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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


The World Can’t Let Nuclear Energy Die

Renewables like wind and solar are poised to generate more electricity globally than nuclear power either this year or next year.  While we can celebrate the fact that renewables are growing, it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t growing rapidly enough to stop the growth of power produced from fossil fuels.  Further, these sources don’t represent firm power that can be called upon on demand.

Last year global consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas was nearly four times the growth in renewables.  As a result, global carbon dioxide emissions set a new all-time high in 2018.  Those trends are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  The world will experience a rapid growth rate for renewables, but even greater overall growth from fossil fuels.

Nuclear power could help solve that problem, because it is the only large-scale firm power source that doesn’t generate carbon emissions during its operation.  But the general public has a fear of nuclear power.  We must address and overcome this collective fear if nuclear power is to help displace fossil fuels.  That can only be achieved by convincing the public that accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are no longer possible.

As I have written before, nuclear power plants must be designed to be fail-safe, if not fail-proof.  To be fail-safe means that if an accident takes place, the system fails to a safe state.  A simple example of this is an electrical fuse. If too much current tries to flow across the fuse, the fuse melts and stops the flow of electricity.  Future nuclear plants must be designed in a way that provides the public with an absolute degree of confidence that they can’t have catastrophic accidents.

Public expectations may be that nuclear designs need to be fail-proof, but there are many reasons why that metric will never be achieved.  The most fundamental reason is that we simply can’t guard against every possible outcome.  Thus, we try to mitigate possible consequences, and implement fail-safe designs.

There are those who will still reject the idea of nuclear power under any circumstances.  But there are consequences from such a stance.  Some will idealistically believe that renewables will fill the world’s growing power demands, but in reality that’s just not happening.

Thus, whether you like it or not, absolute rejection of nuclear power almost certainly means higher global carbon dioxide emissions.  That’s a high price to pay if you are concerned about the impacts of climate change.

Read more at The World Can’t Let Nuclear Energy Die

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