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In the longer term (and we are talking last quarter of the century), the best  option would seem to be plasma fusion reactors. These have already experimentally produced more power than inputted, if only for a very very short period. INTER will provide the last ecperimental proving of the technology before the first prototype is started sometime around 2040.

Clearly then what we are looking for is a solution that balnces Co2 emission with continuing and increased demand in the interim. Fission nuclear will not provide the answer but it may form part of the answer and it is only right that it should be considered as such. Arguments about the long term storage of waste to a certain extent are moot. If we were starting down the track of using nuclear, these considerations would probably mitigate against our ever using it however we are not in that position. We have nuclear waste that requires safe storage. That could be by current methods or the more exotic solutions like glassification to fix the waste in a glass before it is put in long-term underground storage. Accepting this backlog, would an increase in power generation add to it significantly? Is it a risk worth taking if it means the long-term survival of the more robust eco-systems? Bear in mind the damage already set in train will take until at least the middle of this millenium to correct. We will lose many species as their ranges change too much for them to survive or move sufficiently quickly.

IF the planet is to get back to some form of balance we need to stop runaway warming before the middle of this century, if not one of the species to be lost or decimated is going to be homo sapiens.

Nuclear as I said should be considered in the light of this and as part of the solution. There are renewables that can provide a constant back-up. People have mentioned wind, wave and solar power in this context but there are also biofuels that are renewable. Some of these are novel like converting seed oils into petroleum or using green biomass in digesters. Others are among the oldest land management methods. Tree pollarding for example has been practiced for many hundreds of years. In this, trees are cropped and cut down to a base every three or four years. This results in a mass of small branches growing from a low thick trunk. Using this wood and that from fast growing young trees is highly CO2 efficient as more is absorbed in early year's growth. The wood can either be burnt directly or converted to paper and then burnt as part of general waste in local incenerators. Secondary recycling of paper is superficially attractive but can be highly CO2 inefficient if waste paper has to be transported long distances for recycling.

In principle, no solid farm animal waste should be left unused in generating heat by recyling in digesters. Burning the methane gas produced is not only a source of renewable energy, it is far better for the environment as methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas (by a factor of about 10) than CO2. Human waste should be put to the same use.

If those are large-scale solutions, we should also be using individual or generation like using photo-electric cells, geothermal heat equalisation (heating in winter, cooling in summer using the deep constant temperatures), high energy efficient buildings using such things as triple glazed windows, secondary insulation of walls and loft spaces etc.

In short, there is no one solution, what is needed is to consider the full spectrum of generation and conservation and utilising the least damaging in terms of the whole environment.

by Londonbear on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 09:59:49 PM EST

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