There might be a way for the world to meet its carbon-reduction targets that does not involve building more nuclear power plants. The problem is, no one has come up with one. Until that happens, politicians need to get real about nuclear energy’s essential role in saving the planet. Unfortunately, most of them still have their heads stuck in their solar panels.
The latest greener-than-thou politician to make the perfect the enemy of the good is France’s awkwardly titled Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Nicolas Hulot. This month, Mr. Hulot announced the shutdown of as many as 17 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors over the next eight years as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to cut his country’s reliance on nuclear-generated electricity to 50 per cent from 75 per cent by 2025.
Mr. Hulot says he has “absolute faith” in renewable power sources, mainly wind and solar energy, to fill the gap. But as Germany shows, closing emissions-free nuclear power plants, more often than not, leads to burning more fossil fuels to produce power. That’s because wind and solar remain intermittent power sources, while nuclear, coal and natural gas plants can run full-steam 24/7.
In a report last month, the International Energy Agency said “premature closure of operational nuclear power plants remains a major threat to meeting targets,” set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees above preindustrial levels by the end of the century.
But don’t try telling that to Mr. Hulot. A former star television journalist tapped by Mr. Macron to boost his credibility with environmentalists, Mr. Hulot is France’s version of David Suzuki.