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Problem 6

Insufficient mitigation of short and long term risk associated with nuclear energy generation and waste disposal.

Problem Dimensions

Nuclear Trouble

Nuclear energy could competitively satisfy base-load electricity demand in most developed and developing countries. However:

  • No long-term solution to the storage of highly-radioactive nuclear waste exists.
  • No existing treaty or organization today can regulate nuclear weapons’ proliferation without severely limiting or denying developing countries’ access to civil nuclear power.

Matter of Public Debate

Whether or not we can mitigate the risks of nuclear energy has become a public debate and its answer will be determined not only by economic reality, but also by public opinion.

Risk assessment and management approaches include:

  • A serious nuclear incident is statistically estimated to occur on average every 10,000 reactor years.
  • Currently, with more than 400 nuclear reactors worldwide, this amounts to an incident every 25 years.
  • The aforementioned perspective criticizes nuclear energy. However, this does not take into account technological improvement. E.g. Thorium reactors have the potential to significantly reduce operational risk, waste, and are harder to be weaponized.

A Domestic Concern?

As long as security concerns do not transcend international boundaries, whether nuclear energy is pursued or not remains a question for individual countries. [1]

  • · But the environmental effects and risks of storing nuclear waste are not fully understood and can detrimentally affect the rest of the world.

Lack of Consensus

Disagreement between experts on the risks of nuclear energy.

 

Solutions

Conventional Solutions

Re-evaluate the role of nuclear energy.

  • Nuclear power and natural gas can be used to fill in the lag as a system switches between renewable energy sources like solar and wind which are not always available.
  • In 2011, Germany decided to reduce the prominence of its nuclear power generation, but subsequently greatly increased its imports of nuclear energy from France.
  • Governments can impose regulations that set a ratio of nuclear energy to renewable energy a country. E.g. For each kilowatt hour from nuclear three kilowatt hours must be from renewable energy sources.

Nuclear Fusion

  • Nuclear fusion overcomes the security and waste disposal problems of nuclear fission.
  • Breakthroughs like magnetized targeted fusion from General Fusion, backed by Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, aims at delivering cost-effective nuclear energy to markets in a few years. [2]
  1. [1] Peter Rizov, delegate who participated in the debate during the Nuclear Menace session at ISES 2011.
  2. [2] Explained during the Nuclear Fission and the Future of Fusion and the Venture Capital: Where is the Money and Who’s in the Game? sessions at ISES 2011.

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