Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant crisis underlines need for green energy

Everyone can only sympathise with the people of Japan at this time following the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the country the other day. We can only hope that when the death toll is known that it will be as low as possible and especially right now that the current crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant can be quickly brought under control.

What all of this underlines is how precarious nuclear plants are, especially in the so-called 'Ring of Fire', the most active region in the world as far as seismic activity goes. Currently Japan has 56 nuclear plants but its not the only country in the Pacific basin to have them. China has 13 (with more planned), all of them on the Pacific coast (or not far from the coast).

Here is a map showing nuclear reactors in the region:

We can't be sure that in future, even if we escape disaster in this case, that future earthquakes won't lead to severe radiation leaks into the environment. All this underlines how important it is that the world wakes up to the inherent risks of nuclear power and invests instead in renewable energy. With all the potential tidal, solar, hydro-electric, geo-thermal and wind power available there is absolutely no sane reason to go with nuclear.

In addition to the risks posed by earthquakes, there are also the risks from terrorism, industrial accidents (due to human error or incompetence, technical faults in production or software errors) and the long-term issues of disposing of nuclear waste.

When you take into consideration the rapid improvements in renewable technology (such as ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, Solar PV and wind turbines) there are plenty of options other than going down the dead-end that is nuclear power. With massive investment (but still less than that required by nuclear) in renewable technology and energy-saving measures (such as insulation, building greener homes and using more efficient appliances) we can do this, without increasing our risk of further nuclear disasters.

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