Currently showing: Sustainable energy > Nuclear

25 Nov 13 05:10

A six-hour bus journey, and your mind does tend to wander.

Which is what mine did in early November as I travelled with friends from Hong Kong to the southern Chinese city of Shantou for a few days of good food and relaxation.

Shortly after we passed the bustling city of Shenzhen, I saw to our right near the coast a sizable development of quite nice high rise apartments. Except they were pretty much empty. The tour guide confirmed it: what was once hot property is now derelict. You see, the buildings are near the Daya Bay nuclear plant and ongoing allegations of leaks from Fukishima have turned this hot property into one that is potentially "too hot".

While you have to empathize with safety concerns surrounding any nuclear plant (and sympathize with those small investors who lost their money), I have to admit I am grateful for the Daya Bay plant's existence. It supplies most of power-hungry Hong Kong's (see photo) electricity needs, so we don't have to choke on coal-based particulates like our compatriots in Beijing and elsewhere.

Then suddenly I see a wind turbine up in the hills, then three and then an entire wind farm.

I have to admit I have always found wind farms to be alien yet majestic at the same time. They seem to broadcast hope for better days as they reach to pluck energy out of every breeze. I read somewhere that China has the world's largest installed wind power capacity but that the country is struggling with how to connect these to the national grid. At least they are trying.

Someone once postured that we should build a wind farm in the oceans around Hong Kong, implanting those great white stalks into the surrounding reefs. Of course, the marine environmentalists protested, as rightly they should.

So the debate continues: wind or nuclear; solar or hydro. Is there a perfect answer? Maybe not. But on a six-hour bus ride, these issues give you more than something to think about. They make you realize that we wouldn't even be having these debates if not for the fact that China intends to make clean energy account for up to 15% of national electrical output by 2020). For that, and future blue skies, I am grateful.

Category: Sustainable energy: Nuclear, Solar, Wind

Location: China

1 Comment

Alicia Montoya - 28 Nov 2013, 3:59 p.m.

You put your finger right on the issue, Eileen: Every source of power has issues and there is no perfect solution.

Moreover, we are going to need all sources while we transition towards a cleaner energy future. Despite what Greenpeace will tell you, we cannot meet the world's energy needs with 100% renewables. Not unless we multiply the price of electricity by many factors and even then this would not be immediate as the capacity would need to be built. And that's a whole load of windmills.

The fact is, whether we like it or not, countries like China (or India) will also most probably need lots of new nuclear and coal installed capacity to power their huge populations.

So rather than reject the usage of each source of electricity, we need to think strategically about what we want our energy future to look like in the next 30-50 years and allow for less ideal intermediate / transition solutions.

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