When is the point of no return?
According to a candidate to the White House that I shall not name, global warming is not caused by human activities. For people with a brain, all the stats are alarming. Since the Industrial Revolution, which started less than two hundred years ago, the global temperatures have risen by almost 1 ° C, threatening countless animal species and making storms, typhoons, cyclones stronger each year.
These are irrefutable facts. And unfortunately, global warming effects are increasingly palpable for many of us. If the trend continues, half of all animal species, your 5 star hotel in Venice and bungalow in the Maldives (and incidentally their population) will disappear, causing massive migrations and disruption of the Earth ecological equilibrium. The question is, when will humans have gone to the point where this problem becomes an unsolvable one?
It is hard to predict, but some scientists believe that we are awfully close, the most pessimistic ones even believe that this point has passed already. In any case, the diagnostic is very serious and we (almost) all know it.
How can nuclear energy help?
When we think about global warming and its terrible effects, we immediately connect it with renewable energy solutions; solar panels, wind farms etc. There is one energy that we never think about, the nuclear energy. Once a promising technology that meant a great civilization progress, public support for nuclear energy has decreased dramatically over the years. Two infamous nuclear catastrophes and the fact that most green political parties are against even the idea of the fission an atom are contributing factors. General public immediately connect the word ‘nuclear’ with ‘dangerous’, ‘dirty’ and ‘destruction’. But how many people actually know that nuclear energy doesn’t produce any CO2?
Now hear me, I am not saying that nuclear energy is the ultimate solution to all our problems, but instead that it can contribute to help us out of this critical situation. We will need a low-carbon source of energy to achieve independence from fossil fuel.
We know how to run nuclear power plants relatively reliably, and there is some progress being made. Generation III and IV reactors are being built or developed around the world, mainly in Asia, and are designed to be safer and run longer (up to 120 years), bringing the costs down. Why not continue to invest into a powerful and clean energy source? Yes, there are a number of problems, nuclear waste management, potential terrorist threats, natural disaster to name a few. But problems are inherent of human inventions, it is all about the amount of effort we put in to solve them.
How humans solve problems
Nuclear power plants are not perfect, when they explode, it’s bad. Spectacular events like nuclear catastrophes or plane crashes are rare, but they stick in our memories and frighten us durably. This fear paralyzes our logical reasoning and can make us take foolish decisions, like driving from point A to B instead of taking a plane. Statistically speaking you have a much higher chance of dying on the road. But being on the groundfeels safer. Is avoiding flying a solution to make planes safer?
Back to our global warming problem, if we continue doing nothing, or being so slow at doing an ersatz of something, our planet is doomed and us with it.
Our economies largely depend on energy supply to grow. No country is willing to give up economic growth because the capitalistic world we live in has made it indispensable. It will be decades, or maybe an entire century for us to switch to an economy that relies completely on renewable energy. We’re living through an extremely slow ‘green revolution’. I’m afraid that we won’t make it in time.
Complex problems need complex solutions. I believe that if we only put our hopes on renewable energy it is not going to work, it’s far too slow to cope with the energy greed of capitalism.
China and India, among the biggest emitters of CO2 are investing massively to build nuclear power plants and many other Asian countries are considering to do the same.
We have to be realistic, we are nearing the point of no return. Nuclear energy is clean, efficient and the technology is available. Governments and engineers need to continue making nuclear power plants safer and cheaper so that it can be part of the solution that will save our planet.
I would be happy to hear your thought on this issue, can nuclear power be part of the solution to global warming?
All these issues, from waste management to financing new builds will be discussed at the Asia Nuclear Business Platform. The 5th edition will take place in Shanghai from the 16th to 18th of May 2017. For more information on how you can participate, contact [email protected]