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Abstract

The nations of the world plan to stop burning carbon fuels but have not fixed on the replacement. For social and economic confidence, they need to share a proper picture of the options. The science is simply explained and not in doubt, though widely misunderstood. Energy sources belong to three distinct groups – “renewables”, chemical and nuclear. Since human life began it has adopted each of these in turn. In the past the initial disruption has been more than off-set by the rise in human values that followed. Now, to complete the final step we answer those who would look backwards to the age of “renewables”. Instead, the world should look forwards to a heavy dependence on nuclear energy with a confidence, informed by natural science and openly shared in society.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 1
Nature, Energy and Society
A scientific study of the options facing civilisation today
Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. Adam Smith
Energy in quantity
Accounting for energy is like keeping a financial balance sheet in fact more so, since natural science
holds energy to a gold standard. It dictates that energy is conserved and cannot be created or
destroyed, only transformed. Furthermore, nature does not allow overdrafts. For example, you cannot
burn tomorrow’s delivery of oil today, even if you have already paid for it. So, every fuel must have
been energised by a greater source in the past, or somehow be re-energised from time to time.
Different forms of energy can be traded for one another, as happens in a working engine or generator.
In any change energy tends to degrade and become less useful if left on its own. That is, boulders roll
downhill but not up, and cups of coffee get colder but not hotter. To be practical, controllable and
safe, an energy source must be stabilised somehow.
These criteria dont leave many possibilities. For instance, most easily dislodged boulders rolled down
hill long ago and most sources of heat have already cooled. All options available on a significant scale
appear somewhere in the columns of the Table below.
“Renewables”
Chemical (electronic)
Nuclear
Fuels
Water, wind, sun
Fossil fuels,
food, biofuels
Uranium, Thorium
Primed or renewed
Daily and seasonal
sunshine
Sunshine in
geological epochs
Pre-solar stellar
collapse (supernova)
Energy density
kWh/kg
0.0003
1 to 7
20 million
Fuel for a whole life
10 million tonnes
1000 tonnes
0.001 tonnes
( 1 kg)
Pro
Familiar, accepted
Reliable,
available 24/7
Reliable, safe, compact,
resilient, available 24/7
Con
Unreliable, weak,
damaging to nature
Emissions, safety
Public apprehension,
failed education
Table of energy groups: the entries are explained in this essay
Summary. The nations of the world plan to stop burning carbon fuels but have not fixed on the
replacement. For social and economic confidence, they need to share a proper picture of the
options. The science is simply explained and not in doubt, though widely misunderstood. Energy
sources belong to three distinct groups “renewables”, chemical and nuclear. Since human life
began it has adopted each of these in turn. In the past the initial disruption has been more than
off-set by the rise in human values that followed. Now, to complete the final step we answer those
who would look backwards to the age of renewables. Instead, the world should look forwards
to a heavy dependence on nuclear energy with a confidence, informed by natural science and
openly shared in society.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 2
Three groups of natural energy sources
Possible sourcess fall into one of three distinct groups described by the columns of the Table.
The first column comprises the familiar energy sources of
water, wind and sun. Everybody has confidence in these
because no science is needed to appreciate their energy.
Their mechanisms of falling, moving and warming are
evident to the senses. However, the description
renewables” is not well chosen they often fail to be
renewed. Sunshine varies with the seasons and fluctuates unpredictably at the whim of the weather.
The energy of tides and waves is similarly self-evident and also belongs in this group.
The second energy group includes all forms of combustion, including digestion. The only fuels like this
naturally available on Earth on a grand scale are the fossil fuels coal, oil and gas. Their energy is more
enigmatic than “renewables. There is no self-evident sign no machinery, warmth or movement to
suggest the hidden energy. Calling it chemical gives it a name, but does not explain what is
happening.
There are other possible chemical fuels lack a natural production mechanism and a means to stabilise
them. Even fossil fuels and wood are notoriously unstable in air and can be dangerous the release
of their energy is triggered by high temperature and so can spread. If it were possible on Earth to find
large deposits of hydrogen, ammonia, or pre-charged lithium batteries, for instance, these would be
candidates for primary fuels. They are certainly useful as secondary fuels, made or charged up using a
primary source but it is the choice of primary source that we are discussing here.
Technology is different from natural science. Natural science
can tell us where there is energy. Then technology can be
developed to find the most effective way to deliver it. But
when nature says there is no energy, no amount of technical
ingenuity or financial investment will find it. You cannot buy
natural science.
