After the horrendous nuclear meltdown in Japan two and one-half years ago, world leaders are now asking themselves what they can do to ensure safety for their countrymen. The Fukushima nuclear disaster was a dismal reminder to the whole world that nuclear energy is dangerous. One accident can render an entire city uninhabitable for years. Even today, radioactive waste is seeping into the soil and water there in Japan and experts believe that it is logical to expect people living in that area to contract more illnesses over the next 20 years.
Angela Merkel, the Premier of Germany, began at once trying to amp up their country’s alternative energy program. They initiated a very aggressive plan to phase out nuclear power and replace it with solar and wind power. Though both of these technologies have come a long way over the past ten years, there are still challenges to be met.
One of the big obstacles has been the resistance of established electric utilities. Whether in Germany, the U.S., France or any other part of the world, this problem will need to be dealt with in a common sense manner. Naturally, big utility companies do not want to lose their customer base. It’s not just a matter of money, but of jobs as well. Utility companies across the world, employ millions of electricians, technicians and laborers. Imagine the financial impact to whole communities if all those jobs are suddenly in jeopardy.
Of course, the opposition will remind us that the jobs don’t actually disappear at all; they simply change. But workers will have to be retrained. Another area of concern is supply and demand. Can alternative energy truly supply a whole city with dependable electricity? In Germany, they did have problems with outages and unreliable electric service. The cost of electricity also rose by 30 percent in some locations.
Regardless of how badly a community wants to be rid of the dangers of nuclear power, no one can handle consistently high energy bills. Renewable energy is an important step forward but most of us have not actually sat down and thought about the consequences of replacing nuclear power with environmentally friendly options. As with all big changes that take place in our world, there will be snags, glitches and unexpected consequences.
Whether the public truly has the stomach to see this transition through is another topic altogether. Most people believe that renewable energy is best for our world. Just one nuclear meltdown in your own community will convince you. But most of us are accustomed to low-priced electricity that always works. If there is a problem due to storms and such and the power goes out for a few days, it causes chaos.
People are rarely ready to handle their electricity being out for more than a few hours. In areas where the temperatures are extremely cold or hot, it can be a matter of life and death to get the power back on quickly. All this leaves us wondering what we can do to make the switch to renewable energy without wreaking havoc on a whole town.
Innovators like the people at Tesla have come up with PowerWall and PowerPack. PowerWall was created to be a better storage system for solar energy. PowerPack provides low-cost energy solutions to commercial buildings and industrial plants. Both are still in their infancy but show a lot of promise.
Though the Fukushima nuclear disaster was horrific in every way, it reminded the world of how dangerous nuclear reactors are. They produce tons of nuclear waste each year that is very difficult to dispose of properly. Reminders like these should encourage innovation in the field of alternative energy. It’s definitely an important step if we want to leave a beautiful world for our grandchildren.