By Bob Schildgen

The nuclear industry proponent, Doomberg, recently produced a defense of nuclear power,
focusing on a plant in western Michigan that was closed after 50 years of operation. It claims
the plant generated the equivalent of 35% of all solar activity produced across the entirety
of the U.S. over the same period. Well, of course it would have outproduced solar simply
because during most of that 50-year period very little solar energy was installed. (Some
elders may remember that in 1986 Ronald Reagan had solar panels removed from the
White House roof in Reagan’s sickening gesture of indifference to any energy except
from oil.) This is not the only questionable assertion by this anti- solar advocate. It also
claimed that it would take 45 square miles to produce the annual amount of electricity
generated by the Michigan nuclear plant, which required only 422 acres, or just two-thirds
of a square mile. However, this assertion ignores the fact that solar can make much
more efficient use of space by simple steps such as stacking panels. The Massachusetts
Institute of Technology has devised stacked panels that can produce 2 to 20 times the
energy of basic flat panels in the same space. Moreover, if the U.S. would cut its energy
use to saner levels of nations like Great Britain or Italy, the area needed would shrink to
about 15 square miles.

One of the great failures of most energy advocates is to neglect of the cheapest and most
basic energy- saving truth: use less! This enemy of solar goes on to complain that another
reason to reject solar is that China is a major manufacture of solar components, and uses
“forced labor” to keep its grip on the industry. Of course, this may be true of much Chinese
manufacturing besides solar, but surely one way to leverage change is to continue to trade
while making demands for fairer treatment of Chinese labor. The document also brings up
the fact that solar panels are subject to weather disturbances, claiming that nuclear reactors
are built to easily handle the worst of what Mother Nature can throw at them. I do suspect
this might sound like a rather feeble argument to those victimized by nuclear accidents,
like the one at Fukushima in Japan, which killed more than 2,000 Japanese.

The document goes on to claim that solar installations can suffer damage from weather
conditions. But this is only relevant if the cost of the damage outweighs the savings realized
from solar generation. There is no evidence that this is the case, and to make any sense, the
cost of repairing damage to solar would have to be compared to the core of repairing
damage to nuclear facilities. The document goes on to emphasize the fact that France
derives a large share of its electrical power from nuclear plants. Absolutely true, but the
fact is that France had actually decided to cut its nuclear power sources back to 50% of the
total supply. That decision was reversed only after Russia radically cut its energy exports
to Europe because of Europe’s opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The
Doomberg article also states that a $1.5 billion loan will be necessary to put the old Michigan

plant back into operation.
Finally, article does not compare this cost to the cost of other power sources, whether solar,
wind, or geothermal. Considering the previous underestimates of cost in the power
industry, both nuclear and conventional, it seems sensible to be skeptical of this number.
The nuclear advocates and anti-solar folks will have to present much stronger arguments
than this to convince the public to return to the nuclear option. And they will also have to
include wind power and other sources to make a meaningful comparison.