Why do we need nuclear fusion when we have renewable energy?

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Offline thedoc

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Why do we need nuclear fusion when we have renewable
Read a transcript of the interview by clicking here
or [chapter podcast=1000835 track=14.09.02/Naked_Scientists_Show_14.09.02_1002661.mp3] Listen to it now[/chapter] or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 02/09/2014 17:02:40 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Over time more and more renewable resources will be developed, but they aren't all without any consequences.  Hydroelectric is great, but it damages fisheries, and there is always a potential for earthquake damage to dams. 

Energy from solar and wind is inconsistent. 

Tidal energy sources could also be damaging to sea life, as well as being a difficult environment to develop. 

As far as fusion, ideally one would simply use hydrogen which is abundant in the world's water.  However, most of the current experiments use much rarer elements such as Helium-3.


Offline yor_on

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Yeah, a good question. A lot of stuff matters there. It's the way we defined reality, as consisting primary of collecting things, money, to call it 'my own' :) We call it investments that need to give a return, and we invest in what gives us the most profits for the buck. That means oil, coal and methane. Nuclear is a hybrid, both giving us weapon material and energy, for a price. We think we can buy earth, and own it, and as we all agree on it we have this game we play until we die, by which time it doesn't matter what game we played.


As for? "There are designs that physically could not meltdown."

Theoretically, or practically, existing? SA? Also, there has been no dismantling of a reasonably large nuclear power plant that I've heard about. Instead one can see people proudly point out that 'the reactor has been working well over its projected life length' :) Ah well..

It will be interesting to see the real costs, and whom will pay for them.
« Last Edit: 09/09/2014 17:05:35 by yor_on »
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Offline alancalverd

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The cost of dismantling old reactors is determined by politics rather than physics. If you apply the same cost per life-year as is current in aviation safety ($30,000), nuclear power is wholly affordable, but if you use environmental protection agency costs (($8,000,000 per life-year) it isn't. As the average life is insured for around $100,000, I think the lower figure is applicable andthis should determine the  acceptable risk in undertaking an otherwise wholly beneficial exercise.

The physics problem is that the energy payback period of inherently safe reactors is rather longer than for inherently unsafe PWRs. If we started now, we'd probably run out of the oil needed to make the reactors before we had replaced all the fossil power stations with nukes.

The other problem is a public fixation with electricity.  It accounts for about 30% or less of our "final" energy use and absorbs nearly 50% of our primary energy sources. More coal, oil and gas is used directly in industry and transport: the economic and sociological problem will be to find a sustainable replacement for these.   
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