Nuclear power is a subject of much debate. Between radioactive waste, uranium mining, and storage difficulties, nuclear power has its work cut out to prove its place as sustainable. Yet it’s also the cleanest form of stable energy, while producing the largest quantity of power from the least fuel.
Nuclear reactors produce energy 24/7, 365 days a year, and release no carbon, methane or radioactivity through use – it’s true, in fact coal plants increase radioactivity in an area more than nuclear power plants!
Its land use is also tiny compared with wind and solar, with solar requiring 75 times, and wind 360 times, as much space to produce the same rates of power. This makes nuclear energy an excellent transition from fossil fuels, providing the large quantities of power that modern societies need without harming the planet.
With all this in mind, why isn’t it more popular?
Conversations about nuclear energy tend to focus on extreme incidents such as the Chernobyl meltdown, but the truth is that nuclear energy changed drastically in the aftermath, and extreme safety regulations along with a lack of uranium enrichment have made nuclear energy into an exceedingly low-risk yet high-consequence operation.
Of course, thanks to those incredible safety regulations, nuclear energy is incredibly expensive to both set up and maintain, since the huge amount of checks and balances that make sure everything is running smoothly need the best materials, and strong, dedicated management.
Yet the real sustainability demon is that, unlike wind and solar, it is a fuelled energy source. This fuel needs to be mined, creates radioactive waste after use, and although the danger of this waste is far lower than common knowledge, it still needs to be stored in safe locations for hundreds of years.
Realistically, for Nuclear energy to even approach sustainability, it needs to be a part of a wider network of solar and wind. With nuclear taking the burden of large scale, energy intensive tasks in the commercial and industrial sectors, we’d need less land space dedicated to solar and wind networks, which could be concentrated on and around residential and urban areas. This would free up land we could rewild and dedicate to helping our ecosystems recover.
On its own, without the other green energy sources, nuclear energy needs more fuel than is sustainable in the long term. As is always the way with sustainable solutions, diversification of our practices is essential to our success!
It may not be sustainable now, but now isn’t forever
Ultimately, nuclear energy as it exists now is unsustainable. The biggest thing for us, however, is that the nuclear of today isn’t necessarily the nuclear of tomorrow. Just like solar panels ten years ago were considered too expensive and low output to be worth it, new reactors make strides to reduce fuel consumption and increase safety every year.
Many modern reactors now utilise thorium to make spent fuel rods able to be used again, increasing the lifespan of both the uranium and the facility, while simultaneously increasing the safety of the plant.
So why, in the end, didn’t we include Nuclear Energy in Earth Rising?
Looking at the facts, there’s no doubt that nuclear energy isn’t perfect. But… on the road to a society more in balance with our planet, nuclear can’t be ignored as a step away from the damage we inflict on the natural world with fossil fuels, and a step towards accomplishing a sustainable future.
Yet we here at SDR have to remain loyal to our focus! Earth Rising promises to provide a roadmap of solutions that are all real and present in our world today – NO science fiction. No matter how close it is, nuclear energy isn’t sustainable at its present stage, and although we expect that to change in the near future, Earth Rising is about what we know to be fact now.
As a result, we decided to remove nuclear energy from our Energy sector. This allows space for more definitely sustainable solutions to our present situation, and as such increases the chance for people to learn about new methods of energy generation and fulfilment.
Sorry nuclear, but keep working hard! If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that human ingenuity is always reaching for new heights, and we hope to see a brighter, fusion powered future ahead of us!