Monday, December 14, 2009

Pen Meets Paper Dec.14'09

Opinion by Helge Nome
Sitting here in -25 degree C air here in cold Alberta, it would seem that most of the hot air in this world has congregated in Copenhagen at the moment where the much touted climate change conference is being staged. Also please note that the label has changed from “climate warming” to “climate change” because the earth’s weather is simply refusing to fit into prevailing theories about it.
I used to live in a community in Australia where anyone who tried to predict the local weather was either considered to be a fool or a newchum that wanted to make an impression on the locals.
That said, there can be little doubt about impacts of human activity on the Earth’s climate as we swarm over the surface of our host and constantly use more energy per capita.
As I see it, there are two alternatives: Decrease energy use or find forms of energy whose use does not impact the climate in a major way.
Proponents of just tapping into the natural daily/weekly/monthly energy flows of our world, such as sun, wind, waves, heating and cooling of land masses and oceans, etc. end up living in a somewhat euphoric world: There just isn’t enough energy there to satisfy a growing and ravenous humanity. And if we really get serious about harvesting this kind of energy in a major way, our world’s weather patterns would likely change
in some very unpredictable ways.
A hybrid solution will likely emerge with nuclear power becoming more of a mainstay of the system as time goes by. Its footprint on the landscape, per gigawatt hour of electricity generated, is miniscule compared to other solutions, such as coal, windmills, solar panels, etc.
The main challenge with nuclear power is how to deal with the waste which will likely result in fuel reprocessing for further energy extraction. Cost is another factor. Particularly if you take into account the dismantling of a nuclear plant at the end of its useful life.

Statistically, nuclear power is very safe compared to coal generated power: Think of all the people that have perished in the extraction of coal over the years.
The main problem with nuclear seems to be in the minds of people thinking about ghastly disasters. Perhaps it is a bit like the fear of flying in commercial jets where the safety record per passenger mile travelled is way ahead of travel in private vehicles.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki don’t help either.
However, if you want to have your cake and eat it too, the atom is waiting to serve you.

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