Will 2021 be the year of the return of common sense to nuclear energy?
Samuel Furfari *, Tribune, January 5, 2021, France
In order to meet the huge needs for electricity in the future, it is necessary to develop nuclear energy. Unlike the European Union, which has relied on solar panels and wind turbines, Russia, China and the United States have embarked on a geopolitical race to dominate tomorrow's electricity sector. France has once relied on nuclear energy and will play a key role in reversing the EU trend.
Abraham Maslow, the creator of interpersonal psychology, bequeathed us the following aphorism: "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." In the field of energy, the European Union now believes that it has only renewables. At its recent meeting, the European Council indirectly confirmed that it intends to reduce its carbon footprint to zero in 2050, relying exclusively on these sources. What a change from the true clairvoyant abilities of the foreign ministers of six countries, who met in Messina on June 1, 1955! What was not yet even the European Community has succeeded in coal-based peace and reconciliation. Realizing the need to diversify energy supplies, the six came up with the idea of a European Atomic Energy Community, which led to the signing of the Euratom Treaty in 1957 in Rome. What was their argument? We find it in the Messina Resolution: "There will be no future for the European Community without abundant and cheap energy."
We seem to have forgotten this lesson in history, as the EU is sinking into the monoculture of renewable energy, rejecting all others to the extent that for some hydropower plants are not compatible with sustainable development. The extraordinary development of the economy and society over the last 75 years is the result of the acquisition of cheap energy in abundance. Nuclear power has been a major contributor to this success, providing uninterrupted and low-cost electricity. We survived the Kovid crisis thanks to this uninterrupted supply. We do not dare to imagine what it would be like if our hospitals had to be supplied with electricity from wind turbines, which in the EU operate on average 23% of the time.
Increasing the price of electricity
Unfortunately, since the EU made renewable production mandatory, the price of electricity for households has risen by an average of 2.3% per year. Anyone can find out by checking their accounts. Wind turbines and solar panels contribute to the rise in price of electricity, and nuclear power plants - to its reduction in price. In 2019, the Danes and Germans paid 29.5 and 28.8 euro cents per kilowatt-hour for the electricity they used, and the French 18.5 euro cents, although we must bitterly note that 10 years before that the price was 12.1 eurocents.
The success of French nuclear energy is due to the political will of Presidents Georges Pompidou and Valerie Giscard d'Estaing. We urgently need to return to common sense, reaffirming that the future of the electricity sector is nuclear power plants, not the chimera of renewables. Despite 40 years of funding and support in various forms, wind and solar electricity cannot compete with that generated by nuclear reactors. Expensive, intermittent, causing the need to subsidize gas-fired power plants that have to come to their aid when nature does not want to produce electricity, renewables have a negative impact on the environment that people finally care about. As the French philosopher Alain Finkelcrot recently emphasized, "they turn all landscapes into industrial objects." After spending € 1,000 billion on them, renewables account for only 2.5% and 1.4% of EU and French production, respectively. The facts are eloquent!
Investments are expensive
Is nuclear energy said to be expensive? We need to highlight the following nuance: it is cheap, as a completely new study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed, covering 243 plants in 24 countries. Expensive are investments that take a long time to pay off. So what has happened since the EU obliged its member states to produce electricity from renewable sources? The profitability of all plants is in question, as the transmission of the most expensive electricity is a priority. The EU has shattered the internal market it has been trying to create for 30 years. If the policy did not disrupt the functioning of the market, we would not be in this situation. Nuclear and hydropower plants would provide cheap electricity in abundance.
Also, let's stop scaring people, because this technology is well mastered. The Chernobyl accident was caused by the Soviet model, and in Fukushima - by a tsunami that caused a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear explosion. It would be good for those who lobby for hydrogen to be aware of the risks before promising a new Grail. The other fear is the so-called nuclear waste, as it is a source of energy. Let us first note that no one in the world has suffered from spent nuclear fuel. And the new technologies that are under development will destroy it.
Rapid growth of electricity needs
But let's go back to Maslow. His pyramid of needs teaches us that it is useless to talk about the environment, the planet and the biodiversity of the poor. These tales can only be heard by people who have met their needs at all levels of the pyramid. Outside the OECD, the cause for concern is not the fight against climate change, but energy, and in particular the provision of abundant cheap electricity. Although China has made tremendous progress in the last 20 years, with the whole country already electrified, the situation is far from the same in Asia and Africa. 200 million Indians do not have access to electricity, and in half of sub-Saharan Africa, electricity supply is insecure and interrupted. is only catching up with the economic backwardness of large areas of the planet requires the development of production capacity. The rapid and inevitable digitalisation of our society, including agriculture, the construction of fifth-generation mobile networks, the electrification of the car fleet and the heating of buildings - all this will lead to a rapid increase in electricity needs. Not wind turbines, much less intermittent solar panels, will meet these huge needs. This is what nuclear power plants will do. Without energy, there can be no progress, prosperity and sustainable development.
Russia, China and the United States have realized this and embarked on a geopolitical race to dominate tomorrow's electricity sector. Whoever owns the nuclear technology of the future will hold some of the world's geopolitical power. These countries are not only competing for the technologies of tomorrow, but are investing in building power plants in the present, because in order to be ready for tomorrow, you must already be ready for today.
It is imperative that before it is too late for France to cash in on its nuclear expertise. Does President Emmanuel Macron want to add his name to the names of his predecessors Pompidou and Giscard d'Estaing or become the gravedigger of a once leading sector of the French economy? China, Russia, South Korea, the United States and Canada will sell nuclear power plants, and France will not even sell wind turbines, which are also not of interest to those at the base of Maslow's pyramid because they are not rich enough to waste the money. Let the Germans sink alone into their Energiewende chimera.
Surprisingly, in the last few months we have witnessed slight tremors in several EU countries, as if common sense is about to return and it is finally realized that the union cannot achieve carbon neutrality with wind turbines. Romania has even humiliated the EU by signing an agreement with Washington to build two US-funded US nuclear reactors in Black Water, after European institutions decided to give money only for wind turbines and solar panels. Let us wish that the member states have the courage not to succumb to the dictates of Brussels and that 2021 is the year of the nuclear revival in Europe as well. It depends on France.