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If it were up to the Dutch Forum for Democracy party, Brabant would get a nuclear power plant. Auke has a counterproposal: let’s have an advanced reactor ready once the windmills must be replaced.

Eric de Bie, a provincial executive member, argued Brabant should get a nuclear power plant last week. Even though a study commissioned by the province from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Nuclear Research Consultancy Group (NRG) shows that nuclear power is currently more expensive than green power. Still, FvD wants to go for nuclear power because of the lack of space. Far more space with solar panels and windmills would be required to generate the same amount of energy as from a nuclear power plant.

What does Auke think about this? Well, he thinks the space argument is valid, but he considers plans for a nuclear power plant as a form of procrastination. “In the short term, a nuclear power plant will not solve the problem we have of too many CO2 emissions. The sooner we emit less CO2, the better. It’s just procrastination. All the extra CO2 that goes into the air in the time that it takes to build it needs to be removed again. Then any efforts into reducing all of that have to go even faster. Which invariably leads to extra costs, and techniques for filtering CO2 from the air are expensive. While you can already reduce CO2 emissions with the use of wind turbines.”

Moreover, the story that FvD is now bandying about is incomplete. The honest story would be quite different, according to Auke. “I personally worry about misuse. I am honestly not comfortable with it. Terrorists could instigate a meltdown. Or countries that suddenly acquire a dictatorial regime can flout rules and use that knowledge to develop nuclear weapons,” Auke explains. “But maybe that’s just me. No the most important things they are leaving out are money and time.”

Higher energy bills as a result of nuclear power

“Building a nuclear power plant takes a long time and it often turns out to be much more expensive than stated in the original tender. In actual practice, it regularly happens that the construction is aborted. The storage of nuclear waste is also a huge problem. If we are going to go for nuclear power plants, let’s get this sorted out once and for all. Do they already have a storage site in mind? I don’t think so, because nobody wants one. Actually, FvD says they don’t want to build ugly windmills, but they forget to mention that our energy will become more expensive.”

Auke shrugs. “In fact, the actual question is: How much extra are we willing to pay in order not to have to look at a windmill? Quite a logical question and they have a point. Those things are hideous. I wouldn’t want one in my backyard either.”

But he quickly comes up with a solution for the question concerning space: “What if we put all those windmills out to sea? Of course, that’s already happening more and more. What’s more, we could install the solar panels on sunny fields vertically so that crops can be grown in between, for example. Mixed land use, that’s another way to use space differently.”

Never-ending discussion

“We have two camps in the energy world. That’s why we keep getting stuck in the same discussion about nuclear power over and over again” Auke sighs. You’re either for it or against it. A middle ground doesn’t seem to exist. “You have a camp that realizes that we as humans are part of nature. They want to move with it. Nature fluctuates, the amount of wind and sun is never the same. In this, they want to steer towards an integrated system that moves in tandem with these fluctuations. But in those plans – in a nutshell – there is no room for nuclear power. On the flip side, the nuclear bros don’t want to move with nature at all. They do not want to adapt and they proclaim very loudly: ‘We are the boss and are in control’. They want to decide for themselves when they will have energy and don’t want to be dependent on whether the wind blows or the sun shines.”

Auke sits back and stares ahead pensively. “You know what it is? The two camps are not getting any closer to each other. While something has to be done. So if the FvD would tell the honest story and say that this means we end up with more expensive energy and we all decide to accept that, then why not?”

Develop a thorium reactor, while putting up windmills in the meantime

“Does that surprise you? In fact, let’s shake on that. FvD wants to make windmills obsolete, just show that it can actually be done then. Go on and prove it. If there is a solid plan in place to develop a thorium reactor then who am I to say no? These thorium reactors are safer and have lower levels of radioactive waste, but for now they only exist on paper. Therefore, it will take at least another 20 to 30 years before such a reactor is up and running. So in the meantime, let’s install wind turbines and solar panels for our energy needs. When these have been written off and the reactor is operational, we can dismantle them again because they will be obsolete by then,” Auke reasons. Grinning, he continues, “In the unfortunate event that it doesn’t work out with the nuclear reactor, which is almost a foregone conclusion, we can still carry on with renewable energy.”

With a satisfied smile, he crosses his arms. “I think this is a fine scenario. This way we can be sure that nuclear power will not be used to stymie short-term solutions, which are needed anyway. That is what is happening now in my opinion. And maybe this is how we can get past the never-ending discussion.”