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In the real world, wind and solar, admirable as they are, account for less than 1% of our global energy. The most ambitious goals for wind as stated by realistic proponents indicate that if all goes optimally we can hope to receive 20% of our power from wind by mid-century. That's a lot, and let's do it. But that leaves 80%. Without nuclear power, most of that percentage will come from fossil fuel combustion.
Without nuclear power we cannot avoid greenhouse gases on a large scale and still meet present and future electricity demand, even with a great deal of conservation.
There are 440 nuclear power reactors worldwide, and in 12,000 reactor years there has only been one serious accident. That took place at the worst-run, worst-designed, party-hack-operated reactor in the old Soviet Union. The dispersal of contamination would not have occurred in other countries, like the US, Japan, western Europe, etc., because the reactors must always be in containment buildings with thick concrete and steel walls. Chernobyl had no containment building. It's the stupidest thing imaginable. But then I would not drive a Soviet-made car or fly in a Soviet-made airliner either.
Unlike the fossil fuel industry, nuclear power has to contain and shield and isolate its waste, which is small in volume.
Vermonters should be praised for getting so much of their electricity from two emissions-free sources, nuclear (which Gov. Howard Dean found safe) and hydro. And I would bet that Vermonters are better at conservation than most people. Even if they like to have wood fires.
If you live anywhere in the U.S., the front page story on your newspaper yesterday was the story about a tragic airplane crash, where 49 people were killed. Note, however, that there was NO MENTION of the 100 or so (40,000 annual) automobile deaths that same day.
There is a fundamental issue at play here that has to do with people's perceptions of danger and control. Travel by car, the most dangerous thing you can do outside of sleeping with a revolver under your pillow, is something that practically everybody does on a daily basis. What they get excited about is airplane crashes and nuclear power plants: Less dangerous, but more dramatic when something goes wrong.
Arguments about average death rates of coal burning versus nuclear reacting are meaningless because one is considered a routine hazard of life while the other is a special case. If you want to change this, you're going to have to do some DNA modification. Just look at what we do to ourselves in the air travel business as a result of a couple of thousand lousy deaths by terrorism--the equivalent of a few weeks of car travel.
You ask what my plan is for saving us from global warming? Answer: None. It isn't going to happen.
Global climate change means that the climate will change and lots of people will have to move away from the coast. But it will take quite a while before people believe it. For example, why is New Orleans being rebuilt in its same location? Why are all political parties supporters of the automobile economy? Why are all western countries (with one huge exception) decommissioning their nuclear plants instead of building new ones? Why did the original Green party start in Tasmania as an anti-hydroelectric power organization?
What we (globally) will do is burn coal for the next 100 years. That is a pretty obvious and easy conclusion to draw. "Save the earth from global warming" is utopian dreaming. Unfortunately.
Realistically, since we humans are so incapable of thinking ahead, coal will win the energy race, as will avian influenza, AIDS, and other "natural" population control mechanisms.
France switched to nuclear completely in 20 years. Wind is so much easier.
It's not because it hasn't been done on that scale yet that it cannot be done.
In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
But, as you have pointed out, wind farms face resistance from the public just as nuclear plants do.
The US polls are indicating a more favorable attitude about nuclear power. In areas where there are more nuclear plants, and therefore cheaper electricity, and people are used to smaller bills and to the presence of the plants, over 80% of people polled are in favor of having new plants built.
On dark days, I think as asdf does--that the political will is missing to do anything sane about energy and global warming. Check out the article on renewables in the current Scientific American. R & D funding has dropped in the past 25 years--just when it should have been ramped up in a major way.
the problems are lack of vision and will, rather than logistical, imo.
as for not being able to avoid global warming, i agree that's the way it looks, it remains to decide to believe it or not...
'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
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