Nuclear Power works to balance
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 03:04
Energy may perhaps be the single most essential commodity for a society to survive and thrive. It is evident in its use in heat, transport and power, however scientists argue that the current means of generating energy is not a maintainable process.
The growing dependence on energy has led to the burning of cheap and unsustainable fossil fuels like coal.
Many scientists believe that the current energy path has led to global climate change, and is why new sustainable and renewable energy solutions need to be implemented for a greener and more stable future.
The White House commits to “reduce our dependence on oil, promote energy efficiency, and invest in a clean energy future.”
Though it remains unclear as to how the United States plans to do that and at what cost to the country.
Nuclear power is still on the table because no air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide is emitted, as opposed to coal and oil, which contributes 40 percent or gas that contributes 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted annually. There is also extensive scientific knowledge of the nuclear energy cycle.
However, the future costs need to be measured, given the tragedy that befell Japan on last March, when an earthquake and tsunami caused the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station lost power due to the quake and the tsunami caused the backup generators, usually used to keep the cooling systems operational, to deactivate.
The deactivation caused a domino effect of sorts as fuel rods in three reactors to melt, causing the release of radiation. At its peak, the radiation measured to 400 mSv per an hour. The acceptable dosage according to U.S. regulations for workers in nuclear plants is 50 mSv per year. The radiation dosage allowed for U.S. residents is 6.2 mSv per year.
It will take some years to evaluate the real damage and costs of their nuclear crisis in terms of the effects of radiation.
The World Bank has currently estimated this disaster to be one of the most expensive disasters to occur, at 235 billion dollars needed to repair the damage caused by the tsunami, earthquake, and Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Some experts point out that the Fukushima plant contained an older second-generation reactor, and that investing in a third-generation or upcoming fourth-generation plant can provide a more stringent safeguard to prevent a future Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has done precisely that, buying into Terrapower, a nuclear reactor design spin-off company. It is currently working on a prototype for a fourth-generation plant.
Since Gates' investment, Terrapower has attracted prominent Indian and Chinese investors in light of the proposed reactor requiring no enriched uranium with little to no nuclear waste.
Gates believes an addition of software simulations will aid in predicting future Fukushima disasters and in risk analysis.
Taking the necessary safety precautions seem to be key, as the global population will increase to nine billion by 2050.
With more people comes more economic activity and more economic activity means having sufficient energy in which to meet demand.