Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hot Rods Steaming the Place Up

Enrique Fermi was the man. Yes, he figured out how to bang atoms together in a controlled space to make power. You could say it takes a genius to figure it all out, but he had a brilliant team of scientist to assist him. Humanity now had a new resource of power, some say it is unlimited power, to continue living on the earth in splendour. Others would condemn the idea as an unforgivable creation only leading to the ultimate melting of our existence.

With the trenches dug deep on either side of this debate, one wonders if white flags can even be hoisted. The battle will continue to rage and rightly so. Our scientist do not know everything about atomic physics to confidently tell us it will all be ok. The best they can do is send us on a trail of statistics and probabilities with no confirming conclusion.

Nuclear programs developed largely in the USA, Germany, France, and Sweden (Former USSR had their own program, but are secret with the details). It was these power houses which coincided research on military and industrial applications of nuclear energy. These programs placed extraordinary demands on their societies, mainly conformity and long-term stability [1]. It made the energy system too inflexible, leaving room for failure. Eventually, complete nuclear programs were scrapped leaving the remains to fight on their own. Only in France, where conditions were stable enough, does a fully developed nuclear energy system exist. Society did not like to deal with the heavy amounts of pressures, thus the anti-nuke groups were born.

Unknowingly, my school was the breeding ground for the Swedish nuclear program. About 500 metres from my classrooms, a deep dark cavern holds the remains of the first experimental reactor in Sweden. The odd thing about this locale is the proximity to the city centre, about 2-3 kms. It was here where the Swedish brains created their own home-grown nuclear knowledge. It was here where this past week's guest lecturer began his troublesome career.

While starting his career in the early Fifties with the Swedish Atomic Agency, he climbed rapidly into leading positions and heavier responsibilities. It was in the early Seventies when an agency report, omitting public safety concerns, was published did he resign and join the fight against nuclear expansion. He was a heavy political ally for the anti-nuke parties and eventually Sweden voted for the dismantling of the program. Now a professor emeritus, he currently consults and leads national debates on nuclear questions.

His words were very wise. His experience tremendously interesting. He blames the pride of the nuclear scientist for their own downfall. He wishes they would all disappear to allow for fresh young minds to take up the technology and make it wholesome again. He, caught at the edge of the barb wire fence defending the cause for greater safety, waits patiently for the other side to hoist the white flag to admit their arrogance and pass the torch to the next generation.


[1] I got this info from Gene Rochlin who wrote a paper on nuclear energy systems. He writes about the nuclear energy systems and how it failed because it lacked compatibility with the other players. He states the energy system was not able to adapt to nuclear power.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

apperantly france is having trouble with its nuclear system as a result of warmer temperatures. It is now forced to shut down reactors more often because of the heat. There are plans to build new reactors by the sea.

-So has nuclear energy been abandoned as a solution to keeping the standard of living without the greenhouse gasses?


4:47 AM  
Blogger Swedish lamps and other energy tales said...

I think the nuclear lobby is to powerful to let their version of the climate change solution fall unto deaf ears. The promise of reliable power is a powerful political tool which is wielded by many who seek election. As well, the International Energy Agency published their latest report advocating the use of more nuke power to satisfy the People's craving for more power while saving the earth.

Nuke power is here to stay. They will just find new solutions to their problems, like moving to a seaside resort area, or finding better ways to mine uranium or enrich it. The demand is too great.

If you are completely against nuke power, then I would suggest you work damn hard to convince people to reduce their use of electricity. Demand reduction is the only stone in the sling to knock out this Giant. (Or an unfortunate and deadly disaster which I am not advocating at all!!)

1:29 AM  

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