Okay, so we all know that fossil fuels are rubbish- that is a given. Coal, oil, gas…whatever. They are finite, produce silly amounts of CO2 which leads to global warming, ice caps melting, mass flooding, a lack of farmland, drought, cute little polar bears dying a slow and painful death etc. etc. So the question arises: do we turn to nuclear fuel; or renewables- geothermal, biofuel, tidal, wind, hydro and solar?
Will: I’ve decided to take up the task of arguing for nuclear as, well; I thought it would be interesting. We know they are a feasible alternative to fossil fuels. Nuclear energy currently comprises 80% of France’s electricity intake (and cooking those baguettes uses a lot of energy). Although not strictly renewable, as nuclear fission requires finite resource- uranium, they are definitely more sustainable than fossil fuels. Further, nuclear power can be fuelled by other renewable means that can be artificially bred in another reactor, if it becomes cost effective to do so (as uranium will run out in about 50 years by some estimates). These alternative nuclear fuels, if developed, have been argued to last long enough to far exceed the existence of humans (which will probably be when the sun explodes).
Moreover, if having a virtually completely abundant source of energy isn’t enough to satisfy you, nuclear fuel significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions and all. Although the seals may be unhappy about it- this fact means no more dead polar bears. Nuclear generally produces about 100th that of fossil fuels’ CO2 emissions over its lifetime, often less than its renewable counterparts! Although the pure renewables may have less strings attached in terms of risks etc, they currently provide energy on a far smaller scale and are far less likely to produce the drastic reduction in CO2 we need to reduce global warming to a ‘safe level’: below 2 degrees C. To me it seems that nuclear will have a large part to play in meeting the energy needs of the future.
Ben: And I will be addressing the safer alternative of Renewable energy. In simple terms energy that we should never run out of, and who doesn’t want that? Energy today is essential, it powers our world. With this drive for more energy, or as Jeremy Clarkson would put it POWER, surely we would want it to be cheap, even if it’s not just for us. Imagine connecting villages in Africa together, improving aid and trading. Renewable energy is the way forward. You say France have 80% of their energy sourced by nuclear, yes that’s very good for a developed country, but 20% is still fossil fuels. Iceland is 100% renewable energy sourced. Due to the geological tectonic situation there they can use what they have got and create free electricity, by geothermal energy. Iceland is also improving our quality of life. This cheap energy is encouraging multinational corporations to use the energy to smelt metals; aluminium for instance requires 1000C.
The River Severn has the second largest tide in the world (bet you didn’t know that?) that’s a huge potential for tidal energy, and its regular, you can rely on the tide, so completely blowing the argument that ‘Oooh but you can’t rely on it’ well you can Will Chambers. It’s a solution that is in the planning works at the moment. In Snowdonia they have something called the ‘Electric Mountain’, which involves two artificial lakes. One lake is at the top of a very large mountain (it is Wales after all), the other is next to a scenic Welsh village. during the day water is passed through the mountain generating electricity, starting at the top and ending at the bottom. At night the lake at the bottom is drained and passed the other way through the mountain back up to the top starting the cycle again. Renewable is the cheapest source of energy available, the one that can make us a truly global community.
Will: Okay you win: I completely agree. Only joking- although we both know that renewable fuels are brilliant and should be used whenever and wherever possible, and as a priority- I can’t give up without a fight! First off, Iceland does not use 100% renewable energy you tit! Admittedly all of their electricity comes from these sources, but they are still dependent on fossil fuels for 19% of their total usage, producing 2,230,000 metric tonnes of CO2 each year! This is more CO2 than 76 other countries, which as an island smaller than the state of Kentucky is no mean feat! Moreover, they are incredibly lucky to have the unique geology which allows them to harness geothermal energy, 66% of their primary energy supply. Positioned on the mid Atlantic ridge which is one of the most tectonically active places in the world; Iceland contains 200 volcanoes, 600 hot springs (and I mean hot, like think of me, but half it obviously), and over 20 high temperature steam fields reaching 250 degrees C (Wikipedia is wonderful). Hydropower produces 15% of their energy, and the Island happens to be blessed with an abundance of glacial rivers and waterfalls. Naturally, it is worth utilising these sources if a country can access them so readily, but what about those inland countries with little in the way of extreme heat and lacking in access to vast quantities of water? This is where nuclear steps up to fill its niche. Like a boss.
