Nuclear Meltdown in Japan and the Future of Energy
There’s so much going on in the world today, it is hard to remember what we were doing the first part of March of this year. But one day in March 2011 will remain in our memories for a long time to come. But not for good reason. On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami wave knocked out power, disabling cooling systems and allowing radiation to seep out of the overheating nuclear reactors in Japan. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has been spewing radioactivity ever since March 11. As the plant continues to spew radioactivity into the air and surrounding seawater, authorities and workers are trying to pump out and safely store the hundreds of tons of radioactive water before work on restoring the plant’s cooling system can resume, nuclear safety officials said, The Associated Press reported.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO) which runs the plant, has released information about the nuclear radiation leaks. The news is not good. Radiation quickly disperses in both air and water, and experts have said that it would be quickly diluted by the vast Pacific Ocean, where even large amounts have little effect. TEPCO is trying to pour concrete to seal the 8-inch-long crack, spokesman Takashi Kurita said. But TEPCO also acknowledged that the tsunami had destroyed many of the gauges used to measure radiation.
The prime minister of Japan bowed his head for a minute of silence in front of Rikuzentakata, where the town hall is one of the few buildings still standing. He met with the town’s mayor, whose 38-year-old wife was swept away in the wave and is still missing. Officials fear about 25,000 people may have been killed because of the earthquake and tsunami, many of whose bodies have not been found.
Protesters hold placards that reads “We don’t need nuclear plant” during an anti-nuclear rally.
Future World Energy Supply
It is hard to think beyond the tragic news in Japan, but we must think about the world’s future energy supply. In the next few decades, most of our electricity will come from burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect, and global warming. It is imperative that we think more about renewable energy sources that are naturally replenished.
- Wind turbines
- Hydroelectric power
- Water pumping windmills
- Solar energy
- Biomass energy
Many affordable, clean and safe energy systems are available for worldwide use.
Abandon Nuclear Power for Good?
There are many groups that are talking about the possibility of abandoning nuclear power for good. Indeed, the world’s fourth-largest economy, Germany, is acting on this premise. Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done. Germany is among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead. It is s important to long-term success, and world environmental health that we explore more alternatives to powering the world’s ever growing appetite for energy.
Worldwide Total Energy Supply
- oil – 33.2%
- coal – 27.0%
- gas – 21.1%
Together, 81.3% of our total energy consumption came from these nonrenewable—non-replaceable—fuel sources.
- nuclear power – 5.8%
(from 2008, published by the International Energy Agency, or IEA, in “Key World Energy Statistics”).
Growth of Nuclear Energy
Wherever you stand on nuclear energy, we are in a difficult situation. Both nationally and internationally, the growth in nuclear power generation has been sluggish for decades. But most recently and prior to the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, nuclear energy was going through a spike in growth despite strong reactions from people questioning its safety.
Renewable energy is essential for limiting global temperature increase.
Founded in 1973 as a response to the oil crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its twenty-eight member countries. “Renewable energy is essential for limiting global temperature increase”, say experts from the IEA.
We must all actively utilize renewable energy in our daily life.
Founded in 1992 during the second World Renewable Energy Congress in Reading, UK, WREN is one of the most effective organizations in supporting and enhancing the utilization and implementation of renewable energy sources that are both environmentally safe and economically sustainable.
- renewable energy – 11% of the world energy
“If we intend to do something about our planet, to safeguard our future and to create a healthy environment for the generations to come, then we must all actively utilize renewable energy in our daily life”, say experts from WREN.
The Problem of Low Density of Renewables
The problem of the low “density” of solar, wind, and geothermal sources which is often cited as a “problem” for those sources and remains a huge hurdle for the growth of renewable energy. Indeed, if you place your hope in renewables, how do you wrestle with the low “density” of these sources? According to the book “Power Hungry” by Robert Bryce:
- solar installations require 8 times as much land as a nuclear plant
- wind power requires 45 times as much land
- corn-based ethanol requires 1,150 times as much land
If we work hard today, we are most likely decades away from having enough renewable energy capacity on a national basis to seriously compete for a big slice of the pie that is now fueled by gas and coal.
Japan is a major part of the US Economy
Back to Japan. Japan’s energy economy is part of the economic picture of the United States, too. It took just a few days for General Motors to shut down a Louisiana pickup truck plant due to lack of parts from Japan.
Future economic growth
Looking back 200 years in the United States, our recipe for economic growth has been to expand availability of cheap energy supplies. So, it is sure to say that how the United States stays powered over the next 10, 20, 30, and 100 years is going to be a compelling story and crucial to the continued growth of the United States and the entire world economy.