The last column of the Table is the nuclear group. Like
chemical, this is enigmatic, but also less familiar. It turns out that nuclear energy has an explanation
similar to chemical energy.
Life and the supply of energy
Because energy is strictly conserved its supply must match demand, all the time and everywhere. So
the electricity supplied by the grid has to be balanced, day and night, by the output and distribution
from all the power stations, including the “Interconnectors” to other countries. On the internet you
can watch how this happens with the different sources, country by country, all accounted in some
detail and updated every few minutes.
1
This is just part of a larger network of energy flows, including
oil, coal and gas for transport and heating. If the energy runs out, many aspects of modern life stop
light, heat, transport, sewerage, internet, water.
The accounting of energy is ruthless and life has always struggled with it. Billions of years ago it made
a great leap forward when it progressed from static plant life, largely dependent on short term
sunshine, to mobile organisms, energised internally by stored fuel that is food. Through evolution
and selection over millions of years, animals, fish and birds learnt how to explore and source the food
they needed and how to adapt to changing circumstances those who did not learn to cope in a
The description
renewables is not well
chosen they often fail to
be renewed.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 3
fluctuating environment died out. Evolution by natural selection is a tough school that leaves no room
for the worthy features of humanity that society now prizes so highly today.
Energy revolutions that improved humanity
Humans have the advantage over other life forms of using their brain power to analyse their
environment and rationalise their experiences. Consequently, they are able to adapt faster and avoid
the punitive attrition characteristic of natural selection.
In the First Energy Revolution, starting some 600,000 years ago perhaps, humans realised ways to use
energy beyond the digestive capacity of an individual. First, they used teams of animals and slaves;
then the power of water and wind to drive mills and sail the world; also the heat of wood fires to cook
food and to refine and fashion metals. Nevertheless, though better than animals, human beings at this
time led short and miserable lives, and the population remained small. Ethical behaviour was for the
few. Most struggled and suffered from disease and conflict, unremarked.
In the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions of the 17th to
19th Centuries however, mankind learnt to avoid sources of
energy that depend on the capricious behaviour of wind
and weather. By study and experiment society learnt how
to engage the huge increase in energy available through
coal and steam. With the new reliability life expectancy
doubled and the population quadrupled. An emphasis
could be placed on the virtues of humanity, including
safety. With the high energy density of fossil fuels and their
tendency to release energy contagiously or explosively, safety was particularly important. This was
progressively improved by refining the design of machinery and by educating and training those
concerned.
But now, twenty years into the 21st Century, the decision has been made to cease the burning of fossil
fuel, so removing the very mainstay of the Industrial Revolution.
Every possible way forward is described in the Table. Its numbers and comments are crucial to future
social and economic stability, living standards, impact on the environment and safety. But where do
the entries in the Table come from, and what do they mean?
Energy density of visible sources
How much energy is available from “renewables? The figure in the third row of the Table may be
calculated using the mechanics of Galileo and Newton.
What does this mean for wind and solar, the most common renewables? Lets calculate it.
The energy of a kg of water moving at one metre per second is 0.5 joules, and that is true for
anything else at that speed. The energy increases with the square of the speed, so at 10 ms-1
(about 20 mph) the energy is 50 J kg-1. That is 14 millionths of a kWh kg-1.
The unit kWh is the one used to bill electricity consumption (3.6 million J equals one kWh).
The energy of any object falling 100 m, for example water from a very high dam, is 981 J kg-1
which is 270 millionths of a kWh kg-1. Rounded, that is the 0.0003 value shown in the Table.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 4
So, solar and wind deliver similar amounts of power per square metre rather modest amounts, in
fact, but more can be harvested by simply building more square metres. But beware the impact on
nature! The electricity demand in the UK is about
45 GW. If supplied by wind or solar that would
require an area of several thousand square
kilometres, and that would only work on a day
when the sun was shining, and the wind was
blowing.
Environmentalists are keen, they say, to protect
nature. But how can they countenance its
obliteration on such a vast scale. Wordsworth
would weep at the sight.
There are equally unacceptable consequences
when hydroelectric projects are scaled up. Recently
major environmental problems are reported on the
Nile, Mekong, Euphrates and Yangtse. These cause,
not only damage to nature and massive
displacements of people and homes, but enmity
between whole countries. The coming water wars
of the 21st Century are predictable.
