Nuclear Energy: Does The World Need It?

Nuclear energy risk management is only a small part of the Energy Risk Professional (ERP) curriculum, but I believe this area of expertise will gain in importance over the next decade. A conversation starter is this TED Debate about the usefulness of nuclear energy: Pros and cons are presented as an overview, and renewable energy is also briefly touched upon. Watch it critically and assess the arguments as a repetition of your study about nuclear energy.

Summary points “Pro nuclear”:

  • The waste generated by a nuclear plant for a lifetime of electricity for one person goes into one Coke can.
  • Many countries are already maxed out on wind, solar and water energy.
  • Nuclear energy is used as a disarmament tool for warheads in Russia and the US.
  • There are not enough renewable energy sources to provide enough electricity.

Summary points “Anti nuclear”:

  • CO2 emissions from nuclear are much larger than admitted by the industry, especially when compared to renewables.
  • Nuclear energy is a reason for nuclear weapons proliferation in developing economies.
  • Footprint of wind energy on the ground is the smallest, while nuclear is the largest (including safety perimeter).
  • There is plenty of renewable energy available today to replace nuclear power plants.

Addicted To Oil by Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman, author of “The World Is Flat”, made a documentary for the Discovery Channel about America’s dependence on oil. I find the documentary very informative and timely, even though it was made in 2006. Topics like these are not part of the Energy Risk Professional curriculum, but it is still interesting to apply the knowledge learned to popular subjects. The total viewing time is 50 minutes. Enjoy!

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Nuclear Fusion With Helium-3

Helium-3 is a rare earth mineral in gaseous form with the potential to fuel clean nuclear fusion power plants. While scarce on our planet, He-3 is extremely abundant on the moon. A single load of the US Space-Shuttle is contended to power the entire United States for one year. Therefore, NASA plans to operate a permanent base on the Moon by 2024, but also China, India, the European Space Agency ESA, and at least one large Russian corporation, Energia, have plans of setting up manned lunar bases that should be in operation after 2020.

I find this video about He-3 very informative and to-the-point. Christopher Barnatt discusses the nuclear physics of fusion, space exploration and the global politics that may be involved in mining space for helium-3.