TED Conversations

Sabin Muntean

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


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Do we need nuclear energy?

Based on the talk involving Stewart Brand and Mark Jacobson I'm trying to get a debate started in which we can explore many aspects of using nuclear reactors as an energy source today and in the years to come.

As the talk above shows there are enough arguments for both sides, my hope is that ultimately - although I am quite skeptical about it - a certain consensus can be reached.

I will not directly divulge my own stand on this topic and wait for a couple of posts to get the debate started.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter, have fun discussing!


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    Feb 25 2011: Why nuclear? Several reasons:
    1) nuclear power generation is currently the major carbon-free energy source.

    2) 50 years old, with an excellent safety record, as in 1 death/year worldwide

    3) Efficient. France quadrupled its energy production with 78% nuclear.

    4) Tested and proven designs. E.G. the Integral Fast Reactor (http://www.skirsch.com/politics/globalwarming/ifr.htm), which may reduce the half-life of the waste from 100,000 years to 400 years. Spent fuel is all we need for our energies for several centuries.

    The antinuclear mov't claims that some fuel could be diverted into making bombs. However, since the collapse of the USSR, the cat may already be out of the bag for making bombs, so avoiding additional reactors may not gain us much. Antinuclear activists may invoke Chernobyl like a Tourette's tic, but they keep overblowing the death toll: only 56 confirmed deaths. They may also mention Three Mile Island, without telling you that nobody died in that accident, or were there any injuries. Why the lack of casualties? Because that reactor had a containment lid that trapped those gasses.

    Nuclear is certainly cleaner than another so-called alternative: coal. If you still feel safe with these huge smokestacks spewing carbon dioxide, methane, and sulfuric acid; then it’s time for another reality check. Coal-fired power plants are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment. Thorium and uranium may only be a tiny fraction of the coal but we burn a lot of coal. These trace amounts add up to far more than the entire U.S. consumption of nuclear fuels for electricity. Coal accounts for half of the energy output in the United States anyway, so what is it that makes coal an alternative energy? On top of that, we’re now getting air pollution from coal plants in China. That’s right, the Chinese are passing gas our way.

    Serious about weaning ourselves off that foreign oil teat? Go nuclear.

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