GA, the dependance on fossil fuels is one that few will argue with you one, as is the need to wean ourselves off it.
But the quick fix that nuclear is to many, is not a reasonable solution without some serious safeguards and guarantees. Sadly, in the past we have never seen that.
Just to re-state, I don't see it as a reasonable solution either, I'm just predicting that the majority of people will see it as the only chance they have to somehow avoid impacting their high-energy lifestyles. They will make the trade-offs whether they are reasonable or not, because the degree of change required for our society to reduce it's energy use by a large amount is not something that can be discussed or contemplated. It's what they call a political non-starter, no one wants to talk about it and no politician will dare bring it up.
The really sad thing is that nuclear can not deliver what people will hope and in the end moving to a much lower energy lifestyle will be forced on most of us. But in the meantime we will have made a big mountain of radioactive waste and likely caused several million extra cases of cancer. That is, unless some technology like nuclear fusion or very efficient photo-voltaics (solar) manages to get developed first. We can always hope.
Wake up and smell the coffee. Demand for energy is increasing. It is unstoppable. People will pay more and more for it. Even though conservation is very cost effective, the vast majority of people unfortunately do not seem willing to make "sacrifices". Every time there is a price surge or a major blackout, people swear to cut back. But we are addicted to power. People equate power with progress. Moreover, many of the "alternatives" have hidden charges such as using rare minerals, lack scale-up feasibility or have ROI's that make their adavantages minimal.
Unfortunately, the human race is an uncouth hog. Industry has few concerns other than making a profit and pays lip service to environmental concerns. Indeed, as energy gets more expensive, environmental sensitivity may well become history. We seem not to learn from our mistakes when situations get worse. I'm in the UK right now and gas prices are 2.3X higher than in Canada. I see NO evidence of conservation (aside from no Hummers). People acclimatize to costs.
So, the answer is to plan, build capacity and pay for it (rather than artificially subsidize electricity costs). Nuclear energy is one option and is a good one for Ontario at least. The technology is very good and getting better. Nuclear fusion is probably 75-100 years off and will require immense investment. The ITER project hasn't even broken ground in France. Meanwhile, we need to switch as much energy use to direct electricity since it is simply not feasible to power ships and planes by batteries (and I don't think the risk of nuke-powered ships is worth it). Hence, petroleum products need to be focussed on these modes of use.
The bottom line is that we need a long term energy plan and investment in energy efficiency research. Conservationists will be likely trampled underfoot as costs rise - it's human nature. At least if we have a plan, decisions can be made rationally rather than emotionally.
a realist at last.
Nuclear is already HERE. It will be MORE here......big time.
People died in building the Niagara Falls hydro facility and the environmental impact is still ongoing.
I dare say PVCs and fossil fuel emissions will be responsible for more "cancer deaths" than radiation by magnitudes.
Many of the same contaminants like strontium are released in much larger quantities by fossil fuel burning and because the sheer amount of fuel and residue it represents a much harder aspect to control.
There has been progress in the ability to reduce environmental pollutants - the noxious gases and toxic substances emitted particularly from coal and oil plants - through costly pollution abatement technologies such as desulphurizers, nitrous oxide reducers and precipitators. But globally there remain serious environmental and health impacts through persistent releases. In developed countries the general picture is one of decreasing noxious gas and toxic substance releases while in developing countries, as a result particularly of increasing energy use and the high up-front cost of abatement techniques, the picture is one of increasing releases.
Urban pollution in today's developing countries, with their heavy reliance on fossil fuels and rapidly increasing transport emissions, is reaching harmful levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its 1997 report on Health and Environment in Sustainable Development estimates that suspended particulate matter alone from energy generation and use is responsible for more than 500 000 premature deaths per year from ambient urban air pollution. The health effects of the environmental pollutants are examined further in Section 2.
