Around my neck of the woods (Cumbria) there is a huge debate brewing about whether or not we should be hosts, to an underground nuclear storage facility. We already have several above ground, so my position is simple, go ahead, provided it’s safer than what we have now.
I’m no fan of nuclear power. Its a throw-back from the cold war era, when governments around the world were more interested in refining plutonium for weaponry and electricity generation was merely the by-product of this process. Better and safer thorium reactors have been around since the late 70s early 80s, but they were no good for making bombs, so were largely ignored, even though they produced more power and can’t go into meltdown.
But we have a legacy of waste which must be dealt with now, for the sake of future generations. We can no longer keep kicking the issue into the grass or persist with a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality. It’s here and we have to fix it, sooner rather than later.
On top of this issue, we have a Conservative lead coalition government, who seem determined to turn back the clock, when it comes to renewable alternatives; with a cut in solar subsidies, two new nuclear plants planned, along with six gas-fired stations and shale fracking, who’s long-term impact does not look promising.
So what are the alternatives and can they produce enough power, at the right times?
The answer is simple, yes and yes. There are a host of other ‘cleaner’ technologies available already, everything from wind and solar, to tidal and fusion. The precise climate impact of these is debatable, however the safety factor is not, especially when compared to standard nuclear fission.
But is there a simpler way? Damn right there is! The government should be forcing the energy companies (who make vast profits) to:
- Insulate people’s homes.
- Install solar panels on every roof.
- Invest in grid power storage.
These three simple steps have many more benefits than you might imagine:
- Distributed power generation would keep the grid up and running, even if other power stations or transmission lines were knocked out for whatever reason.
- Increased emergency re-start capacity for existing nuclear stations.
- Reduced demand for heating and cooling (as well as the cost of it).
- The semi-reflective panels would bounce a proportion of the sun light, back into space (like polar ice caps do), reducing global warming.
- Cheaper electricity bills for consumers
- Increased employment for manufacturers and local installers.
- Better redundancy in the national grid.
- Decreased necessity for long distance high-voltage lines to and from power stations.
- Lower carbon emissions over the long-term.
- Less cost to the NHS for temperature and pollution related illness.
This would be a start, though there are other intermediate options available too, such as:
- Ground and air source heat pumps to replace gas boilers in the home.
- Combined heat and power systems, both domestic and industrial.
- Wind turbines, both on and offshore, as well as smaller versions.
- HHO gas production from sea-water and wave power, to directly replace fossil fuels.
- Tidal and wave generators built into new and replacement sea defences.
- Piezo-electric road surfacing (still in development).
- Waste heat reclamation, both industrially and in the home.
- Bio-diesel from used cooking oils.
There are many existing alternatives to what we have now, so why aren’t we doing it?
Well we are, but just not very much. The real problem is a political one, not because a government would be voted out if they did these things (quite the reverse), but because the nuclear and fossil fuel industry is a massively powerful lobby group, with shed loads of cash and who are determined to keep us hooked on their disgusting product, as resources dwindle and prices creep ever higher, along with their profit margins. Between them they have a near monopoly on the fuel we use, they know it and they want to keep it that way.
So the solution is simple… Politicians, especially in developed countries, should quite simply grow a pair, knuckle down and legislate for a cleaner future. It’s time to stop pissing around with the future of life on earth and actually do what is right, instead of being obsessed with looking like that’s what they’re doing!
Governments… Grow up, do what we tell you and stop fawning after the dealers of this incredibly destructive drug they’ve addicted us to!
Factoid: Diesel engines are named after the man who invented the engine, which he designed to run on peanut oil. The fossil fuel Diesel was named after the engine.