Is nuclear power obsolete?
Nuclear technology is generally considered to be a high-grade and advanced technology. But does this qualification imply that nuclear power as a civil energy source can be called also high-grade and advanced? The state of a technology is not the same as its usefulness for societal implementation.
A technical commodity becomes obsolete when other commodoties are available which are better suited for the same task. The task at issue is the delivery of useful energy to the consumer with the least possible burden to the economic system and with the least possible environmental burden. Nuclear power has a number of specific features which should be taken into account in the comparison with other energy systems:
• radioactive releases into the environment at an increasing rate; radioactive discharges are cumulative [more i17],
• radioactive contamination of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers [more i18, i19, i21],
• growing risk of very large accidents [more i21],
• rising specific CO2 emission over time, surpassing that of fossil fuels by 2050-2070: the CO2 trap [more i05],
• decreasing net energy production over time: the energy cliff [more i38],
• extremely long cradle-to-grave periods of 100-150 years [more i12, i16],
• systematic postponement of very large, but unavoidable energy investments to the future: the energy debt, which is growing with time [more i16],
• increasing deterioration of the environment by nuclear-related activities [more i43],
• large and growing specific consumption of materials and chemicals per unit delivered useful energy [more i13],
• potential contribution of about 2% at best to the world energy supply by 2050 [more i28].
• evidence of the nuclear power adoption curve [more i29].
Nuclear technology cannot be developed to an advanced level high enough to prevent above noted drawbacks, because no technology can circumvent the Second Law. The question at issue is wether nuclear power has been surpassed by other technical means to generate useful energy with better and larger possibilities.
From the Second Law follows that a permanently sustainable energy system, without the specific drawbacks and limitations of nuclear power, is only possible if based on an energy outside of the biosphere. Luckily we have one: the sun. With proven technology it is possible to construct a solar-based energy system able to meet 100% of the world energy demand. Such a system is called a Zero-Entropy Energy (ZEE) system [more i44]. And the ZEE technology is still rapidly advancing.
The sole requirement for materialization of genuinely sustainable energy system is a paradigm shift. Only by means of a ZEE system it would be possible to reverse the trend of increasing damage to the environment and to return the human-made entropy morass into solid order.