Friday, 30 March 2012

Shunning nuclear power will lead to a warmer world

This is a good read: Shunning nuclear power will lead to a warmer world: ..."A physicist argues that if we allow our overblown and often irrational fears of nuclear energy to block the building of a significant number of new nuclear plants, we will be choosing a far more perilous option: the intensified burning of planet-warming fossil fuels." ... "These blows to the world’s nuclear industry will have severe unintended consequences, most notably because they will inevitably lead to more burning of fossil fuels. Over the past half-century, wherever a nuclear reactor was not built, a coal-fired power plant usually was constructed to supply the necessary electricity. In future decades, the fewer nuclear reactors, the more coal, natural gas, and oil will be consumed. To be sure, there are promising alternatives like wind and solar, and increases in efficiency so that fewer power plants will be needed. Yet realistically these cannot meet the intense demand for rising economic prosperity, especially in China and other developing nations. And while nuclear reactors make me nervous, the consequences of fossil-fuel burning terrify me.
The harm done to human health and the environment by all the nuclear accidents and nuclear waste releases in history is minor compared with the harm caused by the mining and burning of coal, with other fossil fuels not far behind. And there is worse: global warming, caused largely by the emission of heat-trapping gases from fossil fuels. If emissions continue to increase in a “business as usual” fashion — let alone if they increase even faster as reactors are phased out — future generations will suffer as we destabilize the climate system that has supported human civilization for thousands of years. Rising sea levels, droughts in key agricultural regions, and ever-worsening heat waves will threaten people just as the world’s population is projected to expand from 7 billion today to 10 billion by 2100. We will see the impoverishment of some of the ecosystems on which our society depends. While nuclear power offers no magical solution, it could help us avoid the worst."

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