Despite the rise of solar and wind power, the proportion of world energy that is zero-carbon has declined steadily over the past 25 years, the International Mining and Resources Conference was told today.
Michel Shellenberger, President of the international policy group Environmental Progress, told the conference this decline in zero-carbon energy was primarily due to the closure of nuclear power plants. He warned that continued anti-nuclear activism could well mean that more plants are closed than built over the next 12 years.
While he conceded that low gas prices had contributed to nuclear’s decline, this had been exacerbated by the failure of society to offer the same subsidies and support that are given to other green technologies.
Nuclear power plants produce zero air or water pollution, he said, and consume tiny quantities of natural resources. Solar and wind require three to five times as much steel and concrete as nuclear plants.
Because of its high energy density, uranium’s mining impacts are miniscule compared to coal, oil and natural gas. And, as conservationists from California to Germany have learned, trying to replace nuclear with solar and wind requires 100 to 700 times more land.
Mr Shellenberger said support for a comeback by nuclear power is now coming from the unlikeliest or – perhaps likeliest – of sources: environmentalists.