The need for electricity has constantly risen world-wide over the last years. This is not only true for the so-called developing countries but also and in particular for all well-developed countries. In order to fulfil the demand, obviously additional power plants have to be built.
Which technology is best for generating electricity? This question certainly has to be answered on a case by case base. But it is very concerning that nuclear power plants more and more seem to be chosen as "the" technology of the future.
After the reactor accident in Chernobyl 1986, almost nobody could imagine to agree to build further nuclear power plants – the risks involved definitely seemed to be too high. On one hand that accident is years ago and most people’s memory is quite bad and on the other hand the global warming problem mainly due to the excessive emission of CO2, has revived nuclear energy. All the sudden the former risky nuclear power seems to be the best answer to solve the CO2 emission problem!
Where is the problem with nuclear power plants? Cons and pros of nuclear power
The security of nuclear power plants is still and will always be problematic because of the consequences of an accident. Just very recently a reactor catastrophe similar to Chernobyl could only be avoided with luck in Sweden. Nothing can be made 100% secure no matter how many security systems are built in. We have to live with a (small) probability of failure. Therefore the more nuclear power plants exist, the more likely are accidents. This is not pessimism but pure probabilistic mathematics.
If a car crashes, a few people are involved. If a train crashes, a few hundred people may get involved. However if a nuclear power plant crashes, millions of people and at the end the whole planet earth with all its inhabitants will get involved – that is the big difference.
Not less problematic for nuclear power plants is the nuclear waste. The only way to get rid of the dangerous radiating waste is to put it into thick shielded containers and dispose them in cavern in the earth or (even worse) in the sea. There it has to be shielded away for several hundred thousand years.
What gives us the right to produce dangerous waste now, which afterwards has to be surveyed several hundred thousand years? How can we be sure that those places where we bury the dangerous waste will remain stable and calm for so many years? Didn’t people believe exactly the same only 20 years ago, when dangerous waste from the chemical industry was "safely" put into garbage dumps? Dumps, which are now already being dug out and repaired.
Many people (and many governments) now praise nuclear power plants as inevitable for our well-being. The background is on one hand the increasing demand for electricity and on the other hand the fact that nuclear energy does not directly generate CO2. It is quite clever from the nuclear power lobby to sell this technology as solution to the problem of global warming.
However we should not forget that nuclear power generates waste with a harming potential even higher than that of CO2. This is not at all to de-emphasize the problem of global warming – but please don’t replace something bad with something even worse!
Stop wasting energy – increase the efficiency
It is important to realize that the energy problems on the earth can only be solved when we stop to waste energy, when we start to use the energy much more efficiently. The technology for a more efficient use of energy does not have to be invented first. Such technology already exists! We as consumers only have to ask for it and to use it.
Almost without any reduction of the personal comfort and well-being, it is already now possible to reduce the personal need for energy by a factor of 3 or 4. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
Here we can see our personal responsibility: We cannot on one hand consume more and more electrical energy year after year and on the other hand ban dangerous technologies. If we generate a demand on the market and if we have the money to pay for the electricity, someone will sooner or later produce electricity and sell it to us. Unfortunately there is no larger organization or group which makes money on saving energy. However there are lot’s of organizations, which can make money on producing and trading electrical energy. For all of them, the more energy we need, the better.
It is therefore left to our own free will to safe energy and to apply energy-efficient technologies.
How you can save energy
In the following, please find some concrete suggestions (a quite instructive guide can be found here ):
a) Get rid of standby losses
An average household has between 10 and 30 electrical appliances, which are normally not completely switched off but instead on standby mode. This includes TV, entertainment systems, toasters, computers, printers, wireless lans, telephones, coffee machines, set-top cable boxes, rechargers, etc. Recent studies in the USA found out that between 10% and 30% of the electrical power consumption of an average household is for such standby or "leaking" electricity.
Germany currently operates 17 nuclear power plants. Alone 2 of them are needed to produce the energy for the useless standby power of electrical appliances in Germany! In the European community, it was suggested that 12 large nuclear power plants were in operation just for the above mentioned standby losses. This was found out for the year 2000, most likely it will even be worse nowadays due to the ever increasing number of electrical appliances. Outside of Europe, most likely the situation is even worse, due to the even higher electrical power consumption per household (see graph below).
Source: Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org)
For already existing appliances the easiest solution is to unplug them when not in use. An alternative is to group appliances on one power strip so that all can be turned off at once. This works well for entertainment systems or for a computer and its associated printers, scanners and other peripheral devices. If you buy new electrical devices make sure their standby power consumption is less than 1 Watt.
Please find a guide here .
b) Use efficient lightning
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) in all lamps, which are turned on for more than 30 minutes a day. An excerpt taken from the above mentioned site:
"…Compact fluorescents use four times less energy, and last eight times longer (8,000h instead of 1,000h) than incandescent light bulbs. For example, a typical 75W incandescent bulb will be replaced by an 18W compact fluorescent. The compact fluorescent will be more expensive to buy, but you will need to replace it eight times less often and it will use less electricity, which often makes it the biggest electricity saver in your house. …."
c) Buy efficient electric appliances.
They use two to 10 times less electricity for the same functionality and are mostly higher quality products that last longer than the less efficient ones. In short, efficient appliances save you lots of energy and money. Take a look at the 4th bar with the label "High-efficient" in the above chart – this gives an idea how much reduction of the energy consumptions in households is possible with todays technologies.
Take a look at your appliances in use and find out whether it would make sense to replace them with more efficient ones. For new devices, make sure you buy only the best in class as far as efficiency is concerned.
In many countries, efficiency rating labels are mandatory on most appliances. In the EU, models are labelled A++ for the most efficient, then A+, A, B, C, D for subsequently less efficient models. Look for the A++ or A+ models. In the US, the Energy Star label is used.
d) Use solar energy to heat or cool your house and to heat water
If you own a house or a flat, take into consideration to use solar energy for heating, cooling and for producing warm water. This is most efficient use of renewable energy.
Is it worth the effort?
Do you think your contribution can only be very little? Might well be, but let’s look at the mass effects. Assume you switch off your electronic devices instead of leaving them in the standby mode. This way you might easily save 100 W in your household. This leads to 880 kWh per year. In terms of money this might be some 88 € or 115 $ per year. If you look at an average nuclear power plant with a yearly production of 10 Milliard kWh, you could switch off an average sized nuclear power plant if 11.4 Mio households do the same. Be one of those who make it happen!
So what is this all about for yourself? Instead to resign or to write articles about saving electricity, you should immediately start to realize the most important measures according to the above list in your personal live. It is of little help if 100 Mio. people scream out what "one" should do but don’t do it in their very own life.
Please remember, that you are responsible for everything in your life you do or do not do – and not for that what others do or don’t do. How you behave in this life will finally influence and shape your future and your life in future incarnations.
He who wants to growth his awareness can do this only in taking responsibility for his personal behavior. Our behavior in our daily life decides whether we will come closer to our goal of great inner joy and calmness – of perpetual harmony.
We have to remember that mankind is only a small part of nature. Respect and humility of the great wonder of the nature are indispensable for personal development. He who truly loves nature cannot seriously think about waste natural resources and dig harmful nuclear waste for thousand of years in the lap of nature.
However, he who for these reasons is against nuclear power plants must first start at himself and reduce his personal electrical energy consumption. This doesn’t even mean to give up something – it simply means to use electrical energy in a much more efficient way.
Shouldn’t this actually go without saying? Please do start now. It is time for change!