by John Lawrence / Will Blog For Food / April 6, 2011
We have seen the flaws in the ointment with Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.
There are so many advantages to solar energy production, and only one disadvantage – the government won’t set up the right incentive structure.
The Japanese situation proves how vulnerable are the many nuclear energy plants and not just because a lot of them sit on fault lines. It’s about the huge quantities of nuclear waste that are stored at the sites with just a few feet of water and a corrugated metal roof over them.
These are the real threats not the nuclear rods that are currently producing energy. The spent fuel rods which amount to nuclear waste pile up in insufficiently protected storage tanks while the main energy producing rods are well protected in containment structures.
In both cases, however, they are dependent on pumped water to prevent meltdowns. The spent fuel rods can melt down just as well as the rods currently in use. But at least in the Japanese case there were no structures to contain them.
When electrical power to the plants was cut by the Tsunami, all the nuclear fuel spent or otherwise became liable to meltdown, explosion and dispersion of radioactivity. Hydrogen explosions at the plant, if not the earthquake and tsunami themselves, cracked the flimsy structures that the nuclear waste or spent fuel was stored in. As water drained out, the rods heated up.
New water pumped in by fire trucks and dropped from helicopters cooled the rods down but drained out through the leaks producing the highly radioactive water that is now leaking into the ocean. In short you have a ghastly mess. Either keep refilling the tanks thus allowing radioactive water to leak into the ocean or have a complete meltdown as the rods heat up followed by a nuclear explosion equivalent to the explosion of a dirty bomb.
From a wider perspective any energy production that is concentrated in one place, nuclear or otherwise, is subject to being knocked out thus affecting all the people that were dependent on energy from that plant and plunging them into darkness. The disadvantages of nuclear should be abundantly clear. All those stored spent fuel rods constitute a potential gigantic nuclear dirty bomb. The loss of electricity to the cooling pumps, the failure of backup systems and suddenly you have a disaster on your hands of apocalyptic proportions. A bomb set off at a nuclear plant would produce the same results as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The real answer to the nuclear disaster is distributed energy production, and the perfect form of distributed energy production is solar.
There are three advantages to distributed solar energy production as they’ve done in Germany:
1) If a catastrophe occurs in one area, other areas can make up the difference. The whole system is not taken down, just a part of it.
2) A distributed solar network can distribute ownership and profits to a larger number of peope with solar panels on their property rather than have the profits concentrated with one central energy corporation.
3) There is no energy loss from the transmission of electricity over long distances because most of the energy is consumed very close to where it was produced. If part of the system is destroyed there is no damage to the environment or spread of radioactivity. Every home that has solar installed will first provide energy for itself and then provide excess energy to the grid for other users.
There will be no huge refugee or homeless problem as there is currently in Japan because in the event of a disaster all those not directly affected will not have to leave their homes for lack of energy. In the event of a tragedy affecting part of the grid, the whole system doesn’t go down and each home not affected still has energy from its own solar panels.
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