In 1958, the Ford Motor Company produced a mock-up of the Ford Nucleon, a nuclear-powered automobile. No working propotypes were ever produced but, at the time, people living in the “atomic age” seemed confident that nuclear-powered personal transport was just around the corner. Fast-forward to 2012 and, post-Fukushima, people are much less comfortable with the idea of strapping a fission reactor to their bonnet.
Debating Europe recently held a live head-to-head debate on the question of the future of nuclear energy in Europe. The two panellists were Dr. Patrick Moore, Co-founder of Greenpeace and Co-Chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, and Jo Leinen MEP, Member and former Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment. One of the many questions we received ahead of that event came from Peter, who asked:
If cars, trucks, buses and other transport means were to be nuclear powered would we not solve a great part of the climate change problem and reduce global warming by 2 degrees?
Although we ran out of time during the event itself and didn’t get a chance to pose this question, we arranged follow-up interviews with both panelists to run some extra questions past them. First up is Dr. Patrick Moore. To see how he answered your questions, click the videos below.
Let’s start with a question from Lluís, asking if real-time monitoring of nuclear power stations might help increase trust amongst members of the public:
Next, we had a question from Darek who asked if smaller, nuclear micro-reactors could help deliver energy on a regional or local level, as opposed to what he called the “unsafe, accident prone, macro regional water cooled monsters based on the mid-20th century models?”
Which leads us nicely to the question about nuclear cars! If reactors can be made as small as Dr. Moore says, can we expect to be zooming around in atomic automobiles in the future?
After the event, we also looked at some of the reaction from the blogs. Neil, who attended the event in Brussels, wrote a post on his blog criticising Patrick Moore for some of the figures he cited during the debate. We took this criticism to Dr. Moore, to see how he would respond.
Finally, we received a critical comment from Michael, who argues that “uranium mining in Europe has essentially stopped since more than 10 years. Where will the uranium for European nuclear power plants will come from?“
Lastly, we asked our partner, Gallup, to do some number-crunching for us using their Zetema sentiment-analysis tool. They conducted content analysis of English-language blog posts in the EU-27 (5,700 posts) and the US (1,600 posts) from January to December 2011 using the keyword “nuclear”. Their technology allowed them to see whether posts in Europe and the US had been reacting positively or negatively to nuclear energy during 2011. You can see the results below (the red line indicates positive or negative sentiment, the blue bars indicate the number of blog posts published in each month):
What do YOU think? Is nuclear technology safe enough to power cars, buses and trains? Should we have micro-nuclear reactors producing energy at the local level? Do we need real-time reporting on the status of nuclear reactors in Europe? And are we running out of uranium? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers for their reactions.