7 May 2007
Greens co-chair accused of “abysmal ignorance” about modern electricity generation
Any organization such as the Green Party claiming that man-made global warming is the biggest threat to the world should
support nuclear power. This has been said today by Bryan Leyland, an energy consultant of Auckland, who is chair of the
economic panel of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.
He was responding to a statement over the weekend by Russel Norman, co-chair of the Greens about renewable energy
“Russel Norman's ‘let's go renewable not nuclear’ reveals his abysmal ignorance of electricity system and recent
developments in nuclear power generation. I conclude that Russel and his Green party have ulterior motives of continuing
to oppose it,” said Mr Leyland.
“Nuclear power provides 17% of the world electricity. On the basis of deaths per unit of energy output, the evidence
shows that it is, by far, the world's safest and least environmentally damaging form of large scale power generation.
Over last 50 years, dam failures have killed thousands of people and coal fired power generation has resulted in
millions of deaths from mining accidents and air pollution. The UN report on Chernobyl says that fewer than 50 people
died as a result of radiation from the accident. The radiation after the core meltdown at Three Mile Island was less
than is emitted by the granite structure of Grand Central Station in New York .
“To argue against nuclear power on the basis of Chernobyl, is the same as arguing against modern ocean liners because
the Titanic did not carry enough to life boats and did not have radar. “
Mr Leyland said that the problem of disposal of radioactive wastes has been solved. Deep burial in sealed containers has
been accepted in Finland, Sweden, Russia, France, United Kingdom and the United States.
“It is easy to decommission a nuclear power station. No one, to my knowledge, knows how to decommission a large
“Modern nuclear power stations do not produce anything that can be easily used to make nuclear weapons. If nuclear power
generation changes from uranium to thorium, the problem is eliminated entirely.
“If the Green Party really care about nuclear proliferation, they should strongly support the joint Russian/US efforts
to build nuclear reactors that can generate power from the 200-plus tonnes of surplus weapons grade plutonium that
continue to be a prime terrorist target.
“If Al Quaeda - or anyone else - wanted to paralyse New Zealand's electricity system there are much easier and effective
ways of doing it than attacking a nuclear power station. It is much easier - and more effective - to destroy a chain of
hydro power stations than a nuclear station.”
Mr Leyland said that "pebble bed" reactors, which are one very promising candidate for nuclear power generation in New
Zealand, cannot meltdown, produce waste that cannot be reprocessed (for weapons or anything else) and come in unit sizes
between 200 and 400 MW. They are expected to produce base load electricity for less than 8 c/kWh. If the cost of the
backup stations needed when the wind doesn't blow are included, New Zealanders would pay much more than that for power
from wind farms.