Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Little Bit of Clarity

Over the past few months I have been accused on Twitter for being something that I'm not.

I have been accused of being pro-nuclear, anti-solar, anti-renewables, and absurdly, a paid member of the nuclear industry PR team!  I am none of these.

So I thought I would clarify my position on nuclear power, renewables and thorium, so that anyone who is inclined to believe the rantings of some individuals on the #Thorium Twitter thread may be directed here to correct their views on me.

My views are most accurately described as anti fossil fuel.  I am not against renewables, just deeply sceptical, and I am not pro-nuclear (per se).  Rather I see nuclear power as the best (only) alternative we have to fossil fuel burning.  And further, I see liquid core nuclear reactors as the ultimate power source for all of us.  Liquid core reactors are the definition of safe nuclear power, and are embodied in the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) and the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR).

I see the burning of fossil fuel as a dirty, dangerous and unnecessary source of electrical power. It causes thousands of deaths every year and pollutes our air, water and land. The burning of coal is particularly obscene. Huge amounts of the stuff are mined and burned with little regard for the pollutants they release and lives they risk, both animal and human.  It is an outdated and obsolete technology we no longer need.

The world has since embraced the idea of so-called "renewable" energy.  Gigantic sums of money, time and effort have been expended in harnessing the sun and wind in the hope it can offset fossil fuels.  Unfortunately, after more than a decade of concentrated effort, these endeavours have actually accelerated the adoption and use of fossil fuels, rather than displaced them.  I was relieved to learn Japan will be re-starting reactors soon.  I expect Germany will follow.

And behind all of this activity is the ongoing debate on climate change. For me, the climate change debate is largely moot.  It serves only to show how selfish people are and how inept we are at working together for the common good.  Whether we are facing catastrophic climate change or not, I still want to see the burning of fossil fuel for energy stopped, and stopped soon.

Which brings me to the only energy source that makes sense - Nuclear power.  When I started looking into this more than a year and a half ago, I knew little of nuclear power.  It was an obscure, secretive energy source that seemed to be little used in the world. I was only really aware of it as the source of propulsion in the submarine stories I love to read and watch.

I only really started to take an interest when I heard of thorium.  Ironically it was that hoax story on thorium cars that peaked my curiosity.  Research on thorium led me to reactors, which led me to the history of nuclear power, and finally to radiation and the fear around it.  It has been a fascinating and illuminating journey.

I have read six books on nuclear power, reactors and radiation, and attended three international seminars on thorium and nuclear power.  I have also read numerous research papers, blogs, and critiques from both pro- and anti-nuclear sources, and I have had many debates on Twitter.  I have come to believe that the dangers posed by radiation are so overstated as to be absurd.  Some of the statements on radiation effects I have read are criminal, and have caused many more deaths through fear and panic than the radiation itself.

I have also come to believe that the dangers posed by nuclear reactors also very overstated and laced with the same fear that radiation invokes.  The nuclear event at Fukushima not only polarised the world's opinion of nuclear technology, it also also polarised the anti-nuclear community.  Significant numbers of people who were anti-nuclear all their lives have started to rethink their positions.

I don't hate anti-nuclear people.  In fact some of my best friends have clear anti-nuclear positions.  I find, however, that anti-nuclear sentiment is deeply rooted in a general ignorance of how nuclear power is made and the reactor technology it uses.  They don't realise that more than 440 reactors have been running for up to 50 years without significant problems, and they don't know the difference between a nuclear reactor and a nuclear weapon.

Most people simply haven't taken the time and effort to properly consider it - just like me a couple of years ago.  Well, I'm in this to change that as much as I can.

If you have any questions, please tweet me - MattRobinson65