Japan's disaster cubedI've been riveted to my TV & computer since Friday, trying to comprehend the devestation of a 9.0 earthquake (upgraded from 8.9), + an 8m tsunami, + a desperate situation when nuclear cooling systems failed at a power plant in Fukushima. Whenever you see such utter devastation and human tradgedy and suffering on a national scale it is truely heartbreaking. I am so so saddened by the loss..
And reminded how precious and unpredictable living on this always changing planet is.
Watching the developing nuclear meltdown in Japan has certainly been a flashing reminder of the dangers posed by so called "safe" nuclear power...I live in Chicago, literally surrounded by about 11 nuke plants. Even when functioning within design limits nuclear plants create tons of really bad stuff (waste) every year. And clearly a 9.0 earthquake exceeded the design and safety limits at Fukushima. We do not yet know how this "incident" will end, although it seems to go from bad to worse.
I believe it has already gotten bad enough to derail the nuclear renaissance many in that industry hoped for. And any pullback there will be a big blow to efforts to fight climate change, since coal is the obvious baseload alternative. That said, in the mid-to-long term this presents opportunities for "true" renewables like wind, solar, and especially fledgling geothermal and wave power which have the power profiles that can support baseload demand without storage.
But even more important than switching our energy ravenous society onto the next "fuel source", I think we need to take a completely different attitude to reducing our power requirements. We need to embrace RADICAL EFFICIENCY. Creating and designing systems that require 1/3 (or less) as much energy to sustain them. And we can't wait 20, 30 or 40 years to get to a more efficient equilibrium. We need to get there in 10 years. This means we need to be doing the planning today and start implimenting(!) systems 2, 3 or 4 years!