Nuclear Energy versus alternative sources
Which human activity is the most harmful to the environment and the most negatively affecting the climate? This was one of the issues discussed by the guests of the discussion organised during the third day of the Science Film Festival dedicated to the issue of Ecological Energy. Firstly, participants watched documentary films from the cycle Spectrum of Science: Sun, Hay and… Energy, and Fear of Radioactive Radiation. In the subsequent discussion, they listened to the opinions of prof. Ing. Vladimír Slugeň, DrSc. from the Institute of Nuclear and Physical Engineering of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, prof. Ing. Ľubomír Šooš, PhD., director of the Institute of manufacturing systems, environmental technology and quality management of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, and RNDr. Pavol Faška, PhD. From the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute in Bratislava.
RNDr. Pavol Faško, PhD. said that the world has realised the fact that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming and climate change. “When looking at alternative energy sources, nuclear power is really a very good alternative source. If used securely, it can really be a mean of achieving what has been discussed at meetings related to stopping global warming in recent years. At these meetings, limits are being set, whereas specific countries commit to limiting their carbon dioxide production to a certain level. Therefore, if we want to achieve these limits, we will have to look for other sources of energy. Nuclear energy is exactly such source of energy.”
The expert from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute is convinced that if everything is done according to safety measures, then this is the way to solve this problem. “Of course, there is also some kind of aversion of the common population. E.g. Austria, which is very strongly opposed to nuclear power plants and regularly reminds its neighbouring countries about having nuclear power plants in proximity to its borders. However, this country will not be some kind of an island. Due to increasing demands for electricity consumption, they will also have to look for resources that are not only renewable, i.e. sources from hydro-electric power plants. They very often appeal to it. It is indeed an Alpine country where these resources exist and can be utilised, but they will not suffice.”
Concerning this issue, Prof. Ing. Ľubomír Šooš, PhD. said that it must be remembered that renewable sources, whether we like it or not, are still only auxiliary source of energy. “Water energy (or water capacity), which is mainly coming from the Váh river, is practically exhausted. It is no longer possible to build new run-of-river power plants within the cascade of the Váh river, even though it is the cleanest energy. As I said, we certainly cannot function without nuclear energy, but with auxiliary sources. The 20-20 Strategy says that we should have around 20% of energy coming from renewables by 2020. Slovakia is an agrarian state, e.g. 90% of our territory is covered by forests and agricultural land, so we really have a relatively large biomass potential. Biomass is a waste energy source that originates both from timber harvesting, in agricultural crops harvesting or from the processing of agricultural crops.”
The professor from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava pointed out that we actually have around 15%-20% of energy capacity coming from the renewable energy sources. “So again, it is a supplementary source. Clean energy is, for example, wood briquettes. In this case, there is no problem. The European Union is already talking about pellets, again from a pure wood, which have recently started to be very popular. The European Union is currently burning 30 million tons of pellets per year. Are you asking why is that so, when this activity also emits CO2? Well, this material is 'CO2 neutral', because while growing, it consumes an equal amount of CO2 as it releases into the environment during the burning. So theoretically speaking, if we would only burn biomass, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air would practically not increase.”
He noted that as a part of the construction work, we were one of the first in Europe and designed a pellet press. Today, it is being manufactured all over the world, but not in Slovakia. “Nowadays, there is little clean waste from wood. About 68 to 70 companies in Slovakia export more than 95% of these die pressings. Today, we are also engaged in the energy recovery of other organic wastes in Slovakia.” He presented to participants a product made from Tsetse fly – or more precisely the waste from Tsetse fly. “Tsetse fly is characterised by the fact that a female eats a male once he fertilises her. We came with an idea to produce infertile males. In cooperation with the Slovak Academy of Sciences, we have found out that we can distinguish which of the eggs are fertile or infertile males, and which are larvae of the female. All this is killed and what is left are eggs of infertile males. They are removed and infertile male 'fertilises' a female. Because she thinks she has been fertilised, she eats the male. Therefore, this is a simple biological way.”
Another important research work of his team has been pelleting larvae from California worm. “The enzyme that is obtained from these worms is of the highest quality. In Nitra, these larvae are being grown on about five hectares. The enzyme is extracted and what you buy in shop – those differently coloured pellets (one package of five pellets costs about 5 euros) – is the waste that remains after extracting the enzymes. So much about what can technologies and new energy sources be used for.”
After that, the audience asked a question why is the wind energy not used in Slovakia as much as in Austria. Prof. Ing. Vladimír Slugeň, DrSc. said that we used to have four wind power plants in Slovakia. “We sold them to Romania, because they were uneconomic. Therefore, at present, we don´t have a single wind power plant. Why does Austria have so many and we don´t? It is a political decision about benefits and subsidies. We don´t have laws like they have in Austria, which say that wind power plants will be integrated into the grid first before everything else. So, we don´t have this right of preferential grid integration. There is such a big distortion that you cannot compete with it. Maybe someone likes the wind turbines in Austria, but it is not economically viable to have them in Slovakia. Well, and somebody has to pay for it eventually.”
You can watch both movies from the Science Spectrum cycle on the YouTube channel of the SCSTI.
In the evening of 31 May 2017, visitors of the festival could see a final screening of the documentary film The Story of a Forest with the secondary-title Wildlife Nature from the First Hand. Thanks to the unique filmmaking methods, the creators have been able to authentically retell the story of the forest from the Ice Age to the present and capture the exciting circle of life in it. The subject has caught the interest of the audience and many questions were raised during the discussion. These questions and statements were often contradictory, thus offering a very diverse view of the issue.
The aim of the Science Film Festival is to point out interesting popular science films and TV programmes that bring science – as an attractive, dynamic and constantly evolving area – closer to a wide and diverse audience. The Science Film Festival presents fascinating topics from the fields of natural, technical or human sciences and also responds to the latest state of the art and trends at home as well as abroad.
Edited by: Slávka Habrmanová, NCP S&T at the SCSTI
Expert guarantors: prof. Ing. Vladimír Slugeň, DrSc., prof. Ing. Ľubomír Šooš, PhD. and RNDr. Pavol Faško, PhD.
Photo: SFF 2017
Illustrative photo: Pixabay.com
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