20:41 GMT10 August 2020
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    The 2018 annual Global Energy Prize Summit took place in Italy this week addressing the most urgent energy issues and ways to solve them. Sputnik discussed the summit with Thomas Albert Blees, member of the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee, President of the Science Council for Global Initiatives.

    Sputnik: What role have the NGOs come to have in the climate change debate? And, in particular, how does your organization contribute to this?

    Thomas Blees: Our organization primarily is interested in fixing the climate change issue while at the same time producing virtually unlimited clean energy for the planet, and that's a tricky thing but it can be done, and I don't think it can be done without nuclear power. So our organization works a lot with advanced nuclear power systems, but on the other hand, if you do produce essentially affordable energy for the entire world, then everybody's standard of living starts to rise, and then you start using more resources, so then a lot of people say that if everyone had the same standard of living as in the developed countries you would need seven or eight Earth to supply enough resources, and that's not really true.

    It's how you use the resources, and it's how you reuse the resources. So if you do produce lots and lots of energy then you have to have ways of recycling, and you can't rely on people to be conscientious about recycling because there's always going to be a certain percentage of people that don't care. I'm sure you see this yourself, the city wants you to put all your plastic and glass in one container. I used to operate some apartment buildings and we had a recycling container and we had a garbage container, and a fairly high percentage of people just threw their stuff into the garbage container, they didn't care, so another thing that we deal with is developing recycling systems that don't depend on human behavior where it doesn't matter, you can recycle everything, and this can be done.

    There is a pilot project that was built in Great Britain and it works, like nuclear power it's a question of politics. The most frustrating thing for me, running this NGO is not the fact that we don't have the technology to fix all these problems, it's that we do have the technology to fix them, and politics is always in the way. So you know how to build nuclear reactors that burn nuclear waste as fuel, you'll never run out of fuel, we've got enough out of the ground for about a thousand years already, so we wouldn't have to mine anything, we know how to recycle everything, and none of this is being done because politicians are very slow, so essentially our organization, our NGO is just pushing to make these things a reality.

    Sputnik: You support the widespread use of nuclear energy technology which is a very emotional issue for many people, can you please tell us some of the arguments that you make in favor of it? And why do you think it can be a green solution to the world's energy problems?

    Thomas Blees: I think the main question is one of energy density. You see that humans used to use wood for energy and then they started using coal, and then they started using oil and gas, and we use more and more energy dense materials. Today, because we're concerned about fossil fuels and about climate change, we've kind of gone in the other direction, people want to use windmills and solar panels, but solar energy is very diffused, it's very not energy dense at all.

    There's only a certain amount of energy that even on a bright sunny day that falls on any square meter of land, and there's no way to change that, and it's not very much energy, so in order to deploy solar you need to have vast areas of land. With wind it's very similar only even worse because you never know when wind is going to be working, and there's a lot of people at the forum talking about energy storage, it's really important that we figure out energy storage, that we can take the energy from wind and solar and store it for when the wind's not blowing, when the sun's not shining, but you're talking about such a huge amount of literally land that has to be devoted to capturing this diffused energy, and then you have to talk about the cost of the storage, whatever that might be we still don't have really good systems for it.

    If you look at advanced nuclear power you've got all the energy storage that you need, because it's so energy dense, that if you were to figure out all the energy that you were going to use in your lifetime for everything: for your cars, for your transportation, for heating and cooling, for the energy that goes into producing the food that you eat, the transportation to get it to you, the energy that goes into the manufacturing your telephone, all the things that you use, the refrigeration, everything, your personal energy footprint. If you're going to use a piece of coal to provide all of the energy you're going to use it would be like a large house, like about a 3,000-4,000 square-foot house, a chunk of coal would have to be that big. If you use depleted uranium, which we have millions of tons of, already out of the ground, it would be the size of a half a ping-pong ball, so why do we need energy storage, we already have energy storage, it's in uranium, and we've got the uranium already out of the ground, it's sitting around, we want to get rid of it even.

    Russia's got probably over a million tons, the United States probably has 800,000 tons, and we're talking about a half of a ping-pong ball, you can carry it around in your pocket, safely by the way. So really energy storage should not even be considered to be a big issue if we would just build the reactors that we know how to build, we build them, they work, Russia's got two of them operating right now, they're the best reactors Russia has, other countries are building them, and it's not a problem. I go to conferences like this and I hear people talking about all the problems that we have, how we have to figure out all these different things, and how we need a big mix of energy sources to make it all work, and we don't need a big mix of energy services, we can do it all with nuclear power.

    Sputnik: You've said that some nuclear plants can use wasted water so you don't really have to use natural resources, how realistic is this to be implemented worldwide?

    Thomas Blees: Anywhere where you have cities that need power you have waste water because of the sewage treatment systems that people have, so it's entirely realistic. You can also just use air cooling, you don't even need to use water cooling, it's more expensive to build air cooled systems, just like you have a car that is air cooled, some cars are air cooled, you can air cool nuclear power plants, but it's also quite easy to just build the majority of your power plants along rivers or along ocean coastlines and just use water to cool it, so it's not really a problem. We know how to fix all of this.

    The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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