Every man made or conceived system is always going to have SOME kind of downside, thing is we tend to hear about it only after we've all gotten used to the upsides. When all you have heard in PRACTICAL terms is Chernobyl, Hiroshima, leaking containment bays in built-on-the-cheap uranium mines in the NT, and have yet to have a nice cup of "atomic coffee" or read a classic work of fiction by the light of your cheerfully glowing bedfellow, it IS hard to be unbiased or entirely intellectual about the nuclear question. I hear there's only enough of the yellow shit laying around to keep even a fraction of earth nuclear fueled for the next 80 years, or something... and in the meantime we need to invest massive amounts of traditionally generated energy and fuel to get the shit out of the ground.. usually at the expense of the local residents, as in all things, whether they are microorganisms in a billabong or unamused macroorganisms wondering why they get sick a lot since Ranger went in upstream.
wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, all have their upsides.. but I think most of the downsides of any energy production come into play mainly during transit...either getting fuel, or getting the outcome, from A to B... rather than looking at a Big MoFo Nuclear Plant to fix everyones problems, we could probably make enough hot water for a streets worth of people to have hot showers just from burning all that bloody junk mail that turns up
Ok not quite... but a locally relevant approach seems important. EVERYONE'S locality, not just the well fed and educated end users.
Nuclear hasn't made a real mess of anywhere for a lil while, it's true... but that's to me a little like saying "i know tigers are quite vicious, but I've been using this one as a footwarmer for a couple nights now and it hasn't eaten me yet".. in civic and social planning the worst case scenario always has to be considered, not necessarily dwelt upon, but certainly looked at long and hard. One thing I have noticed is that people without kids tend (just IME) to be more likely pro nuclear or undecided than people with kids... one chernobyl doco too many, maybe I just like my offspring to have brains forming INSIDE their skulls. Maybe , irrationally, I find the black choking smoke from traditional energy generation gone wrong a little less threatening than the idea of some insidious, almost eternal toxic agent that yes, will be locked away in the desert for now... bummer if some smartarse drops a rocket into it on a day whe nthe wind is blowing towards a major city, though. And we think those occasional dust storms that roll out of the dry areas set off sickness NOW. Or maybe due to unforseen events the location of the dump may be lost, those charged with its care become distracted, disbanded, discontinued..what do we do with it then? I know all this also applies to factories producing pesticides, medical waste storage, disease research, etc.. but with that many things already presenting a similar risk, why go building another one?
Coal, gas, oil... blatant downsides, and in a cumulative sense it would seem just as lethal as poorly managed rads. But it HAS been a while since an exploding oil refinery flatted my house... course to get the good stuff to run thru the refinery, there is a good chance someone else had their house flattened, one way or another. Damn, going to take a direct debit setup with Wilderness Society to get over this sense of first world guilt!
The only certainly to me is that we simply cannot keep living the way we live... it was "ok" in a social sense, when the downside was mainly felt in exploited developing countries, poor areas etc... but like Johnny Howard or meth, now that the bad things are bothering Nice White Folks With Good Jobs, suddenly its a priority to have the spun aluminium water bottle, the fistful of lonely planet books, carbon offsets for your local juice bar, nature themed desktops, eat things labelled "organic" and buy a whole new car cos it runs on fuel only half the time, despite that fact the car you already have works just FINE and has already been manufactured... maintaining the same systems but with slightly disguised products isn't going to help. It makes drones feel better, and has its "oh but you know man, its raising awareness that matters" value of course.. but a flat tire needs changing, or the road needs improving, rather than just sitting around sipping shiraz explaining how "oh i really worry about the roads and flat tires, so i send money to hungry kids in africa" . A greater tolerance all round for doing outlandish things like growing veggies on your roof, using greywater for something useful and running your own still is the necessity now. being happy enough to poo on your own property and keep it there, grow your own cold n flu medication and decide television is shit anyway... though those lovely documentaries that tell us on a weekly basis how "you're all fucking doomed!" are certainly uplifting. Bummer they took up even more time/energy/resources/bullshit to produce in the first place. Maybe we can render Al Gore into useful basic compounds and run our cars on his portly self for a while, use those nice suits as insulation in our geodesic domes. Take the roof off his house and turn it into a market garden for local poor families or something.
Also has to be remembered that no matter what the "dominant tech" turns out to be in times to come, it will be managed, produced and provided by the lowest bidder or the most well connected bidder... clean and green can go down n brown pretty quickly in the wrong hands, like all the treehuggers that want to move out of town and run the house on firewood...then realise that woodsmoke is one of the worlds greatest pollutants even now, and a leading cause of death in the developing world. I hear asthma puffers sell really well in places like Launceston, assuming you can see the chemist from your house to start with. When the same fuel burnt in a better designed and managed sytem can easily have 3/4 of its nastiness cut down.. double combustion and the like.
On purely aesthetic terms, I think wind gen looks the nicest... something terrifyingly serene in those massive blades flying around, like big berserker sunflowers. A mate worked out he can run an mp3 player off a turbine set in the top of a dozen car tires sitting in the sun. People are inventive, and if one day there simply wasnt power coming out of the wall on a reliable basis, we'd adapt. Eventually, in the meantime there'd be a lot of deceptively cheap solutions to our problems, whining, general wailing and gnashing of teeth. But we'd live. Quite possibly for longer, and with real memories, real stories, not "hey did you see what happened on that entirelyl fictitious show full of fake people I don't actually know?". An unplugged life might be a lil dimmer of a night time, but I suspect its a lot brighter during the day.
"he said, from from his mains powered laptop..." though it is nearly 10 years old