Renewable energy sources are attractive but in a sense, powerless. Maybe, someday we'll all live in houses with photovoltaic roof tiles but in the real world, a 1GW of solar plant will require 60 square miles of solar panels. When the demand increases, you can fire up more coal, but how will you cause the wind to blow and the sun to shine 24x7? The earth is already so disabled by the insidious poison of greenhouse gases that even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately the consequences of what we have already done will last for 1,000 years.
Each year, we are taking out 400 million more tonnes of coal from the earth's crust. The coal reserves are depleting at a high rate. Tonnes of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere. Wind energy and solar energy are so dilute that huge capital is required to produce any scalable amount of electricity from them. The separate grid that has to be installed in large areas will result in huge power losses before the electricity generated reaches the consumer.
Nuclear radiation containment, waste disposal and nuclear weapons proliferation are manageable problems in a way that global warming is not. A report by researchers of MIT forecasts that worldwide, energy demand would triple by 2050.We have no time to experiment with visionary sources of energy; civilisation is in imminent danger. Unless we see some energy miracle, nuclear energy seems to be the only option. There is no currently available renewable energy source which can meet our 24-hour base load electricity requirements. Accidents, though, in the past have unfortunately raised speculation. Indeed, speculation does arise when we live in an uncertain era. It's like we have to choose the most certain uncertainty.
Talk of climate, the most knowledgeable are the most worried. Talk of nuclear energy, the most knowledgeable are the least worried. What needs to be done is to spread awareness, impart education and disseminate information to all the vehement anti-nuclear environmentalists.
It is high time they were convinced not to stall the growth of the advanced safe nuclear reactors or else the rising demand for energy will hinder our run to becoming a developed nation. The original U.S. nuclear power plants of the 1950s descended from propulsion units in nuclear submarines. But the current Gen 3+ reactors are a big improvement.
As far as nuclear waste is concerned, waste storage for disposal or recycling is done in corrosion-proof containers that can withstand long years of heat and moisture. There are proposals to create a global nuclear fuel company under the IAEA which will collect nuclear waste from reactors across the globe, reprocess it and then redistribute the fuel to those power plants.
We are also on the way to developing thorium-based reactors. India has the greatest potential for thorium reactors considering the vast thorium reserves under its belt. There are great examples of nuclear energy in the world. Interestingly, Finland has ordered a big reactor specifically to meet the terms of the Kyoto protocol on climate change. France is already 77% nuclear energy dependent, Belgium 58%, Sweden 45%, South Korea 40% and still counting.
Five out of six people today live in the developing world. Shortages of finance, infrastructure and efficiency are the main obstacles to optimal renewable energy usage. Germany can afford to phase out its reactors but that is not the case with India and China. Currently, India is facing a supply-side deficit of 8%.The demand is growing at 8% annually. The situation is fragile. Remember hydel power is restricted to geographically suitable sites. Wind energy and solar energy are intermittent. Wind is dependent on appropriate windspeeds and solar energy depends on the location of the sun. We are thus reduced to just two choices, coal or nuclear.
Nuclear plants have to account for every radioactive atom of waste. But coal-fired plants dump tonnes of deadly refuse into the atmosphere at zero cost. If this scenario prevails for 20-30 years more, our planet will become so hot that land many times the area of Ukraine and Japan will become inhabitable.
It's time for that free ride over the “Once Green Earth” to end. It is time for us to decide whether to let 1 GW of electricity release 19,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or develop nuclear energy for an energy safe future.
(The writer's email ID is firstname.lastname@example.org)