In music, a prelude is a musical form that can be structured or free. It is a way to prepare the listener for something that is more complex and important. Similarly, actors and singers do vocal exercises to warm up their vocal chords. Let this be my prelude to a topic that is indeed important and it does indeed need some preparation.
Energy is fundamental to human survival and prosperity. It has been and always will be. The quality of life we experience depends on the kind of energy we use and how we regulate it. As a Canadian and resident of Toronto, Ontario I have a unique perspective on Energy. Being Canadian means getting used to weather extremes. Our winters require heat and our homes have changed to adapt to the kinds of energy used to heat them. Over a hundred years ago we relied on wood stoves and coal but now if we have an extended power failure in the winter most homes are not equipped with wood stoves or coal and many of us could freeze to death. That makes us vulnerable if we change our habits and play too much with the energy mix.
85% of Ontario’s energy is emission free. Nuclear provides 60% and hydro provides 25%. But wind and solar energy are not always available. We need natural gas to fill in the gaps. That releases large amounts of CO2.
We are are faced with a challenge as a human race. Evidence reveals that we have been too busy using the planet’s resources to notice we have gone too far. We have grown accustomed to abundant energy. Most people don’t even question where their electricity comes from let alone what energy is best for the environment. When the question does come up there is little awareness of the actual energy mix.
Climate scientists and ecologists who endorse nuclear energy are calling on us to action to reverse climate change. These environmentalists have concluded that to prevent the threat to species extinction and quality of life issues that nuclear energy is the only solution. We need zero greenhouse gas emissions. Only nuclear can be scaled fast enough and robustly enough to be able to replace the abundant energy that coal currently provides.
The truth is that CO2 has been accumulating and increasing faster than the oceans can handle. Writing a book like this means I have a responsibility to share what I perceive to be true. That is that we can no longer simply support any random green movement and think it is better than doing nothing. Our tipping point is rapidly approaching. To make our planet whole again means we can no longer simply stop emitting various greenhouse gases. We need to capture the excess accumulation of gases and convert them back to a solid so they no longer occupy the air or the oceans. I will discuss how nuclear power can do that in later chapters.
We are at the early stages of large groups of people waking up and responding to the urgency to solve climate change. The trouble is recognizing the degree to the severity of our planet in crisis. The alarming fact to converts like my self is that many environmentalists and regular citizens are advocating for more wind and solar and especially concerning are those who advocate 100% renewable. In order for wind and solar to take on the role of replacing coal it would require more raw materials than are available worldwide. Also, natural gas has been known to leak. Being a much stronger green house gas it only takes a 4% leakage rate to equal the CO2 emissions of coal. (Thanks to Mike Conley and Timothy Maloney)
Now we have new companies like Ontario's Terrestrial Energy showing us the potential of new designs that are even safer than already "very-safe" nuclear technology providing a way to take spent nuclear fuel as an excellent source of energy.
Refurbishing reactors is really a complete upgrade easily doubling their lifespan. No other energy source gets so thoroughly scrutinized. As a result they are the safest long-lasting energy sources available.
Recently my friend Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues recently commented: “Has anybody asked Quebec if they are willing to create another lake the size of Belgium to provide the hydro power needed by Ontario? The answer would be a polite no.”
The Dalai Lama, James Hansen and countless scientists who support nuclear energy indicate that acceptance is a matter of education. Once we get over the irrational fears of radiation and false connections to nuclear weapons we can then consider how nuclear energy can make a better future.