Globally, the large quantities of fossil fuel waste containing toxic substances, particularly from coal combustion, pose a long term problem in relation to water quality and food chain contamination. It is becoming increasingly common to categorize this waste as hazardous. A single 1000 MW(e) coal plant produces large quantities of waste, annually around 320 000 tonnes of ash containing 400 tonnes of toxic heavy metals. Pollution abatement techniques for sulphur alone can produce an additional 500 000 tonnes of wastes containing toxic substances.
At least with nuclear plants there is an opportunity for tighter controls as the scale of the problem is magnitudes smaller than with fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are double edged - contaminants on an enormous scale AND damage to the atmosphere through global climate altering.
Nuclear also has a contaminant issue but on a hugely smaller scale and no carbon loading in energy production tho there is in the building of the plant currently.
McGuinty is very right in my mind to dump the coal plants and get on with later gen nuclear facilities instead of trying to patch the old ones.
No matter WHAT approach 9 billion people will make a mess of the planet. Choosing a path to ameliorate that.
Some experts predict that over the next 20 years more cars will be made than in the entire 110-year history of the industry.
Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University in Britain, says this growth will create the need for 180 new factories, each producing 300,000 cars (and light trucks) a year—in effect, almost doubling the production capacity of the global industry to over 110m units annually.
So we all go out and dutifully get a fuel efficient car....the growth in carbon loading will still go on to an even greater degree because the growth of the vehicle market far exceeds the fuel savings.
Oil companies are publically stating the same amount of oil consumed in alst 100 years - about a trillion barrels will be consumed in the next 30 years.
Now we've already heated the planet to the extent it's very noticeable - and a hurricane named global warming has wiped out a section of the US the size of Great Britain......there will be lots more and lots worse to come EVEN IF WE STOPPED COLD.
And we won't.
Let's take Macspectrum a dutiful conservationist who lets say really grinds it down and heats and powers his Shangri La totally with renewables and grows his own food.
But he does like his Bmer and to allow the other conservation measures lives away from his clients.
So even if he's careful and drives in say 3 days a week - he's gonna use 5 gallons each way 3 days a week, so lets say 30 gallons of gas.
Condensed biomass energy per gallon 196,000 lbs of prehistoric plant material. So Michael is mining the past for about 3000 tons of plant material per week -quite a trailer load to fuel his Bmer.
But the worst for the climate he's also releasing about 600 lb of carbon into the atmosphere each week in that burning. Translate that into a year just for personal transport 15 tons of carbon and he's "the good guy" in all else.
110 million NEW vehicles per year.
How many millions currently existing?
Add the trains and planes and ships
and it's just transport........and it's all adding carbon.
THEN we could discuss heavy industry.......try to power a steel mill with windmills.
Instead of knee jerk villifying nuclear plants make VALID comparisons on the long term impact on the planet for the actual amount of energy needed and encourage gov to get on with it.
Airplanes were dangerous contraptions and who would imagine flying at hundreds of miles per hour would be far safer than travelling slower on the ground today. Why?? Because investment in designing and building safer planes and the control technology infrastructure were made and developed over a century.
The question is HOW it's accomplished and the higher energy prices we WILL be paying this year needs be directed to get off the fossil fuel towards a hydrogen economy.
Nuclear, conservation, renewables ALL have a huge role but the 900 lb gorilla of the hydrogen economy will continue to be nuclear - fission today and perhaps the much better fusion sometime after the world has passed the population peak.
One wonders what the world would be like if the resources put to weapons were put to transitioning to non fossil fuel burning.
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Last edited by MacDoc; Sep 17th, 2005 at 09:18 AM.
All very interesting, this. Jwoodget, I am in agreement that humanity as a whole is addicted to current energy lifestyles and is, indeed, ramping up their consumption rates. I believe that we are transitioning now to a new paradigm and it's bound to be messy. Nuclear looks like the short-term winner. That said, I won't hold my breath about fusion being in here in 50-100 years. I certainly agree that we need a long-term energy plan.... federally and provincially. Is the political will there among the populace at large? Not quite yet, but we're getting there... desperation and fear will drive us to new solutions. And, I'm afraid, new problems. Some of which, by their very nature, will be a tremendous challenge to the imagination of our best and brightest leaders in the world today.
