A few people pointed to Chernobyl, which was immediately discounted, because Chernobyl is in Russia, and it was an old plant (40 years) and was in a communist country, and so it doesn't count. Later a link to a Wikipedia article was published that showed seven people, in the US, had died from working around or in nuclear facilities. Those findings were discounted, as well, because none of them were recent, and none of the deaths were directly attributable to a reactor malfunction.
It should be no surprise that I came out on the anti-nuclear side of things, but not for the reason that most people would think. Yes, I have concerns about the safety of nuclear power generation - specifically, I'm concerned about the waste disposal aspect of it. At the present time, we have no way of disposing of the radioactive rods. They are stored, forever, in refrigerated water, because if they get hot, bad things happen (hence the term "nuclear meltdown", which is the worst of what's happening in Japan right now). In the lower energy world into which we're moving, keeping those rods stored in cold water may well mean that none of us have electricity at all, because it will all be going to protect us from a meltdown. It may be that in our lower energy future, all of the money our government has will be spent to maintain waste storage facilities (munitions and hazardous materials dumps), and that there will be no services for the citizens ... and guess who will be paying for maintaining these facilities? Go look in the mirror.
But for me, it's not just about the safety aspect. It's about the cost involved in constructing these mega-super-fancy-high-output-extravangantly-unneccessary power generation plants. And for the record, I'm not a proponent of a 100-acre solar array in the Mojave desert, a wind farm in the hills of northern Maine, or a wave generator off the coast of the Carolinas. Any tega-watt generation system puts us in the same place - dependent on some huge, morally questionable conglomerate (like CMP, which is forcing smart meters down the throats of Mainers, who were neither consulted nor informed prior to the change being implemented).
I would like to see all of our nuclear facilities decommissioned, before we have more waste to deal with. I would like to see our rivers undammed and the water allowed to flow freely again. I would love nothing more than to have every coal plant every where shuttered and the coal mines buried under a lush, green forested mountain.
My friend pointed out that alternative energy could not meet present demand. I agreed with him, but offered that, perhaps, we should lower our demand.
I also suggested that instead of huge, tega-watt facilities, perhaps we should have small, community-based power generation plants that would use local resources. In my community, we have access to waves, wood, and wind. We also have an abundance of garbage, and there's already a facility that was a trash-to-electricity incinerator (because of concerns regarding pollution generated when burning garbage, the garbage is now being turned into pellets to burn for electricity).
A final possibility, which all communities could use, is to remodel our sewage treatment plants, and instead of "treating" sewage (an energy-intensive process) and releasing it to the wild, we could use it to produce methane gas, which could be used to heat water, which would produce steam, which would turn a big turbine, which would create electricity ... from our own poo.
When I first heard about methane digesters, smaller, residential-sized units were being field tested and sold in places like India and in some African countries where there is a huge need for cooking fuel. More recently, larger units, most situated on farms, are being built and tested in the US and Europe. These use animal manures, but could, conceivably take the place of our sewage treatment facilities.
As with all power generation, the process of turning poo into methane leaves something behind, but unlike nuclear power generation that leaves behind a radioactive rod that needs to be carefully stored, the end result of methane production is compost and water, which can be taken into the garden and used to grow more food, which we could eat, so that we can produce more ... electricity :).
I think it's an amazing idea, and it always makes me giggle to think about powering my laptop with my own pooh. It's possible that I'm just easily amused, but the fact is that it's the ultimate in "renewable" energy solutions - to take a product which all of us are full of and make so many things that are so useful.
As I suggested to my friend, we could field test the community-sized prototype in Washington, D.C., where there's plenty of fuel (*grin*).
In keeping with the theme of making our own power, today's giveaway is a great book. It's called the The Human-Powered Home by Tamara Dean. As usual, leave a comment ;).
AND THE WINNER IS ...
The winner of the Wonderwash is Kristina. Congratulations! Please leave a comment with your full name and address. Comments are moderated and I will not publish your information.