The True Impact of Chernobyl on Our World

Men in black at Chernobyl

This week I saw the new mini-series Chernobyl from HBO. Since then I wonder what was the true impact of this nuclear plant accident, in which regards our world and our environment. After watching this miniseries I came across TED video. There the presenter was debating whether or not we are doing more harm to our environment when using green energy. Now my question was what was the true impact of Chernobyl on our World? Are we doing the right thing by investing in green energy and renewables? I will try to answer these questions below.

Ok so, in my opinion, the accident of Chernobyl was basically the starting point of our search for new renewable energy sources. This meant that we could, in the future, replace our current nuclear reactors with cleaner energy sources. I would like to add that the nuclear accident from a Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima did speed up the things in the development of new energy sources. I will detail below how we were doing back then before Chernobyl accident and how we are doing now. What was and still is the impact of our decision to replace nuclear power plants with new renewable energy sources.

What energy sources were used in the 1980s and 1990s compared to now?

At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s the world use approximately 13% renewable energy. Compared to approximately 30% of nuclear energy. Today the world is producing only 27% of its energy from nuclear sources and the renewable energy sources grow up to 27%. The energy market changed dramatically, significantly more since the year 2000. For example in Germany, in the year 2002, only 9% of its energy came from renewable sources. This year, in 2019, the percentage grow up to almost 50% of the total energy mix. Also, from 2002 in Germany, the nuclear sector dropped from 31% to 13%. It is worth emphasizing that in Germany the winning renewable sector is the wind energy sector, which today accounts for approximately 20% of its total energy production in 2019.

In France in 2017, on the other side, the nuclear energy sources were around 71% of its total energy while the renewable resources were only around 16 to 20%. France’s today’s energy mix looks more alike when compared to its energy mix from the beginning of the 1990s.

What energy sources are we going to use in the future?

Plant live blooming inside an old light bulb

In an article published in 2018 by the International renewable energy agency, it is stated that in 2015 only 15% of the energy came from renewable sources. If we continue to grow our renewable sources as we did in the past few years this sector will grow by 2050 to only 27%. In the meantime, non-renewable sources will still have 73% of the total mix. In the same publication, it is stated that we should accelerate the development of new renewable sources. Also, we must change our way of thinking, and choose more energy efficient products. In this way, we should increase renewables energy production by up to 66%. Still, one-third of our energy demands will still come from nonrenewable energy sources.

The world superpowers by 2050 will be the European Union, the United States, China, and India. 60 to 75% of their energy mix will come from renewable sources. To meet these targets, these countries should be spending 2-4% of their GDP on renewables.

How many people dyed due to nuclear power plant accidents compared to other energy sources?

In which regards to safety, nuclear energy sources produce fewer casualties per TWh. With all the deaths, after the horrible accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, taken into account, the deaths per year in the nuclear energy sector is around 0.04 persons/year/TWh. As previously stated, according to statistics, the nuclear sector remains the safest in the world right now.

Another example is that for each terawatt hour produced from coal sources, “an annual fee” of 161 deaths are paid. Those deaths come from people who are living near the coal power plant and the people who are working in coal mines which are breading daily, a huge amount of deadly gases. In which regards bio-fuels 36 deaths/year/TWh are accounted. The renewables, that means solar and wind between account for 0.15 to 12 deaths/year/terawatt hour.

As a summary, when we analyze these statistics we can see that by using nuclear sources instead of coal sources, we can lower the deaths per terawatt hour by 4000x. Still, the long exposure to radiation is not well known and maybe further research is needed.

Positive aspects of green energy

First, green energy produces less CO2 than most of the conventional fossil fuel sources. Another positive aspect is that by investing in this industry we can support the creation of new jobs. It is worth mentioning that by using renewable energy any state can become more energy independent and by doing so it can negotiate better.

Negative aspects of green energy

Green energy doesn’t have too many negative impacts on our lives. At least at first site. It is not the time to open the champagne yet. We should stay focused on this new energy source. First of all, there is little research in this new field, as the majority of the wind turbines were installed in the last decade. Major environmental studies are still undergoing and they don’t have a definitive answer. Some preliminary results revealed that by constructing a wind farm you can negatively impact the flight of birds and other animals habitats.

When it comes to solar panels the major disadvantage is that it uses a huge amount of space for producing 1 TWh. Before their construction, the land must be cleared from any plant or animal life. Studies have shown that the survival rate of the relocated animals is very low. The habitats of the plants are completely destroyed which makes their situation even worse.

Whats the solution for a sustainable future ?

When it comes to future energy, from my point of view, we should finance the nuclear fusion domain. Nuclear fusion means to reproduce what happens in the sun, in a nuclear power plant. Studies are undergoing and France is building its first test reactor. By using fusion can basically fuse two hydrogen atoms and release energy. This energy source is 100% clean and uses no radioactive materials.

We should also look more into the development of new renewable sources. Geothermal energy is also very clean but not so easy to access. Wave energy sources and offshore wind turbines have also a less negative impact on our environment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and please give me your review in the comments area.

If you are planning to visit Stuttgart area, you can read my article on Baden Baden.

Below you can find the link to the TEDx youtube video.

Why renewables can’t save the planet | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxDanubia

1 Response

  1. July 21, 2019

    […] More and more car manufacturers are adding electrical models to their offer. We should think more about where that energy comes from. Is green energy actually green? As an offtopic question. Do you think nuclear energy should be abandoned? I’ve written an article on green and nuclear energy. The facts that came after some analysis are amazing. You can check it out here. […]

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