Re: Solar energy v. nuclear energy

Robert Crow replies to Istvan Simon: There are no perfect solutions to energy supply: it is a case of picking your poison.  If "solar energy is very viable," why is it not being put in place?  What needs to be done to make it "competitive with fossil fuels?"  Who is leading the vast conspiracy to keep it from happening?  The Yucca Mountain standard of 10,000 years is extremely conservative.  What other phenomena do we attempt to forecast/plan for 10,000 years?  Consider the change in the human condition of 10,000 years ago (or even 1,000 years ago) and the present to get some perspective on the possibilities of 10,000 years in the future.  One scenario is that humans will be gone, destroyed by war or unable to adapt to environmental conditions like global warming, making problems at Yucca mountain irrelevant.  Another is that whatever technical problems are created by Yucca Mountain will be fairly easy to deal with in the upcoming millennia.
Like an investment portfolio, our best bet is to diversify our sources of energy.  Solar definitely has an important and growing place, but -- depending on how seriously one takes global warming (I take it very seriously) -- energy from nuclear fission is available now and at relatively little risk.  Going into the future -- mere decades -- solar may well become the dominant means of producing electricity, until there is an outcry about how much space solar collectors take and their consequent environmental blight.  At that point, there may become an irresistible demand for obviously feasible and cheap nuclear fusion.

Steve Torok writes: I support Bob Crow and, to illustrate the irrational fears of nuclear energy, I cite two facts:

1. Background natural radioactivity at several places on earth is higher than it would be at the vicinity of Yucca mountain! The goal should be only to keep exposure below natural levels through, perhaps, putting waste back to the locations uranium was originally mined ( the aborigines would not like it, I am sure, a case of nimby).

2. I have worked with nuclear energy for at least six years of my life, once decontaminating a "hot" lab left dirty with spilled isotopes by other graduate students. Yet, at 66, I survived, have 3 healthy children and feel 10 years younger after chemotherapy that removed the last traces of cholorectal cancer that was successfully operated on by removing my colon. I also survived an acoustic brain tumor operation in 1972. Were these related to radiation? I do not know. However, I believe all these hazards can be handled with proper hazard management.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: January 17, 2005