Even for a news outlet whose analyses of cutting-edge technologies are often flawed, a recent New York Times article by columnist Farhad Manjoo was exceptionally misguided. Titled “Nuclear Power Still Doesn’t Make Sense,” it is, in fact, the article that doesn’t make sense.
Manjoo does recognize that nuclear power is important now, citing the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Germany, which shut down many of its nuclear plants in the past decade while building natural gas pipelines to Russia, now faces a deep energy crunch. It has had to burn more coal to keep the lights on,” which is also true of other European countries.
But his article’s basic thesis is that renewables have made continuing reliance on nuclear energy unnecessary, given its costs, lead times and safety issues. That assertion is wrong on all counts. Intermittent sources of energy (wind and solar) cannot adequately provide continuous generation. And nuclear is costly and cumbersome only because for 50 years public opinion and government policy have discouraged private investment in the field.