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Nuclear or Not
Entry 603, on 2007-09-06 at 19:46:39 (Rating 1, News)
New Zealand is finding itself a bit isolated in the area of global policy (again) as climate change discussions dominate the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) currently being held in Australia. New Zealand has a policy that nuclear power will not be used here, and I can see the reasons that might make sense. But I can also see why using nuclear power does make sense.
Nuclear power is a good way to produce lots of cheap power with minimal pollution. Of course, there is the issue of disposing of the waste, the issue of nuclear products being used for weapons, and the potential safety problems if things go wrong. We all should accept these issues as valid, but every technology has problems so we must look at the balance of good and bad factors.
For New Zealand the bad outweighs the good. We have other potential power sources (which also have their problems) and we have a global reputation for being clean and green (whether this is deserved is debatable) and nuclear power doesn't provide enough benefits for us. But to the US and Australia nuclear power is a logical choice. The safety record in well run plants is actually very good, so safe management of the fuel and waste is the major issue.
I'm sure other power sources will eventually make nuclear fission unnecessary. Solar cells are constantly becoming more efficient and cheaper, and wind and tide power are also being developed. Eventually nuclear fusion might solve all our energy problems, but that does seem to be progressing quite slowly - its a very difficult technology to master. Until fusion is available many countries really have to use nuclear fission. We just have to ensure it is as safe as possible.
One issue which many people haven't taken much notice of recently is the global human population. The real problem isn't that we need more energy, its that we need less people. Of course, this has been a known issue for many years now and slowing the population growth hasn't been overwhelmingly successful, so I guess we will just have to continue struggling with finding ways to make more and more energy.
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