On June 11, 2011, tens of thousands of Japanese citizens took an unusual action in Tokyo: They held a demonstration. As the New York Times reported, the Japanese people have grown increasingly angry with their government and the large utility (TEPCO) responsible for the operation of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Japan is a well-ordered and conservative society that is not prone to outward demonstrations of public displeasure. That they were driven to this action is illustrative of the growing discontent. Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, TEPCO officials have admitted that radiation releases were much worse than previously reported and that three of the reactors have suffered a “melt-through,” where the fuel in the reactor has melted through the containment vessel. The situation is much worse than Chernobyl, and the world is still dealing with radiation fallout and exploding cancer rates from that incident 25 years ago. Recently, a senior political official in Japan told the Wall Street Journal that if Fukushima is not immediately dealt with, it could render the whole of Japan uninhabitable. Japan is home to 127 million human beings. This further cements nuclear energy’s legacy as the most expensive way in the universe to boil water.
President Barack Obama, within hours of the tsunami, reiterated our commitments to $36 billion in government loan guarantees for new nuclear development (the federal government must guarantee loans for construction, since no private funding arm in the world will accept the risk of default or accidents). This is in addition to the $18.5 billion already committed by President George W. Bush. This totals $54.5 billion earmarked for new construction, which would supply electricity to an estimated 4.67 million homes. He touted the safety and cleanliness of this source of energy and that it was necessary to help us meet our energy needs (while only comprising about 8% of current energy production). I found this to be rather irresponsible, since the disaster was still unfolding and almost nothing was known of the damage at the plant. I felt quite the opposite, that the disaster held the potential for humanity to turn away from nuclear energy and to move with determination to more sustainable, safe sources. At $54.5 billion dollars, this is a very cost-ineffective way to supply Americans with power. At $10,000 per household, we could put solar systems on top of 5.45 million homes—about 583,000 more than with nuclear power.
Pondering alternatives prompted me to remember an energy source that I once studied: tidal power. Roughly 70% of the world’s population lives within easy transmission distance of a coastline. We have unlimited available energy there if we take advantage of tidal fluctuations with tidal electrical generators.
Tidal power is viable and in place today. The first commercial system was established in La Rance, France, in 1966, generating 240 MW of electricity. Most systems are found in Europe, Canada, China and South Korea. Tidal power comes in several forms. Most commonly it consists of a string of turbines that are suspended in the water column in an ocean bay or estuary. These turbines are designed to have their blades rotate in both directions, and each direction generates an electrical current that is then taken into a relay system and sent onshore using cables. When the tide moves in, millions of gallons of water move through the turbines, generating electricity, just like hydroelectric dams. Then, when the tide turns and heads back out, the water begins moving the blades in the opposite direction, generating electricity again and sending it onshore.
As long as we have a moon in orbit, we have an unlimited supply of clean energy available. Initial limitations to the technology meant that you needed a specific topography to make the systems viable, like the Bay of Fundy in Canada, where the tidal shifts were drastic in the number of feet changed between high and low tide. Newer turbine technology and tidal generation arrays have made it more accessible. I’m confident that given the sorts of resources we throw at atomic and fossil fuel energy, we could engineer a system of these turbines that would not negatively impact local human life and wildlife and that would be effective at electrical generation, even in areas that have a small tidal height turnover.
The Koreans appear to lead the way in this technology with several systems in place and several more due to come online, including the proposed system at Incheon. Once completed, its projected generating output is 1320 MW, more than that of all but one nuclear reactor in operation today on earth.
There are many viable alternatives to fossil fuels and nukes, including potential technologies that are being suppressed (Nicola Tesla’s Tesla coil and wireless transmission, Peter Davey’s method of boiling water with sound, et cetera). The major obstacle appears to be that the corporations operating these units are making money (fully subsidized by taxpayers) and that they want to continue making money from them. My intuition tells me this is why the President came out so strongly in favor of nuclear energy before the water had even receded.
I believe that we are waking from our collective energy dream. We must demand a logical and safe alternative for energy that feeds both our light bulbs and our spirit. All that is needed is political and societal will. I believe that we can harness, with honor and gratitude, the healing power of the oceans to supply ourselves with inexhaustible, clean energy and that this can be done now.Matthew Ryan studied Environmental Science at Denison University in Ohio. Upon graduating he began an intense period of self-exploration that led him to live in Venice Beach, London, New York City and back to Venice. He now resides in Taos, New Mexico, with his wife and two children. Matthew’s purpose in life is to assist others through energetic healing and channeled readings. He believes that true authority in all matters originates with speaking your truth. He can be contacted at paradigmbuster [AT] gmail [DOT] com. Photo © Ian Balcombe, from the website Geograph.org.uk, and is used under a Creative Commons license.