Large “renewable energy installations are easily
damaged by freak storms and also incapacitated
by changing weather patterns. They are easily
sabotaged, too, by terrorists or hostile powers. In
particular, off-shore wind farms are open to attack by enemy submarine.
Why can other types of energy source not be developed?
The energy density of any “renewable source that relies
on movement is set by the speed alone. Tidal flow or
waves may have an intuitive and attractive appeal, but the
energy density is a similar number of kWh per kg, because
the speed is similar. Material moving at the speed of sound
has a higher energy density, about 0.01 kWh per kg that
is rather better. Molecules move at this speed in hot gases,
but these are not widely available on Earth as a primary
supply of energy.
In truth, any search for a new energy is easily led astray if
it concentrates on energy that can be sensed, the ones we call classical. To choose the “touchy-feely”
The maximum energy per second that a wind turbine could possibly deliver is the energy of
the mass of air that hits the area swept out by the blades per second.
Per square metre that mass is the density of air times the air speed.
Energy per second (power) per square metre is therefore 0.5 X density X air speed cubed.
At 10ms-1 and air density 1.2 kg m-3, that power is 600 Wm-2.
The maximum power of the sun on a solar panel on a fine day is similar.
(This ignores large inefficiencies that apply for both solar panels and wind turbines.)
A UK Government advisory report proudly showing a large
meadow near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, its green grass and
any animal life completely obliterated by solar panels.
This cannot be good for the environment.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 5
sources of energy may seem obvious, but it excludes the more energetic sources that nature has to
offer. This is the mistake made by naïve environmentalism.
Invisible energy sources
Food that bought today is labelled with its energy density, printed on the packet. For example, “2018
kJ per 100 g serving, which translates as 5.6 kWh per kg, matching the fossil fuel values in the Table.
These are far larger than the values for classical fuels. Why? What is the invisible energy mechanism?
The quick answer is Chemistry, but a name is never an illuminating answer. What is the seat of this
super clockwork?
It was not until the 1920s that the full answer was known. It is the
kinetic energy of electrons where these are described by waves, a
description known as Quantum Mechanics. This principle applies to all
objects everywhere, but it only becomes obvious at small scales. The
idea seems bizarre, though its basis is simple and was confirmed in
detail nearly a century ago. Quantum Mechanics is essential to the
working of modern electronics and the description of electrons
moving in atoms and molecules, some 10-10 m in size. Furthermore,
the same description of protons and neutrons in nuclei, 10-15 m in size,
produces the game-changing effect that we know as nuclear energy.
For the electronic atom with the known electron mass m and the atomic size L, the Fermi Energy is
about 4 electron-volts or 7 kWh per kg. The energy of all batteries, all chemistry, all lasers, all food, all
explosives, all fossil fuels are on this scale and are explained as variations of this mechanism.
For protons and neutrons in a nucleus the same picture
applies but the numbers are different. The nuclear size, L,
is 100,000 times smaller than the atom and the proton
mass, m, is 2000 times larger than the electron. The
significant combination mL2 is five million times smaller,
and the Fermi Energy five million times larger than for
electron in the atom. This is the origin of the nuclear energy
density shown in the Table. This quantum clockwork
mechanism” applies to both chemical and nuclear
energies. However, the million-fold increase in energy
density for nuclear changed the course of history after
Every particle of matter (and particles of light and radio, too) is described by a wave with
wavelength, λ, and a related momentum, h/λ, where h is Planck’s Constant (value 6.6 10-34 J s).
That is the end of the peculiar part. The rest should be familiar to any student of regular classical
mechanics. If the particle (with its wave description) is confined to a small region, size L, the
wavelength has to fit into it. A sound wave fits into a musical instrument with a pitch that
increases the smaller the instrument, and the energy of a quantum wave behaves similarly. For
a particle with mass m and velocity V, the momentum is mV and kinetic energy is ½mV2, as in
Galilean and Newtonian Mechanics. The kinetic energy of this wave, known as the Fermi Energy,
is found by substituting to get the simple formula: 𝐸 = ℎ2/(8𝑚𝐿2). As with sound, calculations
can be made precise by including harmonics, 3-D, etc., but the simple formula is never far wrong.
A sketch of a wave trapped in a box,
like a sound wave in a musical
instrument. Higher pitched waves
are possible, but not lower.
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 6
1945. But, unfortunately, for seventy years nuclear energy was not appreciated by the people of the
world as a benign source, a misunderstanding that is overdue for correction.
