Global Warming and The Energy Demand
Within the past 100 years carbon emissions have risen and continue to rise at an exponential rate. All of which is due to human impact and the industrial revolution when civilizations started burning and mining coal to sustain their life styles. As more countries begin industrialize the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has gone from 290 ppm in 1860 to 408 ppm today (https://www.co2.earth/) as we continue to burn carbon based fuels as they are the only ‘trusted’ source of reliable energy that is accepted within society. Unfortunately the carbon dioxide concentrations continue to creepily approach dangerous levels for our planets well being. These levels suggest drastic changes in temperature as they go way beyond the recorded values of greenhouse gas emissions that have been linked to periods of ice ages and glaciation. With the direction that the world is currently headed in, impacts of this rapid increase in concentration have already been observed as our seasons begin to change and average global temperatures fluctuate drastically.
As it is readily accepted within the scientific community that global warming is a problem and requires a change of energy production from sources the emit CO2 to ones that do not. These forms of energy include, solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and nuclear. Solar, wind, hydro and biomass are all considered to be renewable energies according to the fact that there will always be a sustained resource where the creation of energy does not deplete it. Nuclear is not considered to be a renewable energy as there is not a quick reproduction of the radioactive elements that power the reactors. When all of the clean energies are compared, there are different factors to take into account on their ability to produce energy, functionality, and compatibility with the grid system along with their impacts on the environment, economy, human health.
The renewable energies such as solar and wind are reliant on the environment for their production hence they are locational dependent and can at times produce an overabundance of electricity that goes unused. Battery energy storage would be required for renewable energies to meet the energy demand. Both solar, wind, and biomass include extensive effort to produce energy including the material used to construct the turbines and panels as well as a large amount of space. Considering the fact that our current electrical grid is adapted to energy plant production methods, integrating individual sources from the renewables requires grid development. Nuclear energy in contrast, does not require the same amount of space, material production, or the dependence on location and is compatible with the existing grid system. Additionally nuclear energy has the highest amount of energy production of kWh’s by means of carbon emissions in comparison to all other types of clean energy. The hesitation associated with nuclear energy is the radioactive waste byproduct and the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. All of which are connected to early technologies developed during an era of political conflict from 1895 to 1945 to create electrical power and nuclear weapons (http://world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/outline-history-of-nuclear-energy.aspx). Hence majority of the systems in use today are based off of a water cooled nuclear reactor designed for submarine propulsion during WWII and with that the byproducts could be used for nuclear weapons. Alternative types of nuclear reactors exist today that use different types of coolants and radioactive elements that have furthered development of failsafe mechanics and tools for disposal of radioactive waste.