Letter: Fuel for thought

IN THE continuing debate about rising fuel prices and who is to blame, I note with disappointment some prevailing misconceptions and prejudices about nuclear and renewables: that renewables means wind power; that wind power is expensive, and that the only "clean" way to provide base load power to the grid is by nuclear energy. Wind power is one renewable form of energy, but not the only one.

The present cost of investment in renewables will pale into insignificance in the long term when nuclear and fossil fuels run out, as they will. Then it may well be true that renewable power will be too cheap to meter, just as the nuclear industry boasted in its heyday.

Nuclear has received massive public subsidy in the past and will continue to as plants are decommissioned and waste stored safely for hundreds of years. Thorium might be a cheaper alternative to uranium, is much safer and much more abundant, but doesn't produce weapons-grade material, which was the prime driving force behind the development of the nuclear industry.

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The criticisms of the shortcomings of wind power are all valid. It is highly visible, not always harmonious with the landscape, noisy for those nearby and, above all, variable. Wind clearly will not serve the purpose of providing base load power, neither will photo-voltaics or solar but tidal and wave power could, just as hydro-electric does at present. We need a mix. I recognise that, in the short term, dependence on nuclear is unavoidable, but we should avoid taking the "easy" path and developing more nuclear plants to satisfy our insatiable greed for power. We need to invest in a wide range of renewable energy to meet the needs of the future; long-termism, not short-termism.

The problem at present is that we are fixated by wind and the chimera of nuclear as the panacea for all our problems.

Trevor Rigg

Greenbank Gardens


Andy Myles (Letters, 11 June) is totally wrong to say that renewable energy is cheap. Currently, the main renewable energy source (and the only one shown to work reliably on a large scale) is wind and it is relatively expensive compared with electrical energy produced by fossil fuel.

Why else would firms operating wind farms require an expensive government subsidy?

In a written answer to the House of Commons on 11 November, 2008, the costs (pence/kWh) for various electrical energy sources were given as: nuclear 3.8; coal 5.1; gas 5.2; onshore wind 7.2; offshore wind 9.2.

It gets worse. These figures do not take account of the back-up gas-fired power stations needed for when the wind is not blowing, or the investment needed in the national grid to cope with intermittent power sources in places far from the main areas of demand.And yet the same SNP government, which criticises Scottish Power for its price rises, hopes that very soon Scotland will be able to meet 100 per cent of demand from expensive green power.

Donald McBride

Craigleith Hill Crescent