The 1927 Solvay Conference attended by Planck, Mme Curie, Einstein, Dirac, Schrodinger, Heisenberg and others, who
together established the firm basis of quantum mechanics, electronics and nuclear science, the greatest revolution in scientific
thought since Galileo and Newton.
Core energy supply in the 21st Century
In use, electricity is the most flexible, clean and efficient form of energy, but it has to be generated
from a primary source. As fossil fuels fall out of favour for heating and transport, the demand for
electricity will grow further. However, the continuity of its supply is crucial, and a modern economy
needs to be confident that it will be available 24/7. Which primary source of energy can be relied on
to generate such a supply?
The strong point in favour of
“renewables is their popular
acceptability. Against that are
their unreliability, weakness and
effect on the environment. Take
the reliability of wind for
example. In 2018 there was only
one day on which the power
delivered by wind reached 50%
of its installed capacity in
Europe as a whole (see the data
published by Wind Europe). The
average for the year was 22%, rising to 37% for offshore wind. This shortfall is worse than might be
expected because the power depends on the cube of the wind speed (see the box on page 2) if the
wind speed halves, the maximum available power falls to 12%.
Given this intermittency, a significant back-up source is needed to avoid breaks in supply. Experience
has shown that this is not possible without either nuclear or fossil fuels, and if the latter are excluded,
that just leaves nuclear. Furthermore, since a nuclear plant can operate predictably at 90% capacity,
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 7
any unpredictable contribution from renewable generation becomes superfluous to the
maintenance of a reliable supply. If the power of a nuclear plant is reduced to balance a fall in demand
or a drop in a parallel renewable supply, there is a small reduction in fuel cost but a related increase
in the charge for idle capital. It is therefore more cost effective to dispense with renewables as a
primary source and over-provide electricity from a nuclear plant running steadily at full power. The
excess off-peak supply can be used to desalinate water and produce hydrogen or ammonia for
transport, chemical feedstock and the domestic and industrial gas network. Unlike from a renewable
plant, the large supply of waste heat from a nuclear reactor is also available for domestic and industrial
heating. Such a complete unified power resource can be sited close to wherever it is needed, thereby
reducing the requirement for expensive long-distance transmission and under-sea “interconnectors”.
2
Electricity can be stored in batteries, but batteries are chemical, as first shown by Michael Faraday,
and their energy density is correspondingly limited like fossil fuels. The only distinction is that batteries
are reversible, meaning energy can be put into, or taken out of, a battery relatively easily by charging
or discharging. Chemical battery technology has improved, but the idea that it might smooth the
fluctuations of renewables over weeks and months will always be unrealistic. For example, a million
tonnes of Tesla car batteries (150 GWh) could not supply the UK electric grid (45 GW) for more than
an hour or two. Furthermore, the ability of batteries to deliver energy rapidly is intrinsically hazardous.
It is likely that there will be serious battery accidents in the future and it is not clear that enough
attention has been paid to this.
Most renewable energy comes originally from the Sun,
and the energy of fossil fuels also came from the Sun but
long ago in ancient geological time. But where does nuclear
energy originate? The Thorium and Uranium mined today
are the radioactive remnants of colossal stellar explosions
powered by gravitational collapse that occurred before the
Earth and Solar System were formed. Today astronomers
study such supernova explosions elsewhere in the Universe.
The picture shows a “modern” example, the remnant of the
“Crab” Supernova, 6300 light years away, as seen today by
the Hubble Space Telescope. The original explosion was
visible for 23 days in broad daylight to Korean astronomers
in July of the year 1054.
Nuclear safety
If the use of carbon fuels is to be reduced to zero in a few
years, the implication for the deployment of nuclear energy
is far reaching. The only mark against nuclear energy is
public apprehension. Concern is widespread in society and
rooted in the belief that nuclear energy is intrinsically
unsafe.
Whatever the source, any large quantity of energy often
excites fears for safety, especially if it is thought likely that
control of it might be lost or fall into the wrong hands.
Fossil fuels and chemical explosives are seen as providing
many tales to support this. The huge extra power of nuclear
energy only increases these fears. However, this overlooks
1Copyright ESO
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 8
an important distinction. Crucially, any release of chemical energy tends to drive positive feedback by
increasing the temperature and spreading fire or detonating an explosion. So chemical combustion is
intrinsically unstable, whereas the release of nuclear energy is not. A release can only be started if
mediated by a flux of free neutrons. These neutrons do not exist in the wild because they decay in a
few minutes and are rapidly absorbed in most materials anyway. So, energy generation by the neutron
chain reaction is easily and completely shut down by absorbing the neutrons. In March 2011 all the
reactors in Japan were shut down in this way as soon as the earthquake was detected. By the time the
subsequent tsunami came ashore at the Fukushima Daiichi site, for instance, the energy being
released was exclusively by radioactive decay. Radioactivity does not involve neutrons and cannot
multiply. The activity released in the subsequent accident was not contagious and did not spread.
