Positive Energy

Friday, May 25, 2007

1. Critical Challenges

To what extent do you believe that tackling climate change and ensuring the security of energy supplies are critical challenges for the UK that require significant action in the near term and a sustained strategy between now and 2050?

The UK must ensure that its population has enough energy for a good standard of living. Given the changes that are coming this means that much more energy will be needed - to repair storm damage, to evacuate people from weather disasters, and to cool urban centers. Combine these new challenges with the accepted needs for energy - employment productivity, health care, transportation, and communication - and it is clear that the UK should be striving for much higher energy availability than it has now. It will be a challenge to produce this much energy and the new equipment for distributing and using it.

The UK cannot do anything at home to influence the changing climate. Temperatures will continue to rise even if the UK immediately turns off all its carbon emitting sources. The UK can and should prepare for the difficult times ahead by building up reliable energy sources and infrastructure, using the most reliable, least expensive, safest, and cleanest technology - namely fission originated heat and electric energy distribution.

The UK government may choose to believe that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere by human activity. Even so, there is no evidence that reducing the amounts of carbon dioxide will lessen planetary heating. For example, if we choose to reduce carbon dioxide by burning less coal this will also reduce the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere, making it clearer and allowing more sunlight to reach the surface. The effect may be increased heating. Without proper preparation and analysis it is irresponsible to rush into technology shifts believing that the global effects of these changes are simple, known, and controllable.

By developing advanced nuclear power systems, using them widely, and making them available to the world, the UK can lead by example, and influence the people who can mitigate climate change: US, Chinese, Indian, and African industrialists. These aspiring business developers will be more inclined to use clean nuclear power if they see that it works, and they can afford it. The UK can help this happen. The UK initiative should also be driven by a clear moral imperative to change the coal industry. It kills thousands of its workers every year to deliver dirty energy that kills thousands of users. The moral imperative can be extended to reduce the burning of wood and dung which makes millions of people sick, and seriously harms the environment. The positive impact of a vigorous nuclear power renaissance can be large if it solves these problems.

I don't see any reason to pick 2050 as an end date for this brave, new, and clean life style. I think this shift in focus is fundamental, and permanent.


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