About nuclear power.

After the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it was easy to know how to feel about nuclear power. Now I'm not so sure.

In the last decade, I became concerned about global warming. Many environmentalists are in favour of using nuclear power to meet increasing demands for electricity. In the U.S. President Obama has said that nuclear power must be part of the energy plan. China is also looking at nuclear power to meet its energy needs.

It's easy to understand the case for nuclear power. The waste from one person using nuclear power during their lifetime would fill one bottle of Coca-Cola. Just one bottle. If the same person used power generated from coal, the waste would fill box car after box car.

It is a persuasive case. But what about the waste in the bottle? How do you dispose of it? And if the odds of an accident are one in a million, why have there been accidents?

Extraordinary care must be taken in the building of a nuclear power plant. Maybe nuclear plants are too expensive. Cutting corners to bring down costs can have the most dire consequences imaginable.

While I worry about the current nuclear crisis in Japan, I can't forget the other recent energy-related disasters. The ruptured BP oil rig spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The miners trapped deep in the earth, and certainly killed in an explosion, if not first by poisonous gases.

We need to learn how to conserve energy. At what human cost, so I can use a laptop and drive a car?

New Zealand is a nuclear free nation. After nuclear testing by the French in the Pacific (Mururoa), New Zealand became the first Western-allied nation to legislate towards a nuclear-free zone. This means that U.S. nuclear-propelled warships cannot dock in New Zealand ports. We are proud of this stance. It's part of our national psyche.

Nothing in the New Zealand legislation prevents the building of nuclear plants. But New Zealand is one of the few developed countries not using nuclear power. Most New Zealanders are against it.

New Zealand generates about 30% of its power from coal and gas. The remainder is primarily from hydro-electro power. In a worst case scenario, dams could rupture. But that disaster wouldn't be like a radioactive fallout.

If there was a nuclear accident in New Zealand, which is a small, remote country, what would it do to waterways and agriculture? Tourism would be affected. New Zealand exports to world markets would be halted.

New Zealand can't continue to depend on coal and gas. Even with other sustainable options (such as wind), rising demands for electricity will force New Zealand to consider nuclear power.


Casey Freeland said...

I don't know the answer either. Deeply, deeply hoping that advances in nuclear power can be used with less risk and other advances will allow us to get more juice out of solar, wind, hydro and true co-gen plants. We can hope.



CiCi said...

Because there are so many people and the people want energy in the many homes the energy source needs to be able to supply the demand. It sounds wonderful to be in a country that does not have nuclear plants. There just has to be a source with more safety, I hope we find it soon.

tennysoneehemingway said...

Same over here. Because Australia has almost 60% of the world's uranium, people are just about begging for it to be used. But really, it's all about money. In the end, nuclear power is still more expensive than reusable energy and it would take 15-20 years for us to build a nuclear reactor anyway, which wouldn't do much for the environment as it needs to be acted on NOW. And the case for nuclear being clean and safe still isn't clear because no one can decide what to do with the waste. And spent nuclear rods are more dangerous than actual nuclear power as they're continually 'active' ie: hot. I just can't see nuclear as the clear way to go but, as it's always all about money, I think it's probably inevitable that both Australia and New Zealand will take the nuclear option.

Pearl said...

Solar power? Wind power? Magnets!! I only wish I were smarter.


About Last Weekend said...

This post has been great and made me really think about all the options. Plus New Zealand is way ahead of the rest of the world in terms of alternative power so hate to think about what a spot America is in. It's all a four year plan, which is the term of the President.

Unknown said...

Interesting post. This is a tough one, and one we have talked about a lot lately.

Prior to Japan, nuclear power seemed to be on a comeback. Which if we can make it safer, granted a big IF, may be a future option; oil will go away and is messy anyway, and wind and water havent been harnessed in great volume yet. They are still the best options if we can go forward with those.

Neil said...

Great post; thoughtful. I would favour nuclear power because despite the risks they are lesser than the risk of the alternative(power shortage). You CAN be too careful.
However in the end I think we are too small to justify a expense of a nuclear power station and this makes the argument rather futile.