No to nuclear? Renewables need a wriggle-on.

Having watched Pandora’s Promise last night I am a bit haunted by the reports currently coming out of China telling of the air pollution being experienced up there.

 

A new word, airpocalypse, has been coined to describe the dense smog storms that reduce visibility to a few meters and have everyone scurrying back inside. These storms are not confined to just one city, but cover large swathes of the country.

 

Smog storms! How disgusting is that? Phrases like “beyond index” indicate that the amount of particulate matter congesting the air is unprecedented.

 

These particles are measured as less than 1/30th the width of a human hair and are small enough to be absorbed into the air sacs of the lungs. One fear is that long term exposure could result in tumors.

 

Is there a way out of the air pollution that comes from the burning of hydrocarbons? The promise in Pandora’s Promise would have it that nuclear power is the way.

 

And maybe it is. Clearly burning coal to provide power for all 7.2 billion of us is not going to work without producing unacceptable amounts of pollution.

 

But what about uranium? Mining it requires massive use of hydrocarbon-based fuels, and of water. Processing it leaves behind mountains, literally mountains, of tailings. And when it goes wrong, as in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, it, too, goes “beyond index”.

 

We could, of course, stop acquiring so much “stuff”. To a large extent, that’s what the factories using all that power are producing – stuff. But I doubt that will happen any time soon, and as well as stuff, we all want air-conditioning, electric lights and refrigeration. All 7.2 billion of us.

 

Welcome to the modern dilemma.  How can we have the life we want without killing ourselves and/or our planet home in the process? Perhaps a combination of renewables is the answer, but if that’s to be the case, then they’ll want to get a wriggle on.

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