Sunday, October 07, 2012

Nuclear Power: Why the hell not?

This blog has very nearly become totally dedicated to the support of nuclear power in Japan and throughout the world.  My conversion from skeptic to nuclear supporter has been accompanied by a slow shift of perception in other areas of opinion; this is because once atomic energy is accepted as the basis for the production of the bulk of world energy supplies, many other seemingly intractable problems crystallise into non-issues.

Naturally, energy production becomes vastly more sustainable and reliable.  There are no more concerns about peak oil.  And oil itself becomes vastly less valuable- its main remaining use being for the production of gasoline.  That would remain a problem, but long-term it is possible to imagine all vehicles being electrical vehicles.

When you consider the fact that tension and war in the Middle East is due, at least in part, to desire for oil on the part of the West, it is not completely naive to believe that, if that desire were to subside, the stresses that have led too many times to war in the region will also subside.  For example, America would have had no need to invade Iraq if they hadn't neede to guarantee oil supplies from the region.  A dependence upon oil keeps many economies vulnerable to political crises in one of the most unstable parts of the world- and Japan is one of those economies. And if you believe for an instant that the American invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil and everything to do with 'weapons of mass destruction', I invite you to consider the case of North Korea, which to this day is still working on atomic weapons but, luckily for them, has no oil.

Around the world carbon-trading schemes are costing huge sums of money, often with the net outcome of no reduction of carbon emission at all, as the 'right to pollute' is merely traded.  All that results is the supression of economic activity. In Australia the issue of carbon-pricing has brought down a prime minister, an opposition leader and very nearly a government.  The newly-introduced emissions trading scheme remains hightly unpopular and has substantially raised electricity prices around the country.  And the scheme, which is designed to make non-carbon-emitting energy production competitive, is in its very conception ludicrous, as the most efficient production of emission-free energy, nuclear power, is illegal in Australia. If there were nuclear power in Australia, there would be no purpose in having such a scheme, as nuclear power is practically emission-free.

Pollution around the world, from coal ash, gasoline exhaust and many other pollutants would be vastly reduced in a nuclear world, saving about 2 million lives a year.  Global warming would be massively mitigated, and the attention of world governments could be more readily directed to other pressing concerns, such as poverty and hunger.  Which, by the way, are much more easily alleviated with a source of clean, reliable and conflict-free power. 

I am not suggestion that nuclear power can single-handedly solve the world's problems.  But it is galling to me when something extraordinarily useful and productive is being ignored, or worse, treated as it were a problem.  It doesn't have to be this way.  A better world is possible.

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