Global warming, nuclear power: double trouble
By Peter Mac Environment
5-11-07, 1:40 pm
As a twelve year old I visited a new engineering exhibition which included a model of a nuclear power station. That model promised a future in which electrical energy would be produced without atmospheric pollution, at a minute cost, and safely.
That promise is long gone. In the 1960s radioactive gas emissions from nuclear plants caused public alarm. In 1973 the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, USA, suffered an extremely dangerous accident, and in 1982 the nuclear power station at Chernobyl in the Ukraine suffered a catastrophic “meltdown,” surely the worst environmental accident in human history.
Moreover, we now face major changes in the world’s climate and ecosystems. These changes arise from “global warming,” a phenomenon in which certain gases in the atmosphere prevent much of the earth’s reflected solar radiation from escaping back into space. Carbon dioxide CO2 comprises about 50 percent of these gases, and is mostly produced by the combustion of coal or oil in power stations, vehicles and industrial engines.
Global warming will cause rising sea levels, ocean current variations, an overall increase in global temperatures, increasing incidence and severity of forest fires and major storms, prolonged drought and intermittent flooding, increasing serious disease outbreaks, massive biodiversity losses, sea water acidification and deteriorating air quality.
The historical coincidence of global warming and a revived nuclear industry magnifies the hazard. For example, resource depletion in some countries because of global warming will jeopardize their nuclear plants’ maintenance and health and safety programs. Climate change will also reduce water supplies, which are crucial to avert reactor meltdowns .