Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The biggest threat of all to the Renewable Energy industry

I have spent a lot of time exploring the pros and cons of all the various energy options being considered around the world, and of the risks and benefits of each, and I have come to the conclusion that there is a very large elephant in the room that no one really speaks of.  It's as if no one wants to admit to it's existence for fear it may actually be there.

But it is there, and it's a monster.

It's not whether renewable energy sources can provide adequate 24hr power to keep our economies going.

It's not whether the climate change science is true.

It's not even whether fossil fuels are responsible for climate change.

The elephant in the room is the prospect of safe nuclear power.

It's absolutely terrifying.  The thought that the billions (trillions) of dollars spent on fossil and renewable energy will be wasted, and the reputations of countless renewables advocates and government policy makers trashed, is simply too much to bear.

Unfortunately for all those people, safe, reliable, abundant nuclear energy is coming.  Whether it's China, or India, or the UK, or Russia, or Iran, or even the USA, someone is going to crack it.  It's going to happen before fusion - a long time before fusion, and when it happens, every windmill, solar panel, tidal engine, coal station, gas pipeline and fracking well faces complete obsolescence.

No matter what people say, energy density is king, and whomever has the densest energy source will hold the keys to the kingdom.  It is a simple, unassailable fact.

Not only is safe nuclear energy coming, it's going to be modular and portable.  It's going to be self-contained, manufactured.  It's not going to need water for cooling. It can be placed underground, inside a mountain, at the bottom of the ocean, anywhere where it's needed, and out of the way.

It's going to run largely unattended, be walk-away safe and proliferation safe. Even if broken open, it won't spread radiation. The fuel will self-seal.

And it will run for centuries.

And finally, it has already been engineered and tested.  It only needs commercialisation. It will likely take the form of a liquid-fueled reactor like the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) or the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR).

So be afraid.  Be very afraid.  It's something we all need to be aware of and ready for.  Our governments need to be taking notice, because this particular technology race is going to be the global game-changer of this century.

Regardless of your prejudices, your advocacies and your particular favourite renewable, you and your governments should be making sure of your place at this table.  Even if you hate nuclear with a passion, you won't be able to ignore it.  If you do, someone else will hold the keys to your future.