With the furore of bad press that has followed nuclear power ever since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the subject has barely left the keyboards of the media. With Japan currently undecided about whether it is going to banish the atomic energy for good or risk living through another disaster such as the one mentioned above, it is possibly time to start looking towards other forms of energy.
Or is it?
A Japanese government panel has recently put forward a series of four alternatives to the country; the suggestions range from total nuclear shut down to maintaining the reliance of nuclear power. The four options covered were:
- A complete phase out of nuclear power.
- Reduce the power to 15% by 2030 and increase renewable energy.
- Agree on nuclear generation capacity of around 20%-25% of total energy supply.
- Let the free market decide what the mix should be.
As the report was released another news article surfaced which studied the amount of green house gases that were produced by the country after the fall out from the Fukushima disaster. It found that after nuclear plants around the country had been shut down, oil and natural gases were the primary energy forms which were used to fill the gaps that the power plants had left in their wake. Due to this closure, the Ministry of Environment predicts that Japan will now produce 15% higher emissions this year than it did in 1990 – A sledgehammer blow to Japans environmental ambitions. Since Saturday 5th of May, Japan will have been totally free from nuclear power for the first time since 1966.Germany too has pledged to shut down its nuclear energy plants with eight plants being closed in 2011 and the remaining nine being pledged to close within the next ten years.
If they are getting shut down what are the alternatives?
As already stated, Japan is currently relying on a handful of traditional solutions, most of which fall into the pit of fossil ‘foolery’. But, on the other hand, the tsunami of 2011 and the consequent nuclear fall-out were something that the country was, quite frankly, not prepared for. As their emissions rise, contrary to global subjection, Japan now find themselves in a position to branch out into the renewable energy industry. Germany itself has just smashed the record for solar power production for any country in a year by producing a record 22 gigawatts of electricity, which is the equivalent of twenty nuclear power stations running on full power.
Currently, the global demand for renewable energy has never been higher, so much so that it outstripped that of any single fossil fuel. In fact, experts predict that the demand for such energy will rise annually by 8% until the year 2030.
At the minute, the energy form leading the race in the renewable energy forum is solar power, but with more and more money being spent on wind turbines, energy sourced from the very air we breathe should not be discounted as a primary energy source. At the time of writing, China, America and Germany are the current world leaders in wind energy (the United Kingdom is currently eighth).
Could wind power replace nuclear energy?
The answer to this is not straight forward. There are many factors to consider, such as the energy output of one wind farm versus one power station. The fact that wind farms operate on environmental factors and that nuclear stations can have severe environmental consequences.
Currently the United Kingdom is working towards 20% reliance on renewable energy by 2020, Scotland itself is working towards total reliability; an amazing thought, and if put into fruition, an outstanding reality. Besides solar energy, much of this energy will derive from wind farms, both onshore and offshore, something that many speculate to be the raping of the countryside (see Gryff Rhy Jones and the Daily Mail). With countries such as Japan, Germany and Italy all shutting down their nuclear power stations however, the only alternative would be total reliance upon solar power or a permanent and dangerous dependence on fossil fuel; a far more worrying prospect than any pearly white wind turbine.
One of the many solutions that people are currently looking into is generating their own electricity. A 10KW Ploughcroft wind turbine for example, can generate up to 45,000 kWh per year, enough to power thirteen average households in the United Kingdom. Currently however, the renewable energy industry’s largest problem is educating people into the potential of what is on offer and how green energy can be more lucrative than conventional means of electricity.
So, which form of energy is better?
Yielding by far more energy than a wind farm, nuclear energy is the best of a bad bunch. However, the world is looking to renewable energy and it is this, not nuclear, which is going to pave the way for the world of tomorrow; therefore, as far as being ‘better’ is concerned, wind power defeats nuclear.
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