No Favour

There are many excellent arguments to be made in favour of solar power and against nuclear. Unfortunately, Jim Harris [“The UnAtomic Age,” A\J 40:4] has made none of them. Moreover, there are gaps in the author’s logic large enough to hide a lifetime of nuclear waste.

Harris seems to conflate electricity and energy (an important distinction) when talking about solar vs. nuclear. The ësolar vs. nuclear’ thrust of the article is also puzzling, since there’s no particular reason to think – nor does the author present any arguments – that one would come at the expense of the other.

And not to belabour the point, but the comparison of solar power and cell phones is, frankly, a little bizarre. Cell phone use may have grown exponentially, but it’s a major leap from pointing out that technologies can make exponential gains to arguing that a particular technology will make such gains.

A well-researched piece may well reach the same conclusions, vis-à-vis solar’s rise and nuclear’s decline, but I don’t think Harris is doing either the anti-nuclear or pro-solar crowds any favours with this article. An environmental magazine is always at risk of becoming an echo-chamber in which authors wrap popular conclusions in loose arguments, adding nothing to the conversation.

Stu Campana
Ecology Ottawa

Harris responds

If Ontario’s government proceeds with nuclear refurbishment – it will lock Ontario taxpayers into the most expensive form of power for decades.

Deutsche Bank predicts that solar power will be at grid parity in all 50 US states by 2016. This means solar will be cheaper than nuclear refurbishment by 2016. Energy efficiency is already dramatically cheaper – and so is wind power.

Spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to refurbish aging nuclear plants will inhibit Ontario’s ability to invest in cheaper solar, wind and energy efficiency – given Ontario’s deficit.

Solar is growing exponentially. Google “Swanson Effect” to see a 100-fold fall in the price of solar power from 1977 to today. With such dramatic costs declines we’re experiencing explosive growth of solar power installations globally. Facts are facts.

Campana can take his argument up with Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg and the International Energy Agency. All predict the explosive growth of solar. 

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