Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Has the tsunami killed nuclear power?

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 by Roberto Saracco

The Opening Ceremony with the address of Mr. Rubbia

I am here at the STS Forum once more, the Science, Technology and Society Forum yearly event to discuss the status of the Kyoto agreement application and evaluate what should be changed considering the evolution in STS.

Usual format, but this year is under the shadow of the March tsunami and its devastation including the subsequent accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Whilst in the past editions there was agreement on the need to pursue nuclear energy now there is a consensus that the long term well being of the planet shall not be masked by emotional reaction to a dramatic accident that anyhow proved that containment measures are possible and that new generation reactors would not be affected.  The real issue with nuclear power concerns not the production and the production plant but the disposal of nuclear waste. In this area no progress has been made and the only solution so far seems to be moving to thorium as fissile material.

Renewable clean energy is possible provided that we accept to make a few back steps in current standard of living to sustain the increased cost of energy.  This is in contradiction with the general strive to increase GDP. Moreover, it cannot be a local decision, it has to be a global one. Any country that on its own decide to go “full green” would find its product less competitive and its economy will grind to a halt.

Add to this the fact that energy consumption equates to general well being and the developing nations are justifiably pursuing the same level of well being experienced by developed countries. This would require doubling the current energy budget and this is expected to occur by 2050. It is estimated that in the next 40 years there will be 2000 more cities in Africa exceeding 500,000 people and 1,000 more in Asia. And they will need power to “work”.

Poverty AND the awareness of poverty is a ticking bomb just growing in power and awating to blow up.

The ministry of India stated that “solar power is too expensive for the rich but it is affordable for the poor” meaning that creating the amount of energy required by rich economies with solar power is not competitive with other sources but if you have to serve the low demand of poor areas solar power can be ok.

It was also pointed out that by introducing efficiency in production and transportation the energy demand may decrease by 25%.