Space and energy

I just heard a compelling argument that nuclear energy has to be the central component in fulfilling energy demand.

I’m in Knoxville at the McCormick Institute seminar on nuclear energy. The speaker, William Tucker, has written several books on the subject. He started with e=mc(squared), which basically is the same concept as e=m(1/2)(v)(squared). Not sure how to type the equations, but the point is that the lower the velocity, the higher the mass must be to create the same amount of energy. That essentially rules out wind and hydro as viable alternatives because to make up for the slow speeds you need tremendous, and space-consuming, mass. Solar has the speed advantage, but the earth receives so little of the sun’s output that massive amounts of space are required for the photovoltaic cells.

Nuclear, by contrast, uses small mass but at the speed of light. Used fuel rods, if not reprocessed, convert very small amounts of mass to energy. His statistic was that converting 6 ounces of mass into energy would power San Francisco for 5 years. 

Like all of the advocates for nuclear energy at the seminar so far, however, he goes on to downplay the danger. We overregulate the industry, etc. I’m anxious for someone to give a balanced view rather than advocating way or another.

Tucker, by the way, said one advantage of supplementing nuclear with solar is that solar production is highest when demand peaks. That means it’s not much good for base load, but it is a good way to help meet peak demand.


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