Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why Nuclear Power Cannot Be A Major Energy Source

The growing chorus of nuclear power advocates, energized by what they see as an opportunity to revive a dead industry, have become more vociferous as of late, claiming that building a new generation of nuclear power plants is the only effective way to contend with global warming and oil depletion. Masquerading as environmentally concerned, scientifically grounded rationalists condescendingly setting the romanaticists of the environmental movement straight, flacks such as Stewart Brand, Patrick Moore, and james Lovelock, have become enthusiastic boosters for the technology, casting it as our only hope for the future. However, if you look at nuclear power at a system theory level, from one end of the fuel cycle to the other, the vision can be seen as fatally flawed. In this piece, Why Nuclear Power Cannot Be A Major Energy Source, David Fleming explains why nuclear power is not a "clean" fuel, not a viable option for the future, and not the only choice in town.

The opening to the article, published on the site of FEASTA--The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability--does a great job in framing the argument:

"It takes a lot of fossil energy to mine uranium, and then to extract and prepare the right isotope for use in a nuclear reactor. It takes even more fossil energy to build the reactor, and, when its life is over, to decommission it and look after its radioactive waste."

"As a result, with current technology, there is only a limited amount of uranium ore in the world that is rich enough to allow more energy to be produced by the whole nuclear process than the process itself consumes. This amount of ore might be enough to supply the world's total current electricity demand for about six years."

Read this article. Pass it on to friends. We only have a few years to start making smart energy choices and adopting a sane approach to our patterns of energy consumption as they affect global climate change. Nuclear power is a dead-end choice wiith the emphasis on "dead."