Our Need for Energy
A modern technological society like Australia makes substantial use of energy to make our lives better and more enjoyable.
Besides having direct benefits, access to cheap electricity and energy enables some aspects of sustainability, such as recycling, to thrive. For example steel-producing mini-mills
require substantial amounts of electricity but do not need Coking Coal, Iron Ore and reuse waste products which would otherwise be dumped somewhere in the environment.
While we can do much to conserve energy, the fact is that Australia has increased its energy consumption by over 2% per year since 1970. Our total energy needs are forecast to increase by 50% in total by the year 2020
Meeting this demand requires building many large power-plants over the next 15 years. If we do not do this and our energy demand grows as expected, we will be faced with large scale blackouts. For example, the State of Victoria had a reserve energy deficit of 500 Megawatts
in the summer of 2005 which was twice the 229 Megawatt deficit of 2004. This deficit will continue to grow without substantial new electricity generation capacity. However Australia currently produces more Greenhouse Gas per Capita than every other OECD country
. If we build new Coal-fired plants we will make this situation even worse.
This is just Australia. The rest of World's use of energy will rise even faster. This is the inevitable consequence of the development of former third-world nations like China and India. Almost all Third World countries (and certainly China and India) intend to raise their standard of living to Western levels. Indeed if China's economic growth continues as it has for the last 25 years, it
will obtain per-capita wealth comparable to Australia's current income in the decade of the 2040's. India will likely take a few decades more.
Both these Countries have populations of around 1 billion people and such developments will more than double the world demand for energy
. Note that this will
happen. It is not something we in Australia or even the USA or Europe could stop even if we wanted to. The "Developing World" will use energy at a rate comparable to what we did before the end of the 21st Century.
China has identified Nuclear Power
as an important component
of its future energy mix
. India has long-term plans
to develop a fully indigenous Nuclear Power program to meet its own vast energy needs.
It is quite possible to utilize Nuclear Power to provide the vast majority of an entire country's need for electricity. The French Nuclear Power program
is the exemplar of this. In France, Nuclear Power provides 77% of the nation's need for electricity (the remainder being Hydroelectricity). France generates a surplus of electricity which it exports to neighbouring countries at a profit. It does this while costing the dismantling of its reactors and disposing of its waste products in the price of the electricity it generates.
The current electrical energy consumption
for the entire planet is 1517 GW of continuous power.
There are currently
439 nuclear power plants with a capacity of 371 GW. These provided
16% of the electrical power production of the world.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission recently aired an excellent investigation into Nuclear Power, entitled "Who's afraid of Nuclear Power?". You can download this program from this link