Although that accident happened in 1986, today the contaminated areas are now thought to be safely inhabitable. In addition, uranium is not renewable, and its radioactive waste is not disposable — at least not easily. In the United States, much of it has been buried deep within Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Here it will sit for 10,000 or even 1,000,000 years, depending on its potency.
Popular magazines show homes covered with solar cells. Solar energy is in its infancy. It takes vast areas of solar panes to produce useable amounts of electricity. Who Turned Out the Lights claims that by 2015, this renewable source of energy will be “economically competitive.” At present, it supplies 1% of electrical energy.
On drives east through Pennsylvania and south through West Virginia, I’ve seen lines and lines of wind turbines. They, too, make use of renewable wind power and there are plenty of places where air currents are relatively constant particularly where large bodies of water and land meet. To make these wind turbine giants feasible, our nation needs a myriad more and a grid network to get the energy they produce off high mountains and down into cities and towns. We also need ways of storing such energy for later use at peak times.
What would be exciting is the conversion of plants into fuels or even garbage which we have plenty of. Who Turned Out the Lights claims that ethanol can be converted to fuel, and even if it is simply burned, since plants give off oxygen when growing, it is a wash between the amount of oxygen they give off growing and the carbon dioxide they release when burned.
Although the authors in this book state that geothermal processes provide less than 1% of our earth’s energy, this is where I would direct research. Geothermal heat can provide:
- superheated steam from deep inside the earth that comes in contact with pockets of magma relatively near the thin surface crust
- superheated water that is pumped down to come into contact with molten magma itself.
In the 1950s, project Moho attempted to drill very deep through the earth’s crust to reach its upper mantle. It has since then been taken over by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Although scientists differ in their opinions about why the earth’s interior remains so hot, it appears it will remain that way for billions of years.