Future energy needs - Renewable Revolution or Nuclear ?

A very interesting article debating nuclear power and renewable energy to achieve our global energy demands in coming decades - Apparently for the energy we require, we would need 11,000 new reactors and to achieve this we would need to build at a rate of one a day ! 

In 2010 the world demand for primary energy was equivalent to 12,000 million tonnes of oil (Mtoe), 87% of which was provided by oil, gas and coal. Nuclear power contributed a gross 626 Mtoe, about 5% of the total, while renewables accounted for 935 Mtoe, almost 8%.

To solve the climate problem, the world must not only reverse the trend of increasing carbon emissions over the next few decades, but bring them down to less than they are now. So can nuclear power do it? Assume a 2% growth in primary energy demand per year over the next 35 years, and that demand will double to some 24,000 Mtoe. Rely on nuclear power to accommodate all the growth, and knock out 4,000 Mtoe-worth of coal, and it will have to produce 16,000 Mtoe of energy per year – a 25-fold increase on its current level.

However as the article explains - The renewable route appears feasible and will as will all sources (but not ending society as we know it) require considerable investment in research, development, manufacture and installation – and will incidentally create many millions of jobs.

All the more reason then not to throw our finite national capital into the bottomless pit of nuclear subsidies. Currently 86% of the entire budget of the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is dedicated to decommissioning old power stations – power stations that have already cost the country dear to build and operate. Any more money we throw at nuclear power now will only create additional liabilities for us and for generations to come.

As for renewables, wind, solar PV and solar hot water technologies have already reached a point of no return. The question is not whether they will come to dominate world energy supply, but when.

By investing wisely in the critical enabling technologies, Britain can make a huge contribution to bringing that time forward, not just here in the UK but across the world. To really make a difference to global climate, and to achieve energy security and abundance for ourselves and for the wider world, we must wholeheartedly back the renewable revolution – and bring a decisive end to the nuclear nightmare.