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The Energy Revolution Must Be Nuclear

If the world is going to get the energy revolution it requires, it needs realistic energy policies that are scientifically sound and promote a fuel that provides plentiful energy on demand, while doing the least harm to nature. That fuel is nuclear.

OXFORD – Demonstrators around the world are demanding that carbon-based energy supplies be curtailed for the sake of the environment. Yet, in Germany, the Energiewende (energy transformation) policy that was supposed to meet those demands is failing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A big part of the problem is that, in response to long-standing anti-nuclear sentiment, policymakers aim to phase out nuclear energy, while investing in renewables like wind and solar.

By learning to harness the power of wind, water, and fire (burning leaves and wood) – basically, what we call “renewables” today – our early ancestors gained mastery over nature. But their energy sources were weak, available only when the weather permitted. As a result, their living standards were low, their lives were short, and their number remained small.

That all changed with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. Humans learned to power engines by burning coal and, later, oil and gas. A measure of the utility of a fuel is its energy density – that is, the number of electricity units (kWh) in a kilogram (2.2 pounds). Fossil fuels have an energy density of 1-7 kWh per kg – a thousand times more than renewables – which can be harnessed anywhere at any time, regardless of the weather.

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