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Go with the nuclear option for now

Letters

It seems to me that solar energy represents the only way the world might escape the fossil fuel legacy. Nonetheless, Mark Whitby's analysis appears flawed (NCE last week). If we assume nuclear power stations last 40 years and solar arrays 25, two years consumption of CO2 in construction will still leave nuclear ahead.

It is true the cooling effect (relative to fossil) will begin earlier with solar, but 40-45 years on, the cumulative cooling will be the same, and thereafter the nuclear option will gain. Indeed if any technology produces a relative gain over fossil fuel, the proper question to ask is: which one produces the maximum gain for, say, £1bn?

Nuclear, I think, would win. Comparing nuclear and solar is like comparing apples and pears. Nuclear is inflexible, solar unpredictable. Nuclear cannot be switched on and off easily. The sun is not always there. Unhappily, both solar and wind require investment into standby capacity equal to their maximum output, which is expensive.

One essential for solar is to increase hydro, the most flexible of electricity sources, and/or to develop hydrogen based or other storage systems. I would pour research into solar and storage but for now, despite the known difficulties, go with the nuclear option.

Richard Balmer (M)

e-mail richard_balmer@cix.co.uk

79, Links Drive, Solihull, B91 2DJ

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