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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Nuclear Power

An uncertain future # Permalink C Comment

I've never known the answers to the big questions about energy.

I do know that with clever uses of grids there might be some hope for a sustainable future. Yet many of these plans are troubled by lack of (economically viable) technology - renewables are, if not exactly young, still very much in development - and 'long-term' and 'future' are phrases which are used heavily in discussing plans for renewables. (Another interesting question is why renewables have much lower support amongst governments and administrators than the public, and whether this is justified.)

Anyway, for me, one natural alternative to continuing to use fossil fuels whilst we oscillate between plans, and technologies, and try and decide between waiting for the next generation or committing now, is to use an already well-established, efficient, considerably less harmful source of power - nuclear fission.

Now, this isn't a manifesto for nuclear power. It's just a few thoughts. The thing that interests - and frustrates - me is public opinion. The thing which bites at my soul is how misguided most of the common objections really are. One thing I'd like to hammer home into people's minds: fossil fuels are far deadlier than nuclear power. The public image of nuclear power is tarnished by a lot of complicated cultural baggage (I blame the hippies), but precisely how governments can justify turning away from nuclear power based speficially on the perceived dangers of the technology is beyond me. Data from the WHO shows exactly the same thing - that article has a fascinating review of the subject. Read it

Indecision and u-turns plague recent history with nuclear power. China's decision to suspend its nuclear programme in the wake of the Fukushima disaster is deeply frustrating and bodes ill for a country using 47% of the world's coal - and a quantity which has increased by nearly 3 times since 2000 - is one of many worries troubling those concerned with our fuel habits.

Whilst the news is mixed, there is some light at the end of tunnel: the IAEA provides a handy summary of the current status of nuclear power around the world. There are 440 nuclear reactors in operation, and 65 in construction - even the UK has confirmed plans in the wake of the Fukushima event. That's not the rate of growth I'd ideally like to see - though we should bear in mind the improved efficiency of more modern plans - but growth is interestingly regional, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey all with subsantial nuclear plans. The political situation in other areas - notably Egypt - has been frustrating some other efforts in this area. It is, of course, important that we make sure radioactive materials are carefully protected, or more than the case for nuclear power will be irreversibly damaged. I look forward with interest to see what happens in one particular country.

Anyway - and not at all because I've always wanted to say this - Ahmadinejad certainly has the moral high ground here.

Posted by carl at 22:10

Filed under: Culture

Table of Contents

Journal from July 2011

All entries from month July 2011

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