Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nuclear energy is part of the toolbox we need to slow global warming

I quote from the final section of a Special Report on Nuclear Energy from The Economist:

No technology can solve the climate problem on its own. Even in combination, today’s remedies—renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency—hardly seem up to the job. To have a reasonable chance of keeping down the rise in temperature to less than 2°C, industrial economies need to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. The true scale of this challenge is not widely understood. A thorough study of options for such cuts in California, long a leader in energy efficiency, concluded that with today’s technology and plausible extrapolations of it, 60% was the best that could be done. If California can’t do better than that, says Jane Long, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who led the study, “neither can anyone else”. 
Even getting close to such goals, though, is easier with more technologies than fewer. Even if nuclear can make only a small contribution, it could be worth having. The IEA’s 2011 World Energy Outlook calculates that, between now and 2035, an emissions path that keeps the 2°C limit plausible would cost $1.5 trillion more if OECD countries were to stop building nuclear plants and other countries halved their nuclear ambition, largely because much more would have to be spent on renewables.
It seems to me that it is worth spending money designing a new (fourth) generation of nuclear reactors and on figuring better ways to store spent fuels. Indeed, I still hold hope for fusion reactors, although I remember when the experimental reactor was fired up in a neighboring building about 1960. At that time there were predicting commercial fusion in a decade or two.

No comments: