The Solution to the Growing Energy Crisis
The world that we live into today affords us the expectation that the flip a switch will turn the lights on. As populations increase and developing nations undergo dramatic economic growth, this energy demand will only continue to grow. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that “the world’s energy needs could be 50% higher in 2030 than they are today” (ElBaradei). Given this projected growth, it is necessary for world leaders must take action to secure the energy supply. Meaning that world leaders need to start seriously considering an alternative to non-renewable energy sources. “In 2012, the United States generated about 4,054 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. About 68% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), with 37% attributed from coal” (U.S. Energy Information Administration). The fossil fuels that are used to supply over half of our country’s energy are in finite supply and are increasing in price to astronomical heights.
Though it might seem that the world’s energy supply is secure as of the present, this issue is something that is beginning to worry even the richest states. “Countries as far apart as South Africa and Tajikistan are plagued by power cuts and there have been riots in several nations because of disruptions to electricity” and “rich states [are] no longer strangers to periodic blackouts” (ElBaradei). If we look again at the breakdown of U.S. electricity generation by energy source, it is evident that nuclear power is the next most substantial chunk of energy generation, with other renewables weighing in far behind that. I believe this begs the question, why do we not expand nuclear power to encompass that which is currently occupied by the aforementioned non-renewable sources? In my professional opinion, this would be impossible in the present, due to the fact that the necessary infrastructure does not yet exist. This infrastructure that I refer to includes plant sites, grid connections, physical protection facilities, storage and disposal facilities, and emergency response facilities. All of these pieces must come together if nuclear power is to be the primary electricity generation source in the United States.
Next to the issue of radiological safety, economics are the largest issue facing the nuclear power industry. Coal may currently appear to be the most economically attractive option for countries whose coal resources are abundant and accessible, but this will only remain true “as long as carbon emission are cost free” [economics]. Gas has also been a competitive option, much of this advantage has disappeared due to rising gas prices. And while the capital costs involved with building a nuclear power plant are higher than building a fossil fuel-burning plant, the cost of running and maintaining these plants is significantly lower than that associated with the fossil fuel equivalent.