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ARE COAL AND THE CONVENTIONAL NUCLEAR POWER STILL THE REAL ALTERNATIVES TO OIL AND GAS?

WHICH DIRECTION FOR THE RESEARCH OF NEW ENERGY SOURCES?

1. INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

It is widely assumed that the world energy situation has reached by now such a dramatic level not only for environment economical reasons but also for the uncertain dependability of supplies and the striking effects on security and peace in the world.

The rise in prices and the increasing difficulty in oil drilling which strongly weighs on the production of primary energy (61% in the world and 79% in Italy) and troubles in finding a large amount of alternative sources make the public opinion and the different governments consider the possibility of going back to nuclear and to an ever increasing use of coal.

From the President G. W. Bush's opening year speech about the State of the Union, although it was obviously in favour of the oil magnates, we can deduce that it will be the future way to reduce by about 75% within 2025 their dependence on hydrocarbons.

Therefore, owing to the allocation of special rated public funds, as well as the 3 American syndicates' requesting of the building of 15 new nuclear plants in the States, it means that the hypothesis may be more than realistic.

Meanwhile in the Asian emerging countries, 24 new nuclear plants have been built and a coal power plant has been inaugurated almost every week.

Italy too, through the ENEL has joined the nuclear business: the electric board has recently bought up 6 nuclear power plants of this type in Slovakia and drown up a development agreement with the French people of the EdF of the new reactor EPR.

Therefore, the energy issue is such a politically sensitive area that it needs to be dealt with by the new government with courage, determination and full awareness and scrupulous understanding of the environment problems.

In order to achieve a national energy plan, it is necessary to make an integration of programs in line with the choices of the most developed countries and carried out uninterruptedly just as it happens in those countries even in the case of a change in their political direction.

2. SOURCES AND TECHNOLOGIES NOWDAYS AVAILABLE.

The low-priced oil epoch is fully finished and it is certain the much-faired peak-oil is getting close or has already been brought about; that is to say the time when the oil supplies level out the exploited ones and the drilling grows more and more difficult.

We expect oil addiction could easily decrease if we got a large amount of alternative sources of clean renewable, economic, wide spread and overall domestic energy, but up to now, in spite of all the efforts we are making, no energy source meets all these requirements.

The renewable sources (wind, solar, biomass) together with energy conservation as a direct consequence of the improvement of the system efficiency have to be undoubtedly encouraged but they could not be considered alternatives to hydrocarbons nor can they be substituted in large amounts because of their shortage and cost; this is why no one of the developed countries as ever counted on these sources, except as an integration share in the fossil fuel production.

Supposing that if the coal quota exploitation increased noticeably, a kind of widespread fuel cheap enough and available in big quantities, the gas greenhouse emissions would increase steadily and consequently would make impossible for countries like Italy supporting the Kyoto Protocol to achieve the fixed objectives. Moreover, since this source is much more polluting than oil and gas the rough processes of the climate decay would grow faster.

Also an excessive use of gas, whose relative advantages for the environment cannot be overlooked, and the high productivity of investments in privatized market would create, for a country like ours, similar problems to those created by the use of oil due to the impossibility to control the price.

The return to nuclear power based on the present technology is a hypothesis to reject in no uncertain terms. In fact, despite the efforts made around the world to improve the safety of nuclear plants, they represent, today more than ever a serious threat to populations. This is due both to the impossibility of adequately protecting them from terrorist attacks, like the one that hit the Twin Towers on 11/09, and the serious, still unsolved, problems posed by nuclear waste.

3. WHAT IS THE DIRECTION FOR THE SEARCH OF NEW SOURCES AND FOR A SAFE NUCLEAR POWER?

In order to answer this question we present here a technical proposal, not a political one, based on dozens of years of studies of the national and international energy situation, of the available technology, of the production sources and their effects on health and environment.

The ideas here indicated (which recur to technologies already available and widely tested, and under Italian patent) seem the only opportunities today, on an international scale, capable of providing an answer to world problems.

Such projects, devised by the authors of this text with the specific aim of safeguarding the environment, human safety and peace between nations, would provide Italy with the opportunity to autonomously produce the amount of energy needed to boost the productive system, in line with the expected medium and long term demand in developed countries. We are talking about two second-generation geothermal projects and a revolutionary nuclear project, without risks and fully acceptable.

"DS:HDR" and "DG:MRE", respectively formulated to extract geothermal energy from the large masses of underground dry hot rocks and from the deep geothermal phreatic-magmatic pockets recently active,

"SUSE-NPP" formulated to render the existing fission nuclear power finally clean, economically competitive, surely decommissionable and ultra-safe (also and above all against terrorist attacks).

In particular, with the geothermal projects mentioned in 1), which can provide large amounts of power and can be implemented without problems near big cities, it would be possible to supply residential areas with hot water, make domestic consumption even safer, through direct supplies of electricity instead of domestic gas for heating. This would eliminate both electromagnetic and air pollution in our cities.

Thanks to the intrinsic characteristics of the three projects in question (for more detail please see www.alternativenergy.it), they would allow to provide, with continuity and stable prices, the enormous amounts of clean energy needed to replace significant portions of that produced by other types of thermal power stations that currently use fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal).

4. CONCLUSIONS AND ADVANTAGES OF THE PROPOSAL.

In order to guarantee supplies, eliminate the risks for the environment and the health of populations, bring the cost of energy down to a manageable level and reduce tensions between consumer countries and producer countries, REJECTING both external-plant nuclear power and coal, we suggest initiating the research and programmes for the development of "second-generation" geothermal projects and for a nuclear power which would respect the environment and would be economically competitive (Please see points 3.1 and 3.2 above).

This would offer business opportunities to our country, especially considering the USA determination to drastically reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons and the need for energy of developing countries and in consideration of the fact that these projects are Italian intellectual property. Whether the above projects are realized in Italy or not is irrelevant.

The development of second generation geothermal energy is with is without a doubt something to be implemented as it is clean, renewable, safe, widespread, cheap and available to everyone.

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