Monday, March 14, 2011

Up and atom

Japanese people see today their nuclear power centrals damaged due to the unfortunate earthquake they suffered a few days ago. Apparently, there might be some risky radioactive leaks, they are not sure yet. This has somehow re-opened the nuclear power debate, at least here in Europe.
I'll be clear here: Wel all have to face that nuclear power is not a choice nowadays. It's a must; that is, if you all want to continue living life like you do, using as much electricity as you want (which actually is a lot), etc. I will assume no one wants to go back using candles.
Then why is it a must?

We need electricity. We typically obtain it from 1-Renewable energy; 2-Non-renewable energy.

Renewable energy is awesome. Just imagine it, you build up infrastructures and get electricity without spending other resources! Also no smoke, no radiation. It's a pity we can't really afford it. This kind of energy is incredibly expensive compared to non-renewable ones, and it needs a huge landscape transformation. You want wind energy? You have to fill fields and fields of mills to achieve it. That's space you can't use for anything else, and the amount of energy produced isn't even worth it...maybe in some hills/mountain area with a lot of wind and no other use or something like that, but that's about it. Same with solar energy (although I like the idea of having solar panel roofs). Water energy is all right in my opinion because you both control water resources and produce electricity. There are others which are hard to use like biomass and geothermal, but useful when they are possible.
It's OK if politicians promote renewable energies and give away some money so companies can produce clean energy, but they are not saving the planet or securing our future by doing that, as many people think.

Non-renewable energy is not that awesome, but it's the easy and cheap way. You get "fuel" from nature, manage to produce steam by heating water with it  in order to move a turbine, and you have electricity. The problem is that those resources aren't going to last forever, and along with electricity you produce waste (smoke and nuclear waste, mainly)
However, we need these. Non-renewable energy provides ~80% of total worldwide electricity, and that's a lot. I don't think any of us can replace that 80% with renewable energies...anytime soon.
All in all, nuclear power is cheap and produces a lot of electricity with a little effort, and that makes it the most loved no-renewable energy. The problem is that people are aware of its dangers and its wastes, and reject it.
They are so aware of them that it has became fear or some kind of massive hysteria against this energy.
The truth is that centrals are secure if they are well under control. The world has been using nuclear power for decades without an accident. It provides ~16% of total worldwide electricity. Yes, I know..Chernobyl. You should remember it happened in the soviet union, which was a lot less concerned about security than modern countries are nowadays. Also, nuclear centrals doesn't produce CO2, if you are concerned about climate change.

So that's why I think we must use and encourage nuclear power. It provides a significantly amount of our electricity, it's cheap, secure and it's continously developing so I don't think we have to use it forever. We can deal with wastes, we have done it until now though, they just have to be well under control in special "nuclear graveyards". There will be another kind of energy in the future: clean, renewable and cheap, but until then...

Finally, and returning to can those accidents make people re-debate nuclear power? I mean, those centrals suffered a ~9 Richter earthquake, followed by a Tsunami...and they are still in their spot. There might be some leaks? Is that all we have to worry about when an earthquake+tsunami hits us? Personally I'm amazed that nuclear infrastructures are that solid, and you all should know that nobody expects that every central is hit by a 9 richter earthquake and a tsunami in a row, so you can be calm.