Popular Mechanics takes the wind out of renewables study

October 9, 2020, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A wind farm in East Sussex, England, is flanked by 400-kV power lines from the Dungeness nuclear power plant. Photo: David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons

A paper out of the University of Sussex that correlates the carbon output of 123 countries with their nuclear power programs has received a critical look from Popular Mechanics, which takes to task some of the researchers’ premises in an article by Caroline Delbert.

In the paper, the researchers make the claim that nuclear and renewable energy programs do not tend to coexist well together in national low-carbon energy systems but instead crowd each other out and limit effectiveness. Delbert, however, points out that suggesting that nuclear power plants don’t play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions is “wild and baseless.”

The capacity question: Delbert also notes that the study, by using figures from 1990 to 2014, fails to take into account recent developments in smaller, advanced reactor systems and nuclear-renewable hybrid models.

“And yes, for data up to 2014, it’s easy to see that large, grid-dominating regional nuclear plants intuitively limit the investment in renewable energy,” Delbert conceded, adding, “But when renewable production simply isn’t at the capacity we need on a global scale, and renewable options can’t replace high heat applications like industry manufacturing or even water purification ... what’s the alternative?”

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