Nuking our future generations and their energy / Columns / The Foreigner

Nuking our future generations and their energy. Nuclear energy is presented as the solution to our energy woes every few years, it seems. Yet the waste from nuclear power has been particularly concerning. The waste currently being generated will remain highly dangerous for far longer than humanity has had any form of 'civilisation'. We assume that our descendants will gladly take care of our waste on our behalf long into a future that we cannot imagine. 'Generation IV' and 'thorium-cycle' reactors are amongst the phrases in Scandinavia being touted as the ideal solution, but they are still under development. These nuclear reactors do far better regarding waste. They produce less of it, and it needs to be isolated for only a few centuries. Some of the proposed reactors even take current nuclear waste as a fuel.

nuclearpower, climate, nuclearwast



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Nuking our future generations and their energy

Published on Saturday, 20th April, 2013 at 10:35 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Nuclear energy is presented as the solution to our energy woes every few years, it seems. Yet the waste from nuclear power has been particularly concerning.

Sizewell nuclear power station, eastern England
Sizewell nuclear power station, eastern England
Photo: Ilan Kelman


The waste currently being generated will remain highly dangerous for far longer than humanity has had any form of 'civilisation'. We assume that our descendants will gladly take care of our waste on our behalf long into a future that we cannot imagine.

'Generation IV' and 'thorium-cycle' reactors are amongst the phrases in Scandinavia being touted as the ideal solution, but they are still under development. These nuclear reactors do far better regarding waste. They produce less of it, and it needs to be isolated for only a few centuries. Some of the proposed reactors even take current nuclear waste as a fuel.

But it is too early to celebrate.

Waste that is dangerously radioactive 'for only a few centuries' is indeed a vast improvement. We are nevertheless still asking our great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren, and beyond, to clean up our mess.

Furthermore, these reactors might (or might not) be available in a decade or so. Gambling our future energy needs on promised, but unproven, technology is naively optimistic.

As worrying, is that the financial commitments from nuclear power are rarely met. Refurbishing two reactors in Ontario to restart them overran the initial cost estimates by four times the province's annual budget for the Ministry of the Environment. The clean-up costs for the Sellafield reactor in England have reached 15% of the value of Norway's oil fund--with no end in sight.

Nuclear power is just too expensive and too wasteful.

Rather than speculating on what nuclear energy might (or might not) bring us in a decade or longer, we should focus on what we know we can do immediately for sustainable energy instead. We should live within our energy means instead, rather than burdening future generations with a debt in toxic waste and huge debts.

That means reducing our energy use. Future generations will thank us--and we will save money now.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellowat the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Saturday, 20th April, 2013 at 10:35 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: nuclearpower, climate, nuclearwast.





  
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