Renewable does not mean green. That is the claim of Jesse Ausubel of the
On this basis, he argues that technologies succeed when economies of scale form part of their evolution. No economies of scale benefit renewables. More renewable kilowatts require more land in a constant or even worsening ratio, because land good for wind, hydropower, biomass, or solar power may get used first.
A consideration of each so-called renewable in turn, paints a grim picture of the environmental impact of renewables. Hypothetically flooding the entire province of Ontario, Canada, about 900,000 square km, with its entire 680,000 billion liters of rainfall, and storing it behind a 60 meter dam would only generate 80% of the total power output of Canada’s 25 nuclear power stations, he explains. Put another way, each square kilometer of dammed land would provide the electricity for just 12 Canadians.
Biomass energy is also horribly inefficient and destructive of nature. To power a large proportion of the
Turning to wind Ausubel points out that while wind farms are between three to ten times more compact than a biomass farm, a 770 square kilometer area is needed to produce as much energy as one 1000 Megawatt electric (MWe) nuclear plant. To meet 2005
Solar power also comes in for criticism. A photovoltaic solar cell plant would require painting black about than 150 square kilometers plus land for storage and retrieval to equal a 1000 MWe nuclear plant. Moreover, every form of renewable energy involves vast infrastructure, such as concrete, steel, and access roads. "As a Green, one of my credos is ‘no new structures’ but renewables all involve ten times or more stuff per kilowatt as natural gas or nuclear," Ausubel says.
While the full footprint of uranium mining might add a few hundred square kilometers and there are considerations of waste storage, safety and security, the dense heart of the atom offers far the smallest footprint in nature of any energy source. Benefiting from economies of scale, nuclear energy could multiply its power output and even shrink the energy system, in the same way that computers have become both more powerful and smaller.
"Renewables may be renewable but they are not green," asserts Ausubel", If we want to minimize new structures and the rape of nature, nuclear energy is the best option."