Nuclear Power I

There are two ‘varieties’ of nuclear power. Nuclear fission is the one we currently have available and nuclear fusion is one that is currently researched but years away from being available as an energy source. I will make a separate post about nuclear fusion and only write about nuclear fission in this one.

Many people would probably avoid nuclear fission if asked. That is a mistake, however. In my previous post, Renewable Energy Sources, I pointed out that we need ‘steady energy’ sources, which most renewable energy sources unfortunately are not. If there is no wind, there also is no power from wind.

It is of course important to save energy wherever possible by using energy efficient equipment and technology. However, our modern society cannot function without energy. Simple things we take for granted would simply cease to function without energy, think iPhone, web, lighting, refrigerator, the list goes on and on. This makes it unlikely that energy demand can be met by renewable sources and attitional sources for energy are needed.

Fortunately we already have a energy source and it’s called nuclear fission. The problem with this technologies are the operational safety of the reactors and the nuclear waste that needs to be handled. It would be nice if a breakthrough were made in nuclear fusion technology so that we could directly switch to that technology. However, we are probably stuck with nuclear fission for some time. Until this time we will have to make the best or nuclear fission.

The problem with this is that most reactors in service today are either old designs or are nearing the end of their productive life. They either need to be shut down or replaced with newer, safer and more efficient, versions. Old nuclear reactors are also a potential source of problems because, as with any technology, the older it gets, the more likely things are going to fail. In my view is thus irresponsible not to replace these aging reactors.

It is important to keep the timeline in mind here. For example Generation IV nuclear reactors are not thought to be available before 2030. This means that some new Generation III+ reactors will need to be built in the coming years to avoid any gap in energy supply.

Being a non-renewable natural resource uranium, the fuel needed for nuclear fission, will run out some day – at least the reserves known on this planet. The predictions for ‘peak uranium vary’.  There are, thankfully, other sources for uranium than mining. The Encyclopedia of Earth names the uranium of nuclear arms and thorium as possible extensions or replacements of uranium. My conclusion is that uranium supply is not a real issue, because it is a temporary thing the live of which can be extended until replacement technologies are available.

However, I wouldn’t place all the eggs in the same basket so it’s better to put up a few more stimulus dollars and speed up the research and development of fusion reactors. This is a stimulus alright, because you will need (nuclear) engineers, phycisist, technicians who need to be trained first and who will then certainly find a job other than in financial institutions.