Saturday, October 30, 1999

Energy and Environment

On October 25, 1999, Peter E. Hodgson delivered a lecture entitled "Global Warming, the Energy Crisis and Nuclear Power" at a meeting sponsored by Osaka Nuclear Science Association and held at Osaka Science and Technology Center. I had an honor to be the chairperson of the lecture. Hodgson is Professor of theoretical nuclear physics at University of Oxford, and has been the member of the Atomic Scientists' Association for many years. He has written a number of books on nuclear physics as well as on the relation of nuclear physics and society [1].

He talked about the comparison of possible energy sources of the future by the five criteria of capacity, cost, reliability, safety and environment, quoting the following words of William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and showing numerical data collected as much as possible.
I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.
The possible energy sources considered included coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal and nuclear power plants. The data presented showed that nuclear power was most promising in every respect. His calm and gentle manner of talking did not weaken his conclusion but strengthened it. The audience consisted mostly of nuclear and radiation scientists. At this time of intensifying mood of public opposition against nuclear power due to the Tokai accident, therefore, Hodgson's lecture must have given encouragement to most of the attendants.

The opponents of nuclear power should also discuss the matter scientifically on the basis of numerical data related to the scope of a wide range, if they wish to stand firmly against proponents. Hodgson writes in his paper [2], on which a large part of his lecture was based, "The onus of demonstrating a better way to combat global warming lies on the opponents of nuclear power."
  1. The latest of the latter kind of books is: Peter E. Hodgson, Nuclear Power, Energy and the Environment (Imperial College Press, 1999).
  2. P. E. Hodgson, Nuclear Energy, Vol. 38, No. 3, 147 (1999).
Related Site Further Reading Added Later
  1. H. Herzog, B. Eliasson and O. Kaarstad, "Capturing Greenhouse Gases," Scientific American Vol. 282, No. 2, pp. 54-61 (2000). The authors review the approach of burning fossil fuels without releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by separating them underground or in the deep ocean.
  2. W. C. Sailor, D. Bodansky, C. Braun, S. Fetter and B. van der Zwaan, "A Nuclear Solution to Climate Change?" Science, Vol. 288, pp. 1177-1178 (2000).

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