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2012 Vol.1
Energies of the Future

2012/01/01

When assessing the characteristics of energy sources, it is appropriate to consider four factors, namely economic efficiency, safety, stability, and environmental friendliness. Among them, stability involves the three aspects of resource stability, supply stability, and output stability. In this context, fossil fuel, which is limited in quantity and causes environmental problems such as CO2 emission, needs to be gradually replaced by other types of energy sources, that is, renewable energy sources and nuclear power. However, there are also problems associated with these other types of energy sources.
Renewable energy sources, which are flow-type energy sources, involve few resource problems and are environmentally clean, but their disadvantages include high costs and high output variability. Converted into cost, the latter disadvantage is rather great, despite various efforts being made to curb it. Issues with nuclear power include the production of radioactive waste and the possibility of causing serious problems as seen in the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. After relevant problems are converted into cost, however, the cost of nuclear power generation is roughly the same as that of fossilfuel- fired power generation. Moreover, the fact that nuclear power generation does not emit CO2 is a great advantage. Currently, Japan’s CO2 emission would increase by 20% without the nuclear power plants, underlining the importance of their role. Clearly considerable efforts should be made to improve the safety of nuclear power generation because the country will need to maintain some level of nuclear power generation.
As for the long-term future, it is hoped that new energy sources will emerge that can solve the present problems associated with renewable energy sources and nuclear power. New technologies involving nuclear fusion, space solar power generation, and solar thermal power generation seem promising in that regard.

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