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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Transition to renewable energy – theme for January 2017

This transition is well underway. Renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper.  It is now the time to consider whether perhaps renewable energy should not be so cheap.  This is the age-old debate between quantity and quality.  Should the world have so much more renewable energy, or so much better renewable energy?  But then perhaps it can have both.

energy-transition

The whole point of renewable energy is that it is clean. And, for sure, the major fuels – sun and wind – are undoubtedly clean. However, renewable energy does require some components – rare earths – that certainly have a dirty radioactive  history, and may still have a dirty radioactive present.

rare-earths-pollution-ChinaTwo notorious historic examples of pollution from the production of rare earths are the Bukit Merah  project in Malaysia , and China’s project in Inner Mongolia

China is now controlling   rare earths’ production in a cleaner way.  but it would be naïve and simplistic to assume that its pollution problems have completely gone away.

 

3 main approaches are being taken to this problem:

rare-earth-recyclingDesign for recycling
. This is particularly appropriate for wind turbines.

Reduction in consumption of rare earths . This is not applicable to renewable energy, but rather to the rampant and wasteful  consumption of modern electronic gadgets –  often unnecessary, all too often a part of our throwaway culture. http://chinawaterrisk.org/resources/analysis-reviews/can-we-build-a-clean-smart-future-on-toxic-rare-earths/

Design for green technologies that don’t require rare earths

clean-technology Of course, like all modern industrial technologies, mining and manufacture and transport  of renewables do mean environmental disturbance.  But this is a balancing act, considering the environmental benefits of renewable energy.

The nuclear lobby pretends that renewable energy is environmentally dirty. In the 21st Century, it is vital that we acknowledge environmental problems, including that fact of radioactive waste from rare earths, and make sure that the production processes are clean, even if this adds to their cost.

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January 14, 2017 - Posted by | Christina's themes

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