Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

'Renewable' nuclear energy a misleading term

I hope that many readers of SciDev.Net will object to the letter of Marje Hecht (see Sustainable a 'euphemism for mass death'). Although it would be wrong to exclude nuclear energy, it is wrong to consider that classical nuclear energy — derived from uranium and plutonium — is "renewable", even with reprocessing.

Nuclear energy is a fossil energy. Admittedly, the amount of uranium and thorium available is so large, that classical nuclear energy has sometimes be said to be "half-renewable" because it may be used for a very long time.

Nuclear fusion is more appealing but is, by far, not ready and it is quite difficult to predict when it might be available. At the moment, we have yet to find an alternative.

A fusion torch may turn all kinds of garbage into unharmful components, but not nuclear wastes. Nuclear wastes can be processed (with some difficulties) in fast breeder reactors or, in the future, in special (though costly) non-critical devices.

These points in the letter of Marje Hecht are misleading or wrong. The readers of SciDev.Net should be redirected to correct assessments of the energy problem.