Nuclear power is making a comeback. Energy industry titans and political leaders from Asia to North America to Europe are weighing the political fallout of reintroducing atomic reactors as a principal source for keeping on the lights.
Lunacy? Perhaps, but more relevantly it is a path borne of desperation. The global production of oil arguably has reached its peak, and the mining of natural gas is not far behind. Though hydropower was once viewed as a clean alternative, it has its limits. There are only so many rivers that can be dammed, and we now understand the dramatic environmental impact of large-scale hydropower plants (think China).
Coal is arguably the most plentiful natural resource still broadly available. Europe, for instance, has sufficient amounts of brown coal, or lignite, to keep the continent supplied with electrical power for the next 200 years or so. Unfortunately, the combustion of coal delivers high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a direct contributor to the greenhouse effect. Given these dwindling options, atomic energy looks increasingly attractive to the power industry despite the grave dangers all along the nuclear path, from mining to radioactive waste.
I had the opportunity recently to investigate with a major European utility company how it could operate in the year 2054 in a manner more sustainable for the planet. Looking so far into the future might strike you as strange. Dont we need drastic changes immediately?