Should Nuclear Energy Be Part Of The Renewable Energy Agenda?
Nuclear Energy is one of those subjects that seems to very quickly polarize any discussion, dividing people into two firmly entrenched camps – for and against!
So we at the BlueRam Group needed to sort out our own thinking on this issue, particularly in relation to whether or not it was an appropriate topic for detailed discussion on this site which is devoted to home alternative energy.
So, here's our thinking...
The Current State Of The Nuclear Energy Industry
Put bluntly, the nuclear industry is an industry in decline. This is not just because of the monumental Fukushima disaster – the decline had started well before that. In order to explain why we need to look at some data.
The following graph is courtesy of the WorldWatch Institute and shows the subsidies received, over a 23 year period 1986 - 2008, for nuclear, solar and wind energies.
The graph clearly shows that the contribution of nuclear to global electricity generation was far below that of solar and wind. These renewable energy sources are clearly outstripping nuclear in meeting the increasing world energy demands.
Why is this happening?
W certainly hear lots of talk from the nuclear industry and its proponents about how nuclear is the way forward because it is a clean energy that will help more than anything else to reduce global warming. However, the rhetoric doesn't stand up to closer examination.
So let's look at some nuclear energy facts...
- Unlike renewable energy sources, nuclear energy plants do not attract private investment. They are entirely funded, by central governments.
- The nuclear industry receives a disproportionate share of government funding and the pressure is developing to change that scenario. The situation is well illustrated by the following graph:
- The capital costs are increasingly prohibitive and accompanied by very long lead times. This is in contrast to the renewable energy sector where the costs are coming down dramatically.
- The current nuclear capacity world-wide (375GW)has now been overtaken by the renewable energy sector (381 GW) on 2010 figures.
- A nuclear accident can turn a multi-billion dollar asset into a huge liability. The company behind the Fukushima facility has gone to the wall, owing many billions of dollars. Also, nuclear accidents have world-wide repercussions.
- Gains in using electricity more efficiently are now having an effect around the world
- Lack of trained and skilled personnel and regular supply problems means that nuclear energy capital costs not only remain high but they keep on increasing. In the renewable energy sector however, the capital costs are coming down.
- Nuclear proliferation is a distinct threat, particularly given the unrest in many parts of the world.
- Nuclear energy does not, contrary to popular opinion, make as significant contribution to reducing global warming as do the renewable energy sources. It has a higher per $ cost for carbon reduction than do renewables and it also occurs significantly more slowly.
- Waste disposal issues remain as a festering sore on the industry's back. The future generations are those who will live with today's decisions which are anything but reassuring.
- A significant proportion of the world's nuclear facilities are aging and the associated problems with either upgrading or closing down are significant indeed.
So overall, the future for nuclear energy is not rosy. Having said that, however, it will obviously continue to play a part in electricity generation for some time yet. Countries like China, United Arab Republic and Iran all have growth plans and construction underway for new nuclear power plants. Countries such as France (74%), Belgium(51%), Slovakia(52%) and Hungary(42%), who all have a high percentage of their electricity from nuclear, will face big challenges in terms of any shift to renewable energies.
It remains to be seen what the continuing repercussions are from Fukushima – governments may change their approach and policies or they may continue to be swayed by the continual and sophisticated lobbying from proponents of the nuclear industry. However, the writing is on the wall in a much clearer way than it has ever been. Hopefully governments around the world face the facts and plan accordingly.
When you add to that the continued growth of the renewable energy sector then nuclear will have to take the back seat it deserves. As it is, its continuing legacy will be with us for hundreds, even thousands of years.
If you have an interest in exploring the current world picture about nuclear energy we suggest you download the report from the WorldWatch Institute, titled "Nuclear Power In A Post-Fukushima World". This is an independent, clear analysis and summary of all the issues, country by country – definitely worth reading.
Right click and download the PDF report here.
What about nuclear energy and home alternative energy?
We now reckon we know where we stand. We are not going to address nuclear energy any further with this site – with one exception. If there is some significant event or announcement about the industry, with world-wide implications, then we will put a page on this site to explain and discuss the implications.
At the end of the day, though, you can't put a nuclear energy generator in your home. However, you can with solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other renewable resources. So that's where our continuing focus will be and we hope it will become your focus as well and supported 100% by your government, wherever you may be.
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