also worth following on Twitter, etc. Here’s a good article on how he (Lynas) came about to reconsidering a couple environmental scared cows and is now trying to break down some of the “Luddite prejudices and ideological inertia” of the Green movement.

  4. Always been a fan of nuclear energy. And have been sneered at by the greenies at my place of employ. Mostly because they hold the populist view that Chernobyl (and lately Fukushima) show that nuclear just isn’t safe. And because they don’t have the common sense to say “ok, those two events weren’t good, now how can we learn from them and make things better rather than writing off the single technology that has the smallest footprint for the biggest reward”.

    Nuclear is THE way to go. The amount of waste it produces relative to the energy it gives is almost negligible. Especially when you compare it to the untold damage a solar array or wind farm will do to the environment simply because of the massive footprints both those technologies require for even 1/10th the output of a modern nuclear plant.

  5. Monbiot > It’s like me on this blog (or maybe you feel like it’s like you with your comments here).
    No-one seems to want to listen.

    Gary > Yes, but what about Chernobyl and Fukushima, huh? HUH?!?!?

  6. Natural selection at it’s best. Both cases were human error (albeit Fukushima was triggered by a natural disaster, it was compounded by the way people reacted).

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