Those who know me will often have heard me spouting off on one environmental topic or another. I thought it would be unfair on them not to inflict the same on my loyal reader. So I’ll start with the subject of power.

There’s a crunch coming. We in the UK have international obligations to reduce our carbon emissions, and our nuclear reactors are nearing the end of their designed lives.

My favourite methods of easing our future power crunch are:

  1. Reduce demand. Because really, it’s just obvious.
  2. Geothermal, solar, wind and wave power. I think those windmills are rather elegant. These technologies are about as environmentally friendly as you can get on a large scale, and they can also work on a small scale.
  3. Nuclear fission. I’m a paid-up supporter of Greenpeace, and every time they start talking about the dangers of nuclear fission, I think about cancelling my direct debit. Nuclear waste is not a good thing, but it’s much less bad than global warming.
  4. Tidal power. The construction of massive barrages hardly counts as environmentally friendly, but the amount of generation from other sources that can be saved is not trivial.
  5. Large scale hydroelectric. Badly analysed and badly implemented third-world projects have tarred the reputation of hydroelectric, and it is destructive. Just not as bad as the next two.
  6. Fossil fuels. They cause carbon to be moved from beneath the ground into the atmosphere. The Earth is getting warmer, if you hadn’t noticed.
  7. Biomass. Worst. Idea. Evar.

The hoped-for but still missing option of nuclear fusion would go straight to number two in the list, if it arrived with most of its promise intact.

3 thoughts on “Power

  1. Don’t give up that Greenpeace membership! There’s some good reasons why nuclear doesn’t work, even as a bridging technology.

    1) No carbon savings. When the Kyoto treaty was being knocked together, the nuclear industry really did their best to get nuclear on the list of credits — but when scientists looked at the entire process from uranium mining to transport to processing to plant build it didn’t add up to a net savings.

    2) Every pound invested in nuclear energy is a pound that’s not being spent on renewable research or efficiency.

    3) It’s not a renwable source. Push nuclear up into the energy mix and the timeline to supply exhaution collapses.

    Add to THAT the waste problem, the danger of attack, the danger of accident and it really doesn’t make sense.


  2. Brian,
    1) I would need to see a peer reviewed study, or at least a citation, before I could really give this credit. While I grant that my gut feeling is not exactly a reliable indicator, this doesn't strike me as likely.
    2) Granted. I laid out my preferences in an order. I'd rather see money spent on items one or two than on item three, but I'd rather see money spent on that than on item four.
    3) No, technically it's not. But as far as I know, there's enough of it to make another round of power stations worthwhile. Plus, fission power gives an excellent answer to the question of what to do with all the warheads we should be getting rid of – burn 'em for power.

    I'm with James Lovelock on the waste problem – it's overstated.
    I don't see nuclear power stations as particularly interesting targets for attack, but correct me if I'm wrong.
    The danger of accident is significant, I agree. However, I think this could be tackled with better design and better procedures. I would be quite happy to see nuclear power come out of private hands if safety could be improved. Nuclear power stations *can* go very badly wrong. Fossil-fuel burning power stations, on the other hand, are screwing up the ecosystem every second they run.

    What order would you put these in? I guess you would agree with my top two, but what the rest?

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