Radioactivity is much safer than fire in this respect.
Radioactivity is not a disease. Someone who is contaminated or has been irradiated is not infected.
Sadly, such people are shunned by others out of fear and ignorance following these rare radiological
accidents. The wearing of chemical suits is seldom necessary for radioactivity, unlike for viral
contamination. That radiation is not contagious should be a simple message of public health taught in
schools. Why does that not happen? Unfortunately, there is a whole profession dedicated to
explaining the dangers of radiation, and they do not allow themselves to question their dedication.
Arguably the most irrational safety fear concerns the waste” produced by fission reactors. Because
in quantity the fuel required is some million times less than the equivalent fossil fuel, the amount of
“waste” is correspondingly tiny. Usually it is only a few percent “burnt” and so can be recycled, if
required. The final fission waste is radioactive and needs to be cooled for a few years and then
contained, as many chemical poisons need to be. But after 600 years, unlike a chemical, the
radioactivity has decayed and is no more toxic than rock dug from the ground. Furthermore, waste
cannot be used to make fuel for a nuclear weapon, as some people suppose. And then nobody has
ever died in an accident from nuclear waste at a power plant. But, like other long-running media
stories, “what to do with nuclear waste” still sells newspapers and refuses to die. It also provides jobs
for many people and so it is supposed it must be important. Actually, the effort and the jobs are
out of all proportion to any risk, and the work and its cost could be reduced dramatically.
Nuclear energy and its radiation have been used to benefit health ever since they were first discovered
by Marie Curie and others. Uniquely, she was awarded two Nobel Prizes for her work in unravelling
the physics and the chemistry of the science, and then dedicated her life to its application in medicine.
Few members of the public, either personally or through friends and family, have not enjoyed longer
and healthier lives as a result of diagnostic scans and therapy that use significant doses of radiation.
Since radiation is undoubtedly powerful, the scientific question we need to answer is why are
moderate doses effectively harmless?”
3
We all receive radiation naturally from rocks, space, the Sun and even radioactivity inside our own
bodies. When life began on Earth about 3 billion years ago, these radiation levels were much higher
than today. If biology had not evolved a series of effective protective strategies, we wouldn’t be here.
This protection by evolution is remarkable, though it is only in the past few decades that some of the
details have been understood. Evidence confirming that it works so effectively came from the accident
at Fukushima Daiichi. Despite the anticipated disaster the significant release of radiation caused no
injury at all and it was clear in a few days that none was likely.4
Marie Curie famously said, Nothing is to be feared, it is to be understood. But, if we do not
understand, we are easily deceived. A benign example in medicine is the Placebo Effect. A diseased
patient is told that he has been treated when he has not. Nevertheless, the message, despite the lack
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 9
of treatment, increases his chance of recovery. The Nocebo Effect is the malign inverse as in Voodoo.
A healthy person is told that he has been cursed and will probably die. The likelihood is that he will
begin to suffer with real symptoms, as well as significant mental health problems, unless of course he
is able to expose this curse through understanding and confidence. Being told that you have been
irradiated is such a curse. Even if you felt well previously, it is liable to damage your health.
Surrendering to fear, individually or collectively, can lead to panic. The people at Chernobyl and
Fukushima had no scientific understanding of radiation and their mental and social health were badly
affected by the evacuation that followed. People around the world, too, were influenced by the
combination of fear and excitement sent out by the media. Such excitement seen from the safety of
an armchair in California or Germany has a potent effect on the world order despite calls to reason.
4
But how can we be sure that radiation is harmless when the media supported by panels of “experts
suggest the opposite? The wildlife at Chernobyl was never told that it had been irradiated; it was not
evacuated at short notice; it never watched a sensational video account of what happened; it never
read a newspaper or registered for a compensation claim. Since it did not know and was not cursed,
it received only the radiation. Did it suffer? How has the wildlife been affected since the human
population left? Videos produced by the Discovery Channel and the BBC
5
show animals thriving,
better off being radioactive, but unencumbered by humans and free to roam undisturbed in a wildlife
park. These suggest that radiation is more or less harmless, but the curse and Nocebo Effect are very
serious. In similar experiments in the laboratory animals were divided into two identical groups, half
were irradiated every day of their lives and half were not. These tests confirm that there is no effect
for radiation levels several hundred times higher than recommended by the current precautionary
regulations.6 Evidently the animals’ defences manage the effects of the radiation and no irreparable
damage results, unless the radiation level is very high.