So why nuclear? Britain’s existing nuclear power plants reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by as much as 14 per cent. Fact. Building new nuclear power stations will ensure the nation retains control over its own sources of energy and security of supply is essential in an unstable world where oil and gas comes mainly from regions that could hold Britain to ransom by threatening to disrupt supplies (Arab spring ring any bells?). Nuclear power is a mature technology and has proven reliability. It has been developed over 50 years and the latest reactors are reliable, clean and efficient. The last 10 nuclear reactors to be built in the world have been delivered on time and to their budget. Generating electricity by nuclear power is a 24/7 operation and is not subject to the vagaries of wind, sun or tides. It can be fine-tuned to meet peak demand and will not let us down in the depths of winter. I didn’t just lift these advantages from an article in the independent online (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/yes-please-no-thanks-for-and-against-nuclear-power-517402.html) cough. But seriously, they’re good, who can argue against this? Nuclear power can fulfil our energy needs here and now; climate change is too serious to spend a long time contemplating the alternatives well beyond the point of no return. Developed countries are a priority because when it comes to emissions, they’re the greatest offenders. Although developing countries should focus on renewables where possible, if we need a pragmatic approach to tackle climate change, nuclear is your man (or woman, I don’t mind).
Ben: Yeah just as well you think renewable’s are brilliant. That’s pretty much game over, scored an own goal, whatever you want to call it. But for my own dignity and to FUEL my own massive ego I will continue to thrash your ‘hot’ butt. Iceland is unique, I do Geology so no need to lecture me Will, but what’s unique about China, Venezuela and India??? These countries produce in excess of 500TW*h/yr. (If you don’t to Maths or Physics, that’s pretty damn big). China does produce the second largest quantity of CO2 in the world (after the USA), but they are not nearby any divergent tectonic plates but they. That shows that any country anywhere can use renewable energy, unlike Nuclear you can build it anywhere nearly. Nuclear power is efficient and reliable, but it’s not a global solution. Removing the cost of building the god damn things and sourcing the Uranium (Mapping, Digging, Extracting, Enriching, Refilling and Researching (that’s quite a big cost you think??? (Especially for you Will who can’t even afford a 1/2 pint of Guinness !!!)), you still have to be close to water to cool the reactors and that means that the 48 landlocked countries in the world are unable to use nuclear. So yeah Will what was that about “what about those inland countries with little in the way of extreme heat and lacking in access to vast quantities of water?” yeah baby, what was that going out the window??? Oooh yeah your argument, such a plonk (Don’t worry still love you man xxx). You can’t just stick Nuclear Power plants anywhere you want, regulations and hazardous factors will change the availability of location as well as access to water.
Japan has 54 Nuclear power plants lining its coast. Fair enough as they don’t have any other source of power. After the Sendai event of 2011 85% of the population now is anti-nuclear, not a happy bunch of people. Guess what Japan has done in response to this? Close down 49 of the reactors and have replaced them with Wind farm factories … this moment has never tasted so sweeeeeet. How can you argue with a government that is famous for Sushi, Samurais and most importantly Karaoke (honestly you should see me, people have compared me with a drowned cat and a wheezy fog horn). And yeah Renewable is your Homo-Sapiens. Blatant winner here even Charley Sheen would agree.
So Renewables or Nuclear as the solutions to the future of global electricity? We could argue about it until the cows come home (literally, we had to edit loads out!). We both agree however, that it’s not just that simple, to switch. The products of fossil fuels don’t just power our homes; but it also gives us many products we use every day such as plastic, petrol and (for the more wealthy of us) Aviation fuel. We need to find alternatives to these, before we can switch to clean Renewable energy or Nuclear energy.