No More Fission Nuclear Power?

June 15, 2011 4 Comments

Remember the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan that got hit by the earthquake and tsunami. It turns out that the damage was much more significant than authorities let on in the beginning. Apparently there was a complete meltdown of three reactors and a partial meltdown of the fourth on the day of the tragedy. Much more radiation was released than was told the public and it was (and still is) a much greater health hazard than everyone was led to believe.

When it was thought that there was no meltdown (by most of the world except insiders at TEPCO), many opined that nuclear power was still a viable option for future power needs – a cleaner greener option with less carbon dioxide emissions. Since then, things have really soured. Not only is Japan thinking about scaling back nuclear power, Germany is beginning a plan to phase it out as well. The problem with phasing out such a significant source of energy is that it will make electricity much more expensive. At this point, Germany plans to make up for the lack of electricity from nuclear power with off shore winds farms which are more expensive and produce intermittent power. Also, wind turbines do not come without side effects. While they are currently the “greenest” alternative energy option, they do have adverse effects on the weather, flying animals, and perhaps fish. Some scientists suspect that the constant droning sound of the wind turbines might stress some aquatic life.

Back in Japan, ground zero of the meltdown, they are already feeling the effects of living without nuclear power and much of the rest of the world is mulling transitioning to other forms of “green energy”. Various countries are looking toward alternatives not only because of safety issues but because a recent study has shown that nuclear power is not as scalable as many people previously thought. The study indicates that we could probably triple our current nuclear power before the rising cost became unsustainable. If we wanted to power the world with nuclear (fission) we would need to increase our nuclear capacity by about 45 times. So it looks less and less likely that nuclear fission will be the energy of the future. It might even be rapidly phased out if the price of other energy options continues to decline (like solar). I am still holding out some hope for nuclear fusion. In the next couple of years, while wind and solar power gain traction, natural gas could become the cleaner, cheaper, and slightly “greener” fuel of choice to keep society afloat.

Have a nice Wednesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.

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  1. etheria888 says:

    It is good to see not only some common sense in regards to nuclear power, but a news source at least somewhat come out and admit what really happened at what still is happening from Fukishima.

    The last 60 years we as a country have been blessed with extraordinary prosperity, not just in comparision to the rest of the industrial age, but in comparison to the entire span of human history. In the last 100 years our population has risen to 5x as much as what is was for centuries. That is a lot of people feeling they have the right to have everything they want, now.

    All that being said we have become some what spoiled, and entitled, and as much as I love my computer as much as the next guy we need to take responsibility for our energy consumption and reduce it. We need to find all the little phantom energy draws and install powerstrips to shut them off, we need to spend time outside as opposed to infront of the tube, we need to shut off our cellphones, and all the stress that comes with it all, grow a garden and realize it is the land and sun that gives us everything, no human technology can match what the earth and sun provide automatically.

    We need to rediscover the simple humble joy of going with less. I think so many people spend their entire life chasing after some commercial notion of success, when the reality is the more you have, the more paranoid you are about it being taken away, the more you are isolated from your fellow man.

    Thoreau said it best in Walden when he said “most men live lives of quiet desperation”. As much as a herd mentality may offer protection, it is also our undoing when that herd becomes the lemmings running for the cliff, and with nuclear energy, or coal we really are those lemmings. We need to break out of the trap of fitting in, and instead live concious lives, where we take responsibility for what we take from the earth, food and energywise.

    Greed does not make a person happy, modesty and moral fortitude do, and this issue of energy and the environment is a moral issue. Not only could one argue that nuclear energy is the energy of the Sun, and the very energy of God, and we are perversely putting it to the use of boiling water to turn steam turbines, but Pope Benedict would not have made proclamations denouncing environmental destruction as a sin if it were not. It is a question of do we arrogantly assume we are the only species worth saving, or do we look around and realize that what truly gives us joy, aside from human companionship, is the wonderful garden of eden we were blessed with.

    Listen to your heart people.

  2. Anthony Popple says:

    It is sad and frustrating to say it, but I think that nuclear power is in permanent decline. I have longed hoped that newer reactor technology would lead to a revival in the industry and provide nearly complete energy independence. Unfortunately, even the best strategies have problems, not the least of which is proliferation fears. (I personally don’t hold any hope of practical fusion technology emerging in my lifetime.)
    Beyond the danger of nuclear melt-down, I can’t help but think that there is another lesson take from the earthquake in Japan. The infrastructure for forms of energy like wind and solar can be dispersed over a large area and can potentially be integrated into the places that need the energy. We could avoid the risk of a region losing the bulk of its generating capability with one disaster. I would also imagine that the more diverse our energy sources are, the less likely we are to experience an energy crisis.

  3. jloew says:

    I am sad about the decline in nuclear energy as well. I always had high hopes. I fusion power is developed, it seems it will be in the far future, past 2030 I would imagine. You bring up a good point about having more decentralized power generation. Ironically, some of the resistence to small-scale distributed power generation comes from the same governments that are pushing for renewables. I wouldn’t mind being off the grid.

  4. jloew says:

    We could do a much better job conserving and recycling and that would certainly help out.

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