A comparison with the new virus, COVID-19, shows why nuclear is almost harmless. The virus has little
energy but is dangerous because it is highly contagious and human life has no immediate protection
against it. In time nature will evolve some immunity while
the world’s biomedical laboratories are racing to develop a
vaccine first. Gaining the required time and avoiding social
and economic panic should be the priorities. Nuclear
energy may be powerful but its effects are not contagious
and immunity from it was a pre-requisite for life from the
start three billion years ago. The most dangerous
consequence of either an outbreak of a new viral infection
or a nuclear accident is panic with its effect on social and
economic stability.
Two conclusions: nuclear energy and education
Society was largely unaware of nuclear energy until the last days of the Second World War. First
hearing about it in the context of war was an abrupt negative experience and not a helpful way to
learn about an aspect of nature. In the decades that followed, talk of nuclear and radiation was
shrouded in the secrecy and fear that were endemic in the Cold War. Concern about the escalating
deployment of nuclear weapons led to highly disruptive political demonstrations. Attempts were
made to maintain public order through appeasement. Outspoken public demand for protection
against radiation led to recommendations approved by the United Nations. These were not based on
firm evidence and were several hundred times more stringent than those internationally agreed in
1934. At the same time the perception that nuclear energy is unnatural, evil and beyond the
Nature, Energy and Society Wade Allison 2 March 2020 page 10
understanding of most people discouraged its balanced study as regular part of natural science. This
failure of general education has perpetuated radiophobia for seventy years.
6
To select the best source of energy in the 21st Century society needs confidence. How may that be
regained once lost? In the arena of fear and excitement confidence is a matter for daring and bravery,
but in the digital world confidence is a matter for education, both for individuals and for society. For
real confidence nobody should rely on authority, regulation or the word of assembled experts they
have their own tribal interests.
And it is not just about safety. Society needs to be sure its
energy source is secure and available when needed. As Alice
explained to the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass
when offered jam, delivery yesterday or tomorrow is not
good enough. Similarly, energy from Russia or the Middle
East does not generate local confidence. Nor does a huge
power plant serving a vast grid, a macho solution designed
to impress fellow engineers and government officials.
Confidence comes with a sense of ownership: a small plant
blending unobtrusively into the landscape within twenty or
thirty miles; a plant offering local employment and school
visits; a plant of which locals can say “we generate our own
electricity here, and send the surplus to the rest of the
country”. The reality of the grid may be the same as a top-
down approach, but the social perception of devolution is
not. The coming variety of small nuclear reactors, factory
built in modules and deployed locally, combined with scaled-down regulations based on science
should reduce costs and timescales and provide power safely, acceptably and more cheaply than
traditional sources.
The critical raw materials for the widespread adoption and scale-up of nuclear energy are know-how
and public acceptance. Both depend on massive changes to education and culture. The biggest
investment has to be made by those young people who enter the nuclear engineering field, ambitious
to solve the technical problems and deploy the solutions. Their education takes time, but so too does
the switch in general public perception needed to make nuclear and radiation matters acceptable. In
time it can be done, just as over time smoking has become unacceptable. The gathering pressure of
climate change and repeated supply failures will concentrate minds and encourage policy changes
that should follow what is scientifically inevitable if civilisation as we know it is to survive.
1
www.Electricitymap.org.
2
The UK regularly imports 2 GW from France and 1 GW each from Belgium and the Netherlands.
3
https://youtu.be/JpcUCo0ebNA
4
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12860842
5
Video on Chernobyl wildlife (2012) Discovery Channel http://t.co/puM2rwyBMH ,
also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEmms6vn-p8 and triggered pictures of wildlife at Chernobyl (2015)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-32452085
6
A much fuller discussion with references is given in the two books by Wade Allison
Radiation and Reason (2009), and Nuclear is for Life (2015), available on Amazon and direct from the distributors at
https://www.ypdbooks.com/science-and-technology/1690-wade-allison-special-book-pack-YPD01882.html
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.