The biggest stumbling block I keep coming up against with nuclear involve a few fundamental questions. To wit, its safety and the extreme timelines involved:
Who will be in charge of transporting, storing and managing nuclear waste facilities? Will they be responsible in attempting to ensure, to the best of their abilities, the safety and security of transporting said wastes to said containment facilities? Will there be an effective watchdog unit to keep them honest? Can it last for thousands of years and stand by its initial mission?
How will all this new nuclear waste be transported? By rail, truck... sea? Through what kinds of population densities will the contaminants move, on their way to supposed safe storage facilities? What practical measures can be put in place to prevent accidents involving broken and/or breached containers? What similar measures can be enacted in anticipation of terrorist acts like bombings or sabotage of some sort? On the Trans-Canada we have had plenty of accidental spillages of all sorts of vile, carcinogenic contaminants... rail is not much better. Planes are probably too insane to contemplate, but it's expedient to examine all of the possible alternatives.
Where will spent nuclear material eventually go? How strong a role will the usual NIMBYism reaction play in the locating of said facility? How long will it take to even decide on a location and build it? What will we do with all of the material presently here in the meantime? How safely is that stored, managed?
What do you to in order to ensure that said contaminant storage facilities will operate safely and securely for hundreds, then thousands of years? What method of warning can be implemented to 'stamp' such a facility as off-bounds, for the sake of the Earth's ecology as much as for that of our distant descendants, far into the future? How do you design and then construct a facility so that it can take a direct military attack and still, theoretically at least, keep its deadly cargo intact?
If, as has been often argued, we are to send the stuff into space, at what point will it be economically feasible to do so? I ask the question in light of the fact that NASA is currently going through a delicate period of its existence... the shuttle tech is old and outmoded and funding for replacement tech is being constrained by other, more pressing economic needs in America. Perhaps the much-coveted space elevator would be the ticket to at least get the stuff off-world. But that appears to be a long way off yet. And you still have to stop the nuclear garbage from orbiting the Earth, lest its orbit(s) decay and we have nuclear radiation fallout spewing across our skies.
Lastly, what political bodies do you trust to handle this situation with the gravity it deserves?
Those are a few questions I have. Which I don't expect, by the way, to have answered any time soon. I'm tossing this into the mix because I believe we should be going into this fully cognizant of the risks attendant to a nuclear strategy for energy generation.
Jim, sadly, you are all too accurate in your contention that we are "addicted to power", especially electricity. I am amazed at how much waste goes on all around us each day and night. My wife can't understand why I won't leave lights turned on when I am going back into the room in an hour. I feel that it is just a waste and this waste adds up......little by little..........hour after hour........day after day. Conservation and a change in how we see energy use, AND actually utilize this energy and change our ways, may be our only hope. We shall see.
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I would have no problem with that whatsoever beyond the stench of the trucks used to build it.
Transport of Radioactive Materials
Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper # 51
About twenty million packages of all sizes containing radioactive materials are routinely transported worldwide annually on public roads, railways and ships.
These use robust and secure containers. At sea, they are generally carried in purpose-built ships.
Since 1971 there have been more than 20 000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level wastes (over 50 000 tonnes) over more than 30 million kilometres.
There has never been any accident in which a container with highly radioactive material has been breached, or has leaked.
I have zero confidence that this is a safe strategy for the long term. When money is tight both business and government look for ways to cut corners. It's as sure as death and taxes. When those inevitable corners are cut the results will be catastrophic with nuclear. It's only a matter of time and there's no second chances. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Walkerton, and the Ontario blackout are quick examples. It's gonna happen folks.
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