Does Taiwan (or the world) Need Nuclear Energy or not?

As the protest on Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Lungmen, New Taipei, continues on (starting from 2011), one of the biggest talks is whether or not Taiwan even needs nuclear energy. This is a topic debated by not just Taiwan, but all over the world. World known organization, TED, held such a debate in 2010.

Below are several of the key points outlined in their opening statements:

Stewart Brand – For Nuclear Energy

  • The planet is facing climate change and is half urban
  • People move to cities because of electricity
  • 3 major sources of energy:
    1. Fossil Fuel
    2. Hydroelectric
    3. Nuclear
  • Nuclear waste would amount to a 2 pound Coke can for a lifetime of energy for one person
  • Coal waste would be 19,000 tons of carbon dioxide from 1 day of a 1 gigawatt coal-fired plant. (Did the math, with 11,000 kW per household per year, it comes out to be 19,000 tons of carbon dioxide  for 521 days of energy for one family.)
  • Nuclear waste is more concentrated, local and controlled.
  • Coal waste is dispersed on the atmosphere and in the air.
  • Nuclear energy’s greenhouse gas emission in the lifetime is as low as wind and hydro power.
  • Downside to wind power is the large footprint: in order to generate one gigawatt of electricity, 250 square miles of wind farm is required.
  • Places like Denmark and Germany have maxed out on wind power.
  • Downside to solar energy is also the footprint: in California, 80 solar farms need to bulldoze 1,000 square miles of southern California desert.
  • 13 terawatt of clean energy from wind, solar and biofuels would need the area roughly the size of United States – Seth Griffith.
  • Nuclear warheads could be used to create nuclear energy
  • 10% of American electricity comes from decommissioned warheads.

Mark Z. Jacobson – Against Nuclear Energy

  •  Nuclear energy puts out more carbon dioxide and pollution than clean energy systems.
  • Nuclear energy enhances nuclear weapons proliferation.
  • It takes 10-19 years to put up a nuclear power plant from planning to operation. During this time, you have to run the regular electric power grid which is mostly coal powered.
  • Putting together the time needed to get a nuclear plant operational and the amount of carbon dioxide emission of nuclear energy, nuclear energy puts up 9-17 times more carbon dioxide emission than wind energy.
  • India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons secretly by enriching uranium in nuclear energy facilities. North Korea and Iran are doing the same.
  • In a projected 30 years, if just one nuclear bomb goes off in a megacity, it would increase the mortality rate of nuclear energy to be beyond that of death caused by any other energy source.
  • Footprint of wind energy is just the pole touching the ground.
  • To power the entire United States vehicle fleet with 73,000 to 145,000 five-megawatt wind turbines would take up 1 to 3 square kilometers of ground.
  • Wind turbines can be made over oceans reducing land footprint to zero.
  • Footprint is different from spacing. Spacing between each wind turbine could be used for multiple purposes such as agricultural land, range land or open space.
  • Nuclear plants have the facilities that take up space as well as the  buffer zone which is 17 square kilometers. In addition there are the uranium mines.
  • There are 5- 10 times more energy provided by wind than we need to power the world (below taken from his graph):
    • All wind over land in high-wind areas outside Antartica ~70-170 terawatts
    • World power demand 2030: 16.9 terawatts

The rest of the defenses done by either side as well as comments by the audience can be seen in the rest of the video as well.

After this debate, hopefully everyone can make your own research and your own decision on whether Taiwan (or even the rest of the world) needs nuclear energy.

Remember, the topic of whether or not nuclear energy is needed in Taiwan is just one aspect of the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. There are many other aspects such as the safety of the Lungmen Nuclear Plant and the processing of the nuclear waste.

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