No other energy source is so maligned as nuclear fission. Most of the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) against nuclear is promoted by so-called environmental activists. Yet, in an objective assessment of risks, costs, and benefits, a very strong case can be made in support of nuclear energy.
My support of nuclear energy goes back nearly 20 years. I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, and I have always been interested in energy. I also considered myself to be a conservationist and a lover of nature. When I considered the alternatives, nuclear came out on top in many ways.
Air quality - No combustion means no noxious smog-producing emissions. Today, this consideration also includes an acknowledgement of nuclear as a virtually greenhouse gas-free form of energy generation.
Land-use impact - Nuclear has very low land-usage requirements relative to most other forms of energy generation. Consider any renewable energy source, which typically require hundreds to thousands of times more land to accomplish the same energy output.
Resource efficiency - Nuclear fuel has a very high energy density. Relative to fossil fuels, this means that a much smaller amount of material is required to generate an equivalent amount of energy.
Waste control - Another result of high energy density and reduced fuel requirements is a corresponding decrease in waste material. Furthermore, the waste is contained as opposed to being released to the environment.
Of course, there are risks to consider. My perception of the risks from nuclear energy (both 20 years ago, and also today) is that the risks are at a low level and known with a high degree of fidelity. My overall conclusion is that the benefits outweigh the costs, and that the risks are manageable.
I hope that it is not too late for the world to emulate France and make nuclear power our principal source of energy. There is at present no other safe, practical and economic substitute for the dangerous practice of burning carbon fuels.
- James Lovelock, eminent environmental scientist and originator of the Gaia hypothesis
Bill Wilson © 2004-2010