The only clean, safe energy source capable of ensuring the continuation of our industrial civilization while protecting the environment.
by Bruno Comby
Introduction and conclusion
(previous conclusion elevated to introduction)
Nuclear energy is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source. It is the only source of energy that can replace a significant part of the fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) which massively pollute the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. If we want to be serious about climate change and the end of oil, we must promote the more efficient use of energy, we must use renewable energies – wind and solar – wherever possible, and adopt a more sustainable life style. But this will not be nearly enough to slow the accumulation of atmospheric CO2, and satisfy the needs of our industrial civilization and the aspirations of the developing nations. Nuclear power should be deployed rapidly to replace coal, oil and gas in the industrial countries, and eventually in developing countries
An intelligent combination of energy conservation, and renewable energies for local low-intensity applications, and nuclear energy for base-load electricity production, is the only viable way for the future.
Tomorrow’s nuclear electric power plants will also provide power for electric vehicles for cleaner transportation. With the new high temperature reactors we will be able to recover fresh water from the sea and support hydrogen production. We believe that the opposition of some environmental organizations to civilian applications of nuclear energy will soon be revealed to have been among the greatest mistakes of our times.
Our industrial civilization runs on energy and 85% of the world’s energy is provided by the fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas.
Coal began to be used extensively in Britain when its forests were no longer able to satisfy the energy requirements of an embryo industrialization. Coal is found almost everywhere and reserves should last several centuries.
Petroleum began by replacing whale oil at the end of the 19th century, and its use has grown ever since. Discoveries of new deposits are not keeping up with consumption and production of oil is about to peak. At the present rate of consumption, reserves are estimated to last a few decades, but consumption is growing rapidly. More than half the world’s oil production today is located in the fragile and politically unstable area of the Persian Gulf, as is an even greater fraction of our future reserves, Gas was at first a byproduct of oil extraction and it was thrown away. It has since been mastered to become a major source of energy. Reserves are similarly limited and estimated to last for a few decades.
These fossil fuels were laid down over geological times and it seems likely they will have been totally exploited over the few centuries from about 1850 to 2100. Environmental Consequences:
In burning fossil fuels, we inject 23 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year into the atmosphere – 730 tons per second. Half of it is absorbed in the seas and vegetation, but half remains in the atmosphere. This is significantly altering the composition of the atmosphere and seriously affecting the climate of our planet. We have only this one fragile planet to live on. If we want it to remain livable, to ensure the comfort of our modern lives and indeed the very continuation of our industrial civilization, then we must urgently adopt new lifestyles and find other energy sources.
What is to be done?
Conservation and renewables:
There are those who tell us we only need to conserve energy and rely upon renewable energies. Solar and wind are the major renewables.
I agree, of course, that conservation is highly commendable, even essential. But in the light of the world’s growing population, widespread economic development and enhanced life expectancy on the one hand (notably China...