The Nuclear Fallacy

Dr Louis Arnoux
15 min readDec 25, 2021

(based in part on a recent article by Yves Cochet, ex-French Minister for the Environment with his permission — quotes transl. by me)

(Mixed media combining the 2007 ionizing radiation ISO and IAEA warning symbol with a picture of IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman examining Reactor Unit 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011, Wikimedia Common)

After many years of quietness, recent months have seen a flurry of posts, articles, peer reviewed papers, reports and plans advocating large-scale development of nuclear power in a variety of forms, from small modular reactors (SMRs) to very large power plants like the fated European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs). The projects recently announced by the President of the French Republic for the revival of nuclear power in France are a typical example.

This renewed focus on “nuclear” seems in response to a measure of desperation concerning “renewables”, typically wind and photovoltaics. What some of us have been pointing out for years is progressively becoming publicised, namely that it is simply not possible to address the Climate Emergency and other related ecological, social and financial matters by “decarbonising with renewables”. See, for example, an earlier post of mine that details the matter: 2020, Thermodynamics, fossil fuels and renewables, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (GBU). Since then, numerous other papers, articles and posts have piled up more data and analyses. So, there can’t be any “maybe” or “perhaps”, the data that has been piling up over the last 20 years or so is incontrovertible, “renewables” can’t cut it. So, if not “renewables” what then?

This is when many would-be pundits or experts fall back on nuclear with various degrees of enthusiasm. However, much of these advocacies or plans are based on fantasies, most of which have been known to be such for decades, from the 1970s onwards. Yet, the authors of recent publications, especially “influencers” seem to ignore this. Energy supply and use matters are extremely complex, and nuclear ones even more so. This is not the kind of domain where one can improvise, simply because one is well intentioned and keen to find a ray of hope about how to possibly extricate ourselves from the Climate Emergency. Energy matters do require many years of study in a wide array of natural and social sciences as well as engineering. There is no way around this; no short cut. Recently, in reaction to so much nonsense, Yves Cochet, mathematician and former French Minister of the Environment (2001–02), sought to set matters straight in an article in Le Monde

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Dr Louis Arnoux

Louis is the catalyst and main author for the Fourth Transition Initiative and Cool Planet Foundation.