Thanks for the article on the closing of Crow Pool [“Crow Pool likely to fly the coop,” Development News, January 1, 2008], which captured the spirit of a no-nonsense but beloved facility that many of us will indeed miss when it is gone. As you point out, it “ain’t that broke.” Sigh.
The truth about Germany
Fact check: Renewables can’t do it all.
Recently a member of the Sierra Club wrote a letter [“Come ride with me,” Mailbag, December 25, 2007] stating how America can meet all of its energy needs through conservation and renewables. In his letter, Mr. Cruickshank clearly illustrates the difference between scientists and engineers. Scientists will make claims of what is “possible” and what “can be,” while engineers must take into account practical considerations of what is feasible and affordable, especially for those who are least able to afford an essential commodity like electricity.
For example, Mr. C. cites Germany as a country that is “expected to be” (read: “hoped to become”) a great example of the success of renewables. In fact, Germany can barely sustain a 7 percent renewable contribution due to the problems with grid instability inherently imposed by the variability of wind power. Of course, Germany also happens to be the fourth largest (behind the United States, France, and Japan) producer of nuclear energy in the world, which provides about one-third of Germany’s electricity. And when the wind isn’t blowing, the deficit is made up by imports of nuclear electricity from neighboring France, which derives about 80 percent of its electricity from 54 nuclear power plants, which are almost identical to the four located here in Virginia.
Hello! Nuclear energy and renewables are not in competition. They are two players for the same team. Today, nuclear energy accounts for over 70 percent of ALL of the non-carbon-emitting energy produced in the United States. So, if we are going to get serious about addressing climate change, replacing the fossil fuels already in use, and covering the increased power demand as we move toward plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, then renewables and conservation won’t cut it alone. We’ll need all of the nuclear, wind, solar and other non-carbon-emitting sources we can get going forward.
So I ask you: Are you serious about combatting climate change, or just opposed to nuclear energy, no matter what? As a person with 20 years experience in energy issues, I don’t believe you can have it both ways.