We have all heard the debate in relation to climate change regarding the use of Nuclear Power as a potential replacement for our coal fueled power stations. Is Nuclear power clean and green? Will nuclear power decrease the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions and thus decrease global warming?
In 2007 around 15% of the world’s electricity came from nuclear power. The United States produces the most nuclear energy in the world with nuclear power providing 19% of its electricity supply. France supplies more than 78% of its electricity through nuclear reactors and the European Union as a whole relies on nuclear power for around 30% of its total electricity needs.
The reality is that enormous amounts of fossil fuel are used to mine, mill and enrich Uranium that is needed to fuel a nuclear power plant as well as construct the enormous concrete reactor. Nuclear reactors have a 30-40 year life cycle and massive amounts of fossil fuel energy are required to complete the dismantling process. There is also enormous fossil fuel energy required to transport and store the nuclear waste which is buried underground.
Scarily radioactive waste like Strontium 90 remains radioactive for 600 years. Plutonium is the most significant element in nuclear waste and is so toxic and carcinogenic that 500 grams of the waste evenly distributed around the globe would be enough to cause cancer for every man, woman and child on the planet and Plutonium waste remains toxic for 500,000 years.
When considering radiation it is easy to look at Dentists when they X-Ray your teeth. The dentist will leave the room because any amount of radiation is dangerous if you are exposed to it often enough. The USA currently has more than 55,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that it has stored with each reactor producing a further 25-30 tons of nuclear waste annually.
Australia currently has no commercially operational or planned nuclear reactors. Our focus should be on the harnessing of solar and wind for our energy production. The Kyoto Protocol requires that we produce 20% of our energy needs through renewable means by 2020.
I would like to see our politicians commit to the British plan of producing enough off shore wind farms to produce all of the energy required to power the entire nation by 2020. If nuclear power is too dangerous for Iran to have we should not be looking to increase its use anywhere in the World.