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Tags: grid | nuclear | solar | wind

Preventing Climate Disaster Won't Save Us from an Atomic One

borssele nuclear power plant in that dutch town

The Borssele nuclear power plant in the Dutch town of Borssele. It features a pressurized water reactor (PWR). A Borssele operation for electricity production in the Netherlands. (Wessel Cirkel/Dreamstime.com) 

Paul F. deLespinasse By Tuesday, 04 October 2022 01:01 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Technology has finally accomplished what pacifists have been unable to do — made wars unthinkable.

Supporting the world's large population requires huge amounts of energy, currently largely extracted from coal, oil, and natural gas.

But the resulting carbon dioxide threatens climate catastrophe.

With fusion reactors only a future possibility, the main alternatives to carbon fuels are atomic reactors, solar, wind, and hydro.

There are few good locations for new dams.

So, we must depend on atomic reactors, solar, and wind for the foreseeable future, if there is going to be a future. Wars are incompatible with all of these energy sources.

As the situation at the Russia-occupied Enerhoatom-owned Zaporizhzhya Ukrainian reactor site suggests, battles near atomic reactors are potentially disastrous.

The Ukrainian and Russian governments allowed U.N. experts to inspect the reactors, since both countries have a strong interest in protecting those reactors.

If damaged , they could contaminate Russia as well as Ukraine.

But in larger wars, such cooperation would be impossible.

Decades ago, then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned that a general war would destroy Europe, even if atomic weapons weren't used.

Damage to Europe's dozens of atomic reactors would be inevitable, and the resultant radioactivity would make the whole continent uninhabitable.

There are now reactors everywhere.

So if we continue using them in order to prevent the end of the world from climate disaster, but continue to have wars, we will have the end of the world from atomic disaster.

We couldn't avoid this unpleasant dilemma by eliminating atomic reactors. If we rely entirely on solar and wind, war is also a game-wrecker.

The biggest obstacle to solar energy is its local intermittency.

In any particular area, the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow.

It might be possible to store enough energy for nighttime or bad weather, but unlikely that we could store enough to accommodate seasonal variations.

The PV (solar) panels on my own roof produce only one fifth as much monthly electricity mid-winter as they do in the summer.

Seasonal variations will therefore require us to build grids sending solar energy to parts of the world where the sun isn't shining. Ultimately, we will need a world-wide grid.

The slogan for a major campaign — OSOWOG (One Sun, One World, One Grid) — neatly captures the essence of the problem, and the opportunity.

But merely building the grid won't suffice. A world-wide grid is incompatible with wars on any scale at all between industrialized countries. It would be all too easy to knock out key parts of it and the grid will only work if it remains a global one.

Loss of electricity around the world would not kill everyone as efficiently as atomic disaster, but a protracted cutoff would probably starve four fifths of the world population.

Countries may need to retain enough military forces to put down domestic rebellions and secession movements, but not on the grand scale required for defense against attacks from other countries.

It would be foolish to continue supporting forces we cannot afford to use. There is an opportunity here to save immense amounts of money by mutual agreements to cut way back on military forces.

Most of the money currently spent on military forces is wasted, since at best it produces a draw in which there are no wars. This money could better be spent improving the lives of people.

We will either have one world, or none. As philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in 1959, "if a nuclear war should break out, the belligerents on either side and the neutrals would all be equally defeated. This. . . means that war cannot still be used as an instrument of policy."

Russell added, "the threat of war can still be used, but only by a lunatic. Unfortunately, some people are lunatics . . ."

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.

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We must depend on atomic reactors, solar, and wind for the foreseeable future, if there is going to be a future. Wars are incompatible with all of these energy sources.
grid, nuclear, solar, wind
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 01:01 PM
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