Thursday, July 13, 2006

Climate Change: nuclear power is a bad answer to an urgent question

Is nuclear power the solution to excessive carbon emissions? UK PM Tony Blair thinks so, although he's often been somewhat on the quixotic side of any political fence.

Full marks for Blair’s recognition of the issue of Global Warming. But nuclear power?? Sadly, this is gaining currency as a solution to energy production. Blair should know better, particularly given Britain’s troubled history on the matter, with the Windscale/Sellafield plant in particular. Accidents, leakages and fire. The Windscale fire in 1957 wasn’t topped until Three Mile Island. Which of course was overshadowed by Chernobyl.

Newer technology would be used, of course. But two problems will always remain:
a) there’s no guarantee against further ‘incidents’. There’s no guarantee against something worse than Chernobyl – no matter the safeguards
b) containment of radioactive spent fuel will remain a problem for thousands and thousands of years.

The technology is not there yet, to either maintain a safe plant or to cope with the waste. Cheaper options exist (eg wind). There’s no excuse for not focusing on safe, renewable energy sources. If sufficient money is invested in research into those sources, there would be no need for either unsafe power forms, nuclear or carbon-emitting.

Further reading: UK Friends of the Earth has a FAQ on this issue: Is nuclear power the answer to our energy needs?

Footnote: In other news, the band Pearl Jam is taking a surprisingly intelligent approach to the global warming issue, to compensate for the effects of their touring activity. Based on estimates of the carbon emission costs of their touring, they're donating to several organisations that focus on global warming issues and renewable energy.

Update 19-Jul-06: In an interesting illustration of the wilfully blind leading the wilfully blind, Australian Prime Minister John Howard admitted that he put nuclear power on the agenda because he was influenced by George Bush's policies. It figures.

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