A New Nuclear Age?

Sunday 1 November, 1.45pm until 3.15pm, Lecture Theatre 1

Nuclear energy is being embraced by some as the best solution for meeting rising power needs and respecting the environment. New nuclear plants are under construction in China, India and elsewhere, although in the UK and USA they remain on the drawing board. Across Europe the question of new nuclear plants has been put on the agenda and countries are considering reversing previous commitments to close their nuclear reactors.

People want green energy, but are worried about risks - from waste, proliferation and accidents. Nuclear’s potential is often overshadowed by its destructive history – from Hiroshima through to Chernobyl. But are governments too ambivalent today about nuclear to give it the support it needs to succeed? Although political opposition seems to have slackened, with leading environmentalists now voicing their support for nuclear energy as a response to climate change, other difficulties stand in the way: a lack of engineers, shortage of funds for investment and sundry barriers to development. The possibility of nuclear fusion – producing energy by joining atomic nuclei rather than splitting them – holds out the promise of cheap power without the waste produced by existing fission technology. Yet the promise of cheap clean energy has not been universally welcomed. Some argue that the dream of fusion is a mirage that encourages us to ignore the problems of climate change.

Is nuclear power a disaster waiting to happen or could it help create a more resilient energy system and bring energy to the developing world? What does the current climate of thinking on fusion research tell us about today’s attitudes to energy? Is the new nuclear age an exciting solution to energy challenges or a dangerous threat to the future of mankind and the planet?


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Paul Brown
journalist; fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge; author, Voodoo Economics and the Doomed Nuclear Renaissance

Malcolm Grimston
honorary senior research fellow, Imperial College Centre for Environmental Policy; author, The Paralysis in Energy Decision Making: European Energy Policy in Crisis

Dr Joe Kaplinsky
assistant professor, DTU Nanotech; co-author, Energise! A Future for Energy Innovation

Dr Alexandra Penn
life sciences interface research fellow, Science and Engineering of Natural Systems Group, University of Southampton

Dr Dominic Standish
author, Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality; lecturer, University of Iowa's CIMBA campus, Venice

Produced by
Alex Hochuli communications consultant, researcher and blogger based in São Paulo
Dr Dominic Standish author, Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality; lecturer, University of Iowa's CIMBA campus, Venice
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