The debate rages on and there is more media coverage this week of the government’s determination to move forward with tapping into our shale gas reserves dotted around the British Isles as a new source of providing on going energy sources. Please see the link below…
This has got me thinking as I recently underwent a tour at a nuclear PowerStation where I found besides the image sometimes portrayed within the media about the devastating effects nuclear power generation could have on our lives the truth is in fact somewhat much safer (well according to our tour guides who I must say did seem very well informed when I quizzed them on different positive and negative aspects of the process).
The process of nuclear power generation appears on the face of it in the long term to be quite low impact to our environment and does not require the vast open spaces that perhaps a wind farm or solar energy plant currently require. The main drawbacks associated to the nuclear industry are two fold, firstly the impact of a possible meltdown of the reactor core rods resulting in a catastrophic event such as the Fukishima plant in Japan, the Chernobyl site in Ukraine or the 3 mile island incident in the U.S – but from my observations the safety regime and forward planning I witnessed during the tour appeared second to none including the completion of a newly developed sea wall to prevent water ingress to the backup diesel generator area during a power outage situation (the very thing that lead to the Fukishima issue).
The second issue is what to do with the waste materials form the nuclear fission process – the tour informed us that 97% of the waste material is actually reprocessed into new raw material for further power generation time and again. The remaining 3% however is the infamous high level radioactive waste material we hear about on the news. This material too is also processed into a more stable product as it goes through a process of vitrification (it is added to molten glass and it becomes a constituent part of that glass therefore making it as safe as it can be made ready for long term storage) the amount of waste material that has been produced in the last 50 years of UK nuclear power generation is actually substantially lower than the waste produced by the many other forms of power generation. If we can potentially find a way to safely store this material long term (and I do mean very long term, thousands of years in some cases due to the radioactive isotopes half-life – the rate at which it decays to safe levels of radioactivity) we may be able to reinvigorate our nuclear industry in this country.
So this brings us back to the fracking, should we be moving forward with a resource such as this that may be potentially damaging to local ecology around fracking sites, possibly harmful to the end user (has anyone seen the news story of the kitchen tap water on fire? – again is this just media sensationalism or a real issue?), and in the long term continue to pump out more greenhouse gases into the environment, when we could perhaps find a renewed vigour in our nuclear industry to provide the necessary alternative to fossil fuels until such a time when the newer renewable technologies such as wind/solar/hydro etc. are more refined and offer greater stability (than at their current levels) where they then can become our main source of power generation to cope with the demand our new electricity draining lives require and hopefully move away from any form of power generation that creates long term waste streams.
I myself am undecided as I feel the debate still has many points to address on both issues but without such a debate continuing and perhaps even gaining more momentum we will not make a decision either way and therefore be reliant on either our own current fossil fuel reserves of the current types (oil and gas) and/or indeed we will need to import these resources from elsewhere in the world.
What do you think, perhaps someone may even come up with an altogether new technology that solves our energy crisis but at this point I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath on this front.
Ponder away on this topic guys and add your thoughts to the debate on as many forums as you can.
Until next time.