Another nuclear disaster, another round of worldwide questioning about the viability of nuclear energy. No doubt that nuclear industry makes a point when they argue that, overall, they have a strong safety record… but, as we saw again at Fukushima, when things do go wrong, they go really wrong…
So, what’s the status of nuclear energy now that we’re wrestling with the repercussions of the disaster in Japan? And what does that mean for renewable sources of power like solar, wind, and biomass? These are simple questions with incredibly complex answers, no doubt… but we can glean some information from side-by-side comparisons about costs, energy production, and environmental impact.
Our friends at Wellhome have done just that with the following infographic, which explores the current state of nuclear power and renewable technologies… and even does that side-by-side of the many energy sources now available to us in varying degrees. Take a look at the information provided, and then go ahead and take a shot at the final question: Do you think that the world can be powered by wind, water, and sun alone? (To get a larger view, click on the image below, and then click again on the image that comes up in a new tab/window)
Image source: Wellhome
THe best presentation of the issues I have seen. SOme issues- the demand for coal is skyrocketing- world demand will increase by 750million metric tons in next 10 years from what I read- US is becoming a larger and larger coal exporter— China despite its growth in renewables is increasingly adding coal fired plants one per week and has surpassed US in the largest purchaser of autos. Also unceasing demand for oil and natural gas with drilling in various shale rock beds being done in TX, OH, WV, PA etc.- this is being pushed very hard. Yes renewables are growing but so are fossile fuels. It is unlikely that Germany which is doing away with nuclear facilities will make up all the demand with renewables and neither will several other countries. Probably adding to demand for fossile fuels. There needs to be a sustainable movement that somehow shows people that there are other ways to live that reduces energy demand, and makes renewables the way to go by seeing the impacts over time on people and the environment and on culture.
There should be something like the agricultural research and extension services set up nationwide for energy that would work with communities with implementing sustainable systems and has resources for education, projects and research, There are promising research esp in solar that with enough emphasis and partnerships between industry, government, communities etc, could make a real impact over time-
One problem with the Wind and Solar power sections in this infographic is that they don’t list one of the primary disadvantages of wind and solar power is that it is intermittent – no sun at night or on cloudy days, and wind changes speed and direction. This limits the use of solar and wind to supplementary power generation without lots and lots of batteries.
You’re correct on the intermittent nature of these sources, David… but there are some promising storage solutions on the horizon. For instance, molten salt storage with concentrated solar http://su.pr/4dDZI1
I’m old enough to remember the time when our water was heated by solar energy. As a youth I lived with my grandparents in southern Mississippi—the old farm house had a time roof and on the south side of the house my grandfather had a large tank that caught the rain water that came off the roof and at the bottom of the tank he attached a shower head with a pull cord. We usually took our showers in the afternoon when the water was the warmest. Yep, in the winter we had to heat the water on the old wood-burning stove. The farm was large for that region with about 400 acres, much of which was covered with hardwood timber which provided a great source of fire wood. In the summer and fall we cut and cut preparing for the winter months. Like most homes of the day the old house had high ceiling that provided for relief from the hot summer months, but certainly didn’t help in the winter. We all set close to the old fireplace on those cold winter nights and slept under many quilts.
During the summer months cold water was never a problem as the water from the well was always very cool. My grandfather, who was a farmer and blacksmith did use coal in his forge with a hand bellows to increase the heat produces by the coal.
Yes, I recall the days before we had electic power on the farm and those were great times. We got electricy when I was about 10 and I remember the anger of the old man if you left a room without turning out the light. Not that he wanted to conserve energy—he just wanted to conserve money!
As for nuclear energy–I remember when the first nuclear plants were built and hailed by all as the wave of the future and a blessing to mankind. All such things are eagarly endorsed by the masses in the beginning and its only with time that we learn the cost to the environment. Nothing man makes will every be friendly to nature.
Just a mention of a little know fact and I’ll close. In 1964 I was a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg. On the morning of October 22 a few miles from the campus the AEC conducted a underground test of a nuclear device in the adjoining county of Lamar. It was the first explosion of a nuclear weapon east of the Mississippi River, but not the last as some two years later a second device was exploded at the same location. A week before the first device was set off China set off their first atomic weapon.
I have little use for nuclear power and I’m very skeptical about most so-called “green” energies. The problem is that we have to many damn people on this planet!
One of the biggest factors affecting the use of renewable energy in this country is energy being bought and sold as a commodity. As long as those with financial interests are being allowed to manipulate the marketplace, we will not be able to see the best option available at the best price for the consumers.
For example, we in the Northwest are among the leaders in the nation using renewable energy, whether it be wind or hydro. We have enough energy for ourselves and then some, and sell a large amount to neighboring states (CA). However, our local PUD (and several others) is forced to buy more expensive wind power to provide to us locally. I am at a loss as to how this is serving the public interest, especially when we have an abundance of hydro available to us. CA energy buyers aren’t having to pick up the extra cost, we are.
In the late ’90’s, the so-called CA energy crisis? Rolling blackouts? All a farce. The shortage was due to overselling of energy futures, creating an artificial shortage when there was no such thing. Most of the time, our hydro dams are running at a surplus while not even operating all of their turbines.
As long as profiteers are allowed to control our energy resources, we will not see real and true innovation in the arena, nor will the public interest be best served.
I also wanted to mention that another of the cons of wind power is noise pollution. The can be very noisy for those living near by, I’ve been told.
Nuclear power is declining? Not in China it isn’t if this
is anything to go by.
Interesting article and infographic. This might be the subject of a post on my own blog. Thanks Jeff !
I believe nuclear still has a part to play in our world energy mix. As a French, 80 percent of my electricity comes from this source.
I believe that not so far in the future both Europe and America (as well as Japan) could have a 40/40/20 mix with nuclear and renewables having the same importance and the remainder being filled by fossil fuels.
This could be done by investing in efficiency and renewables alone as nuclear is already playing a major part in our mix.
Off course, we have to really work on security and avoiding the mistakes done by the Japanese government and TEPCO…
Keep up the good work.
There are going to be pros and cons to every alternate energy source, as there are pros and cons to what we are using now. But with the turn our environment is taking and as the population increases we have to figure out another alternate energy source(s) that will be efficient. Most of the world is still being kept in the dark about the real effects that our environment is facing and until there are huge and uncoverable problems they will continue to be in the dark. This is why we must take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves and other about what is going on. A great resource for learning more about alternate energy such as solar is http://www.everblue.edu. Check it out!