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The Future of Atomic Power

The world is running out of usable fossil fuels. The emergence of China and India as major industrial powers has speeded this up and we have to face the possibility that within this century, unless major new deposits or extraction methods are discovered then the oil wells may run dry and our whole way of life may have to change.

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Growing biofuels may help to extend the life of some of our machinery which depends upon oil at present but every acre growing a fuel crop which could have been used for providing food for an ever-increasing world population. Extracting usable and storable energy from wind, waves or tide, hydro-electric or geothermal power or photo-electric cells has not progressed to a level at which these can provide a viable alternative to fossil fuels, regardless of what the politicians claim. It looks as though nuclear fission may be the most effective way of providing the power that the world needs for the foreseeable future.

One major problem standing in the way of this is public opinion; the events at Chernobyl and Five Mile Island are still fresh in the minds of hundreds of millions of people who are deeply distrustful, not only about the safety of nuclear power production but also of the long term consequences of storing the waste from this option - waste that will remain a considerable danger for thousands of years. Many people ask whether we have the right to saddle future generations with these liabilities; fortunately this website is about science and not ethics so we will leave that question unanswered.

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