Is the nuclear option heretical?
By Digoy Fernandez AS A CERTIFIED Tree-Hugger and (laid back) environmental activist, this particular blog will probably strike most of my cohorts, and others besides, as nothing short of heresy. But in this particular time frame when fossil fuels have become particularly prohibitive and the rush to alternatives -- e.g., biofuels; solar energy; geothermal, air, wind and water energy; and a host of hybrid and other technologies aimed at powering today’s and future automobiles -- is going ahead full-steam, some serious thinkers are advocating a second look at nuclear power. One of the more serious proponents of a second look at nuclear energy for power plants is none other than Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, who now confesses to be a “born again environmental activist,” albeit with a different slant. Moving away from a confrontational and anti-technology approach which he accuses his former colleagues to be guilty of, he believes that nuclear energy’s positives far outweigh the negatives. And in the light of dwindling fossil fuel resources -- which are great polluters, by the way -- he feels that the world will just have to embark on putting up more nuclear power plants if it is to meet the needs of future development. Dr Moore is certain that the emphasis on safety of today’s nuclear technology, and possible side benefits such as the production of hydrogen which can be used as an alternative fuel and in the production of water, makes the nuclear option viable. In this country, we had one chance to have a nuclear power plant, but politics and greed got in the way and turned it (the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant) into a white elephant that had to be paid for even if it was mothballed. So, what is one to do with a fully paid white elephant? Leave it there or convert it into a viable conventional gas or oil burning plant, or go the whole yard and re-examine the nuclear option? For those who claim that the site is above an earthquake fault, well, the whole country is caught in-between two trenches (Marianas and Philippine) which indicate our position in the Pacific Rim of Fire and the various volcanic and tectonic shocks the entire rim is subject to. And yet, some countries like Japan -- which has foresworn the use of nuclear weapons, obviously -- have nuclear power plants. In Europe, one country that does not seem bothered by the oil crisis is France, for the simple reason that they have so many nuclear power plants that almost all their needs are met by this source of energy. The question remains: Do we simply shrug away the nuclear option, or do we struggle with a host of other options (many of which are unpalatable)? As Dr Moore suggests, a complementary scheme of several types of clean energy can be used by any given country, without subjecting oneself to a knee-jerk reaction for or against a specific technology.
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