In the context of end-of-year fireworks, lets discuss nuclear energy. Because its back on the agenda.
Its indeed an option, but then, the discussion should use the right arguments. Up to now, the discussion is about the advantages or disadvantages of the nuclear technology itself. However the question why they are needed is not addressed. To counter climate warming, I hear you think. But that not true. What is actually happening is that we refuse to adapt to the limited capacity of the earth system , and continue to try to let 7 billion and later 10 billion people indulge in luxury. And that we want neglect all natural laws , to keep that dream alive. The cry for nuclear energy is not about global warming, but about saving our disproportionate luxury. If that is clear , and honestly addressed in the discussion, no problem, but it is concealed. That leads to a flight forward, the desire for technology that can solve everything. Think of ‘eco-modernists’ , or sometimes ‘ecotech’, that promote technological solutions. And now people claim nuclear power fits that strategy. Nonsense. Those are just sect’s of believers, that throw sand in peoples eye’s, to make them believe that everything is technically solvable. It is the movement that once claimed that a wolf in the Netherlands was the sign that nature was recovering. It is in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a nuclear energy lobby, but then wrapped up like modern thinkers, with the misuse of the word eco stuck in front of it.
What they want is, in a manner of speaking, that all have a clothes dryer connected to the internet, and therefore building a nuclear power plant to power the dryer. Instead of that , you could just hang the laundry on a drying line outside and let the sun and wind do its work directly. And no technology at all needed, no materials wasted nor energy. It also applies for wind farms. As an example: to have all drying machines in the Netherlands (4x a week, at 100% penetration) do their job, more than 600 wind turbines of 2 MW on land are needed. [x] Let alone if we want to power the whole world of drying machines. Just to indicate what nonsense we are ‘modernising’ . Before even discussing nuclear, get rid of all that nonsense , like waterbeds, electric doorbells, patio heaters and many other gadgets.
And with all of these things the question needs to be asked whether it can be scaled up for 7 or later 10 billion people. Because why should only we, the rich, have the right to these technologies. it, otherwise we will only be able to save on smug and tarry on the sources of others.
And by the way , nuclear energy is not without CO2 emissions. Extraction and treatment of uranium, construction of nuclear power stations and cleaning up the mess also costs energy CO2 emissions. IPCC, which also argues for nuclear energy in its latest report on the risks of more than 1.5 degrees of warming, shows itself in its 2014 assessment that these emissions per kWh are in the same order as Sun and wind energy: So CO2 emissions reduction, with regard to sun and wind is not a decisive argument. At the most, the more constant supply of energy, but at the same time that is precisely the biggest disadvantage: if there is enough solar energy, then a nuclear power plant is difficult to switch down: So with nuclear in place, we wont switch to renewables anymore at all. And simply run everything on nuclear power, with increasing safety and storage risks on the bargain.
Much more important argument, and rarely heard, is that in fact we do not have an energy problem, as the above indicates. We have a material problem. Energy is enough, of all kinds, but it is the materials that are decisive here: Without materials, no energy conversions or distribution, or even application. And that side of the equation is always neglected or forgotten. While (flow) Energy is (cheer) unlimited available, materials can only be supplied from the earth, and therefore finite. That is, the concentrated versions. And if they are not concentrated, it takes a lot of energy to collect them, for which again materials are needed. The material stocks become heavily diluted and therefore will cost more and more energy to use them. *
We are working on solving an energy problem, but forget that materials are the limiting factor in our society. And we are just at the beginning of that, for instance the number of cars worldwide is going to increase by a factor of 3, if prosperity is growing in large parts of the world. Which is what it does, despite the fact that this is not always clear from the reporting.
Mankind does not solve problems, but if it becomes difficult, it shifts to a different source and technique, until this one again becomes difficult, and so on, until at some point it stops , and there will be nothing left , while on route climate and biodiversity are the victims. In my book ( in Dutch) there are many examples of this.
All that we have fought in the sixties, seventies and even eighties to stop it, because we thought it was not smart, we now tip overboard because we have been tempted by the industry into unwilling consumers, our energy demand has been increased to unprecedented heights and now protest if we think we would lose that again. And that’s why we throw our principles, and laws of nature, overboard.
I am even more convinced now that we were right at the time. That we felt that it had to be different. And now, because we are addicted to buying and consuming through Anglo-American liberalism, we do not see the Emperor’s clothes anymore. We are blind, and slavish, and let ourselves be carried away in this spiral of wallowing.
And yes, maybe it’s going well, with that nuclear energy. But then what, it will never be enough … Once we have those power stations, and for twenty years it works without accidents, then we feel safe to build three times as much, and then again three times as much. Because an alternative is no longer there. There is no real view of another energy source or process that will bring us even more.
So to call for nuclear now, is a flight forward of a bunch of blind chickens. Instead of decently organizing society, it, and living within the limits of what a finite system can deliver. Or as David Attenborough put it: “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.”
Considering nuclear power? Fine, but with the right arguments and considerations. And do not frame the entire discussion as if we only have a choice between a climate-doom scenario or a nuclear energy scenario. That is how we have been misguided for decades, and are being turned into mega consumers.