Fight Global Warming with what? Spit Balls?

Energy needs
Energy needs

ECOstrive – To coin a phrase from a great democratic senator from Georgia, Senator Zell Miller, when talking of what we should arm U.S. Troops with in the war on terrorism; I use his words when talking about Greenpeace on fighting Global Climate Change.

Greenpeace loves to report the problem of global warming and energy. They are against power plants that burn fossil fuels and they are very much against nuclear power. According to their Energy [r]evolution Blueprint, they say that we can get all of our energy from solar, wind and other “renewable” sources and that nuclear power has no place in their blueprint.

Solar, wind and other renewable sources are small contributors to the current electricity supply (see below), or “spit balls” in the terms of this article. There is no denying that these technologies are desirable, and our goal should be to seek their maturity so that they can begin to shoulder the burden of supplying the U.S. energy demand. The problem is that these current technologies cannot make a significant contribution to the U.S. energy demand.

Staggering Demand

During 2004, we consumed 3.717 trillion kWh of electricity1. We produced 3.979 trillion kWh with about 71% coming from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear power and about 8% from hydroelectric and other sources1. We are expected to need 292 gigawatts2 of additional electric power by 2030 to meet the projected demand. What are we doing to find clean, renewable sources for this required capacity? Nuclear power is the only clean source of energy that can fulfill this need. If we want to cut our dependence on fossil fuel and reduce emissions, we are going to need nuclear power, at least in the short term.

In a June 2007 speech, President Bush stated that “Nuclear power is the only large-scale emissions-free power source that is currently able to meet the growing need for electricity. As our economy grows, with additional demands for power and electricity, nuclear power can handle those needs.” and that “experts believe it will be necessary to build an average of three new plants per year starting in 2015”. He also spoke of the safety of newer power plant design, and the need to start reprocessing spent reactor fuel. This would eliminate the debate over spent fuel having to be stored, as we will be reprocessing all of the current waste.

Clean Power

oldnuke
Old style plant

Contrary to what a lot of environmental groups would have you believe, modern nuclear power plants

Modern nuclear power plant
Modern nuclear power plant

are clean, safe and economical. They are not the huge behemoths that they once were. The photographs that you are typically shown in newscasts and from anti-nuclear environmentalist are very outdated. Those plants, as shown in the top photo to the left were designed in the late 1960s and built in the early 1970s. The bottom left photo is from the Simpsons Television show on Fox. Most young people picture this when it comes to nuclear power. The

Cartoon
Cartoon

photo to the right is of the Torness Nuclear Power Station near Dunbar, Scotland that was built in 1989.

I have seen reports that the safety record for nuclear power plants, even Chernobyl (56 total deaths officially), is better than the record for mining coal (average of 100 deaths each year since 1970, down from an average of 1000 per year in the early 20th century3) in terms of casualties.

Modern plants can be built in as little as three years, and the U.S. Department of Energy is working with utility companies and plant manufacturers to simplify the licensing process to allow us to build new plants more quickly, and have an assurance that a license will be granted.

The bottom line is that nuclear power is the right tool for the job, whether or not we need to fight global warming. If the world is getting warmer, we are going to need a lot more cheap electricity to power our air conditioning.

Sources:

  1. CIA World Factbook
  2. Energy Information Administration – Department of Energy
  3. U.S. Department of Labor – Mine Safety and Health Administration

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