Future Power
Wind and Solar Can’t Replace French Nuclear Reactors

Three quarters of France’s energy comes from its fleet of nuclear power plants, but many of those reactors are aging, forcing a reevaluation of the country’s energy mix. Renewables are en vogue in Europe these days, with Germany’s energiewende supposedly setting some kind of “green” precedent (despite the fact that Berlin’s massive subsidization of wind and solar energy has perversely led to a sizable increase in consumption of dirty lignite coal), and there’s a push to replace France’s nuclear reactors with renewables. But, as Reuters reports, the head of the French utility EDF is pouring cold water on that approach:

Dominique Miniere said a 2015 study by state energy agency ADEME, which showed France could switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 for the same cost as relying on nuclear for half of its power, was not realistic. “A certain number of points in that study are not based on technological realities,” EDF executive committee member Miniere told reporters in reply to a question. […]

“We do not believe in a 100 percent renewables mix by the horizon (ADEME) indicates. However, we want to extend the lifespan of our reactors in order to allow a gradual increase of renewables in the mix,” Miniere added. He said replacing nuclear with renewables too quickly, citing Germany as an example, ends up boosting carbon emissions from fossil fuel.

Environmentalists have never taken kindly to nuclear power, despite the fact that it’s one of the only energy sources capable of contributing zero-emissions baseload electricity. The legacy of meltdowns has been enough for greens to discount nuclear’s eco-merits, but the fact remains that anyone looking to craft a 100 percent zero-emissions energy mix needs nuclear power—wind and solar can’t do it on their own. Those renewable energy sources aren’t just expensive (ask a German household for more on that), they’re intermittent, and lacking commercially viable energy storage options that means they can’t provide power on the consistent basis society demands.

In many ways, France provides a better model of a viable and green energy mix than Germany, and the EDF chief is absolutely right—wind and solar can’t replace nuclear power, no matter what clueless environmentalists might have you believe.

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