So I happened to run into a nuclear engineer the other day who works at one of our great nation's nuclear power facilities. To make a long story shorter, we had not met before but were cleaning up debris from Hurricane Hanna, and were raking in the same general vicinity. He kept looking over and not raking, which of course is the universal human signal for "let's take a break." So I walked over and introduced myself and we talked about storms, health care, the military, biological weapons, American presidents, Russia/Georgia, and on most of these topics we generally agreed. Then we got to "energy."
This guy's a nuclear engineer, so he starts talking about nuclear power and how great it is. You could store all the waste of the world's plants on/in the space of 4 football fields. Nuclear power is clean. Many people are against nuclear power but they don't understand the details and just listen to the biased politicians and media. I asked him to elaborate on each of these points, and when he got to "Nuclear power is safe," I sort of pushed that one a bit. After 2 "oh sure it's safe" comments, he gave up and edged a bit closer to me, squinching up his nose a bit, "Look, of course it's not safe. It's not safe. But there are no alternatives." I found this point of view just fascinating. First of all, the guy is a nuclear advocate and has worked in nuke plants for a very long time. Then, after minimal prodding from a stranger, he burps out that nuclear power is not so safe after all.
But then to add that there is "no alternative," well that was too much for me just to smile and agree with everything, so I asked about combinations of wind, solar, conservation, design improvements, etc. Nope, he says, none of that stuff works. Solar is no good. I said that I knew folks - in Washington state, further north than Germany - who were running fully on solar power and solar/wind combinations and selling their excess power back to the grid, and he's like "no." I say, "Yes, it's true. And that's in a cloudy place! Think of what they could do in Vegas, Arizona, Florida, places like that."
And he says, "Well, I really need to get back to my raking," and ends the conversation. Just like that.
The point of that story is simply to share my observation of the discussion. Here's a guy who's career is squarely in the energy field - I would call him an "Energy Professional." And he's either completely ignorant of the performances of various energy forms, or is blatantly lying about them. After saying that nuclear power is misjudged in the media, he promptly agrees (off the record, of course) with what the media charges, then goes on to try to smear alternative forms of energy that are actually being proven to work in the field.
And this, my friends, highlights one of the core problems in human society today. Informed people are taking advantage of uninformed people. And it's like a game where they just keep saying the false message over and over enough times that people who are too busy, lazy, or ignorant to learn about it will eventually say, "Nuclear power is safe and clean, and wind and solar are just pie-in-the-sky technologies and will not work." This tactic of misinformation, in times when the complexity of technology is growing exponentially and everyday people find it harder and harder to keep up with it, is setting up the human race for catastrophe. And we're headed down this path not just in the energy field, but also in terms of climate change, warfare, disease, economics, justice, health care, and just about every major branch of science.
I think we need not just a more educated population in the US and abroad, but we also need more transparency. Above all, we need to start to see that we are all stuck together on the same globe. At some point, competition at all costs will negatively impact humans instead of helping to strengthen the herd.