A leading advocate of nuclear power as a means of reducing global emissions has recommended investment in storage so as to make renewables a more viable alternative.

Professor Sir David King, the former UK government chief scientist, was speaking at the Ashden energy awards. Ashden is a London-based charity that works in the field of sustainable energy and development.
David King
The Daily Telegraph reports that Dr King, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change and Emeritus Professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, said that Britain “might well” be able to do without nuclear power altogether, and that the real priority should be on developing ways of storing electricity so as to be able to depend more on renewables.

Dr King said that countries where solar was less of an option such as Britain and Japan, small “modular nuclear reactors” may still be the way forward, but followed this up by concluding, “if we can get the costs down we might well manage our future basically on renewable energy and energy storage.”

“We have to keep reassessing the situation”, he added. “I believe that what we need, more than anything, is a surge of activity to develop energy storage capability …. Once we can do that technologically, why would we not just keep with renewables?”

The leading academic and government adviser also used the event to highlight the potential of renewable power for developing nations such as India, saying, “there’s no reason” for it not to go “directly wholesale into solar energy” as it was “three to four times” cheaper to provide villages unconnected to the grid in India and China with solar electric panels and batteries than to connect them up.

David Hess, Analyst with the World Nuclear Association, responding to Dr King’s comments, told Power Engineering International that a combination of renewables and nuclear, rather than just a renewables/ storage ticket alone, represents the best way forward.

“We believe that renewables, nuclear, and energy conservation are complementary partners for the future. When used together they can reduce emissions and enhance energy security. The world doesn’t need a breakthrough in physics to achieve this, just political will.”

“While the idea of viable large-scale energy storage is appealing, it potentially benefits nuclear energy just as much as renewables and it makes no sense to talk about doing without either of these. The world desperately need to move beyond such ideological characterisations of energy. A diverse mix of low-carbon technologies is the best way to successfully meet the climate challenge while ensuring overall system reliability and keeping costs down.”