Nuclear power a 'last resort'

Last updated 06:00 20/12/2013

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Should we stay nuclear-free?

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We've asked our readers whether New Zealand should review its stance on nuclear power.

I cannot understand why anyone would consider nuclear energy for New Zealand; it's just not needed in an island nation that holds only 4.5 million people and already harnesses approximately 70 per cent of its energy from environmentally friendly, renewable resources.

Many arguments for nuclear-power generation talk about the safety factor, that modern plants are very safe and that using Chernobyl as an example of what can go wrong is misleading.

But risk is correctly measured as a function of both the frequency of occurrence and the potential effect of occurrence. True, the frequency of occurrence here is small, but the effect is disastrous. It is naive to say that the number of deaths caused by the Fukishima plant disaster was low - we will have no idea for many years to come the true impact of that disaster.

When you look at the the effect of a major issue at a nuclear power plant, I think it's just not worth the risk.

Also, it's not just what could happen if something goes wrong. There's also the question of what to do with the highly hazardous and radioactive by-products of the nuclear power generation process.

Many governments and companies have tries to find an answer to this issue of treating nuclear waste, but no fully satisfactory solution exists. The solution too often is dumping the waste in uninhabited areas of the planet (islands in north Scotland, "deep" ocean trenches). One idea has even been to to lodge spent nuclear rods in converging fault lines in the earth and allow the plate movement to push them below the earth's crust.

Power generation in the future needs to be achieved without hazardous by-products. This may seem like a pipe dream - but it is possible, with enough research and time spent. Unfortunately, the allocation of research, money and time in the energy industry is dictated by large oil, gas and nuclear companies, who are the least interested in a clean, green alternative.

Nuclear power should be a last resort, and in New Zealand, we are far away from that point.

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