Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Carbon dioxide vs radioactive waste?

What is worse: coal fired or nuclear power stations? Is this a false choice? While these questions are heavily debated some have already made the decision. According to an article in The News&Observer:

As Progress Energy looks for new power sources amid shifting environmental rules, the Raleigh utility has decided that coal is out and nuclear is in...Its decision favoring nuclear energy is driven largely by uncertainties in public policy. Legislators and regulators increasingly are focusing on the environmental threat posed by global warming. Penalties on carbon-dioxide emissions are widely expected from Congress, a policy that could significantly increase the operating costs of coal plants by taxing coal's byproduct: the greenhouse gas that is blamed for overheating the planet.

South Africa plans to add around 28500MW of coal fired power stations to the national grid by 2025. Nuclear power generation is also expected to grow strongly. Whether the environmental threat posed by global warming will have an impact on these plans remains to be seen.

Given international climate agreements and trade rules, what are the risks that South Africa will not be able to follow a carbon-intensive development path?

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