Sunday, March 13, 2016

Nuclear Energy- After the Fukushima Meltdown

  • Last week was the five-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami neaFukushima, Japan which killed at least 15,000 people and caused a meltdown at the Daiichi nuclear power plant. Today, the region continues to recover from both the natural disaster and clean-up efforts at the nuclear facility.
  • At the same time, while some governments around the world have become more cautious about nuclear energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reports that there are 442 operational reactors globally, with an additional 66 under construction.  Twenty four of the new projects are in China and reports suggest that twelve new reactors are planned for India.  (Note: in China and India, nuclear power accounts for about 2% of total output, with +70% of energy output coming from fossil fuels).
  • As demand for energy increases, evidence of climate change continue to increase as well.  For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the earth’s land and ocean surface temperatures for 2015 was the highest since it began keeping record in 1880.  
  • As solutions are examined, the article “Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change” (The Guardian Dec. 4, 2015 ) is worth considering.  The authors (climate scientists  James Hansen, Ken Caldeira and others) said: “Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them. We are hopeful in the knowledge that, together with renewables, nuclear can help bridge the ‘emissions gap’ that bedevils the Paris climate negotiations. The future of our planet and our descendants depends on basing decisions on facts, and letting go of long-held biases when it comes to nuclear power.”

  • To address the challenge of climate change requires assessing trade-offs, embracing a broad set of solutions and moving beyond watered down resolutions.
  • The playbook for success requires a focus on addressing climate change at a large scale – a process that will include 1) energy alternatives such as wind, solar and geothermal, 2) advances in new technologies (lithium battery, hydrogen fuel cell, etc)., 3) conservation, 4) various forms of carbon taxes and 5) a reconsideration of the nuclear power option

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