Posted tagged ‘energy’

Facing up to the inevitable: nuclear energy in Ireland

September 7, 2009

Earlier this year Trinity College’s Science Gallery published a short piece on its website about nuclear energy, asking the question whether Ireland ‘should go nuclear’. The author put the question to readers, and the interesting thing is that the 10 people who responded all argued in favour of nuclear energy. Of course it is impossible to say whether this is representative of wider opinion, but what is clear is that there is now a much greater acceptance in Ireland of the need for a debate on this. Even the Green Party, which had insisted on a statement in the current coalition’s programme for government committing us to a nuclear-free Ireland, now accepts the benefits of a debate (without necessarily wanting a different outcome).

As we approach or encounter ‘peak oil‘ (the point at which oil extraction starts to decline), it is vital that Ireland seriously considers nuclear energy. Although renewable energy sources generally are to be welcomed and pursued, they will never meet total energy needs. There is, it seems to me, no alternative to nuclear power as a major source of energy. It is time for us to face that reality and plan accordingly.

The appliance of science

August 5, 2008

This blog is coming to you from the United States of America. Over the past 24 hours I have shared in what is, these days, the air traveller’s standard experience: the sheer misery of overcrowded airports, flight delays and cramped conditions in the plane. Maybe a reflection for another time. But the delay in Newark airport – over several hours – allowed me to sit in front of a TV screen and watch C-SPAN. If there is one thing that marks out America for me as a mature political society, it’s C-SPAN – and I say that not only because I was once featured on it.

Today I was able to watch Barack Obama on the channel, somewhere in Michigan, setting out his stall on energy policy. But what struck me most in his comments was his commitment to significant funding for science research, as the basis for innovation that will alleviate energy problems and global warming. Innovation needs to be funded and supported – as the US has always recognised. It is to be hoped that our own approach to innovation will show a similar understanding and determination, not just in research, but also in the educational activities that produce the qualified people who can do the research later; and that we will remain consistent in less certain economic times.

Solving the major environmental, health and social problems is not just about saying things in a determined manner – it is about understanding that what Science Faculties do in universities will often be applied to intractable technological and scientific problems – and that is where our future lies. And moreover, that is what will persuade global companies to continue to invest here.