Main electricity source in 2060?

woensdag 5 januari 2011

Nuclear energy

Hi guys, been away for a while, busy with my study. Now back to inform you more about green energy.

To continue my line (already discussed wind and solar power), I'll discuss a third form of energy: nuclear. Now most people won't regard nuclear as 'green' or 'renewable'. Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste which needs to be put away in a safe place for up to 200,000 years. There is also the risk of a nuclear meltdown, which we saw in the Ukrain in 1986 and an accident in Three Miles Island, Pennsylvania. Thirdly there is the risk of nuclear bombs made with the fuel for the plants.

Despites these disadvantages, interest in nuclear energy is on the rise again. Multiple causes can be identified, the most important are (in this particular order):
1. Making the energy supply of Western countries independent from unstable and/or unsubmissive oil producing nations like Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria etc.
2. Depletion of worldwide oil reserves. Securing affordable energy in the future is important here, lower oil production means higher prices (see my former blog about Peak Oil).
3. Global Warming.

Countries with the largest proportion of nuclear energy in their grid:

1. France - 79%
2. Slovakia - 54%
3. Belgium - 52%
4. Ukraine - 49%
5. Armenia - 45%

France is by far the largest producer (per capita and proportional to total electricity produces) of nuclear energy in the world. This has downsides. Since its difficult to shut a nuclear plant off, France has a huge excess of electricity produced at night and in weekends. Therefore they have to either shut off the plants at night/weekends, or export to neighboring countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Italy etc (France is the largest net exporter of electricity in the world), which isn't very efficient.
This shows that more problems would arise if all of Europe would convert to nuclear energy. Way too much electricity would be generated at night and in weekends, which calls for expensive and difficult solutions like storing the energy in water reservoirs.
Mind you: related problems arise with wind power.

I think this can be concluded with the same thing I already mentioned before: in the future we need a MIX of different sources of energy. You can't have just one source of power. We need wind power, solar power, nuclear power, hydro power and maybe other sources of power which haven't been invented or optimalised yet.

Picture: a nuclear plant, how it works.