An Argument Just as Bad as Solar.
It’s easy for one to bask in all the positives of solar power because that’s all the average consumer sees. Even somebody who researches solar will only find articles on pro-solar power unless they specifically search for articles against it. A prime example of a pro-solar article is “Why there is no competition in the nuclear vs. renewables debate” by Laura E. Williamson, a manager at Renewables 21. In this article, Williamson outlines and supports an article from Paul Brown called “Nuclear power ‘cannot rival renewable energy.’” The title of the article Williamson is reviewing is already factually incorrect. According to a statistic from energy.gov nuclear power is near “3.5 times more reliable than wind and solar plants,” claiming that it cannot rival solar false.
The majority of the argument across both of these articles is about the cost of solar being so cheap. Brown claims, “wind saved three times as much, and solar double.” If the reader wanted to fact-check this statement, they would have to go down the rabbit hole of three poorly labeled links that ultimately lead to the world nuclear report website that ironically not only supports nuclear power but doesn’t have any of the information they claimed to be true. Williamson’s next argument for solar is that “nuclear plants take from 5 to 17 years longer to build” than solar power would. The biggest problem with this statistic is the 12-year gap between the high and low end. The reader cannot work with the upper bounds. Without any context, it looks like an outlier.
According to “Process of Building Nuclear Power Plants” by KiJung Park of Stanford, it “takes five to seven years to build a large nuclear unit”. Perhaps Williamson’s 17 is a typo meant to say 7. Along with this clear statistical mistake, Williamson fails to mention the 25–30-year life spans every installed solar panel inevitably faces. It would be helpful to the reader to have something to compare the 5 to 7 to 17 years of construction to, instead of just having big numbers thrown into their face with no context. Furthermore, there are multiple instances in which Williamson makes a statement that requires evidence but doesn’t include the evidence.
For instance, she claims that “dependence on water is not a good idea” for nuclear. Her reasoning is climate change and sea levels rising. According to this logic, nuclear is worse than solar because it depends on the most abundant resource on the planet and doesn’t include a statistic or outside claim to back it up. Another instance of this is when she states that “processing of the raw material (uranium) required for nuclear fuel is hugely energy-intensive” but leaves out why this is (if at all) considered a problem. The process can be powered by the already existing nuclear plants generating “around 1 gigawatt of power per plant” according to energy.gov. She also makes a bold statement that “when a government subsidizes nuclear power, funds are effectively being removed from other basic services.” There is no data given to tell what governments did this or where this information is even coming from.
All of the arguments Williamson and Brown make to support solar are made by trying to shoot down nuclear. Not once in the article does Williamson claim as to why Solar is good, only why others are bad. This severely weakens the entire argument. The reader has to also know why the author’s alternative is better. Because of the lack of information to back up the few points they do make avid readers don’t get anything out of the article. Williamson and Brown also never mention or give a solution to the harmful production process or solar waste once the lifespan is up.
According to Conor Prendergast, there is “80 million tons of solar waste projected by 2050,” and currently there is no effective way to deal with it. Without acknowledging these facts or trying to refute than, the reader can infer Williamson and Brown are either purposefully avoiding them or completely unaware of them.
Solar power as a conventional power source doesn’t have enough positives to outweigh its negatives so Williamson’s and Brown’s articles are constructed in a way to only look at the negatives of other conventional power. Seeing the downsides of other sources makes solar look like a better option. To keep the reader on their side of the argument, Williamson and Brown purposely dodge the major negative points of solar power and throw unsupported claims that at a first glance greatly support their argument. These authors wrote their articles for users that wouldn’t dig deeper into whether or not the information is accurate or not.
Williamson, Laura E. “Expert’s Pick: Why There Is No Competition in the Nuclear vs. Renewables Debate.” REN21, 30 Apr. 2020, https://www.ren21.net/nuclear-vs-renewables-debate/.
Brown, Paul. “Nuclear Power ‘Cannot Rival Renewable Energy’.” The Energy Mix, 14 Jan. 2020, https://climatenewsnetwork.net/nuclear-power-cannot-rival-renewable-energy/.
Prendergast, Conor. “Solar Panel Waste: The Dark Side of Clean Energy.” Discover Magazine, Discover Magazine, 14 Dec. 2020, https://www.discovermagazine.com/environment/solar-panel-waste-the-dark-side-of-clean-energy.
Park, KiJung. Process of Building Nuclear Power Plant, http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/park-k2/.