Droping Nuclear Energy: a risky strategyPosted: June 5, 2011
This is not a secret : nuclear energy is not looked at with favor those days. Germany just decided to shutdown its nuclear power plants over the next ten years, etc. Green parties are calling for dropping nuclear power and citizens are more and more sceptic about this energy source.
As welcome as a strategy to abandon nuclear power is, this one presents an important but simple risk: not being ready on time. Indeed, to put a deadline on the use of nuclear energy implies the need to develop alternative energy sources in quantity sufficient enough before the date of the nuclear power plant shutdown. But what to do then, if comes the day, alternative energies are not enough ? There is the risk to extend the life of old nuclear power plant by 2 or 5 years, or more, or to have to import energy, or run on fossil energy sources (oil, gas, coal), or even worse, experience blackouts.
And that is because it is thought only as a transition from nuclear to another energy source. However, it is not enough to compare just the general production capacity numbers but also the details: nuclear power plant are slow to respond to consumption variations and consequently are just the base of the electric grid. On the opposite side, wind or solar energy don’t have the same constancy.
What can be done ? From the strict point of view of safety, a simple solution would be to replace old power plants with new ones, integrating all the latest safety technologies. But of course, that does not solve the problem of the “nuclear” aspect of the energy.
A better strategy would be to fight the problem by the other end: i.e. what make nuclear energy so needed. We need to change the distribution of electric power (too sensitive to consumption variation) and the consumption itself (which generates too much waste). Associated to the development of alternative energy sources, those evolutions will make nuclear electricity less profitable and unnecessary. Closing nuclear power plant will then be an obvious thing to do and no sane person will think to oppose it.