Nuclear Power or Not – Common Ground Travelled
The debate over whether nuclear power can be utilized as a carbon free solution for power generation has raged for years. The latest disagreement occurred at COP21 in Paris late last year where a discussion occurred over the question if nuclear power would be included in the climate change agreement. There seems to be no middle ground between the two sides. After some research and thoughtful consideration, the two parties can find many points they can agree on. Here are six points where both sides should be able to agree.
Nuclear Power is not sustainable but can be a part of being sustainable based on the fact fission produces power without generating carbon emissions. It is not renewable because to become fissionable the raw uranium ore must be milled, converted, enriched and then fabricated before it can become fissionable. A United Nations Sustainable Development Conference refused to label nuclear a sustainable technology in April 2001 based on the fact it is not.
Distributed Generation is our future. Presently power is generated a long distance from where it is generated requiring transmission lines to transport the power to where it is consumed. Distributed Generation created the power close to where it is consumed eliminates the need for infrastructure to transport the electricity. Nuclear Power can play a role in the adoption of distributed generation model. A piece of uranium the size of the tip of your finger can deliver as much energy as almost 2000 pounds of coal. This ability of create large quantities of power in a small amount of space was part of the reason the Navy decided to use nuclear power for its submarines.
Clearly. generating significant amounts of nuclear waste and dumping the material in the environment is not a sustainable practice.
Nuclear waste is the material created after nuclear fuel is used in a reactor. It looks exactly like the fuel that was loaded into the reactor — assemblies of metal rods enclosing stacked-up ceramic pellets. But since nuclear reactions have occurred, the contents aren’t quite the same.
Before producing power, the fuel was mostly Uranium (or Thorium), oxygen, and steel. Afterwards, many uranium atoms have split into various isotopes of the transition metals on the periodic table of the elements.
The waste is dangerously radioactive for thousands of years after creation. Once a material becomes irradiated no technology exists to remove the radioactivity. The reduction in radioactivity occurs only with the passing of enough time while the radiation decays. This is the reason why the material needs to be carefully contained so contaminants cannot escape and cause damage to living things.
Renewables coming on line
Nuclear Power may not be needed as much as people believe going into the future with the amount of renewable energy sources coming online. In California PG&E decided to close its remaining nuclear plants mainly due to the maintenance costs but the impact will be minimized by sources coming on line, namely, wind and solar as dictated in its Renewables Standards Portfolio.
Can we dispute the fact Carbon is most important planetary problem? Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns which may affect life in ways which we are currently unaware.
No Silver bullet
There no single technological silver bullet to solve our problem. Even IF nuclear power became part of the solution other solutions will be required to transition to a sustainable society featuring renewable energy.
The two parties should work to together to ensure the planet both parties live on can support the future inhabitants of the future. Regardless if they support nuclear power as a sustainable solution or not.