Fusing politics and science for clean energy

It turns out there may be another piece of the clean energy puzzle that we may be leaving out. Nuclear energy has a lot of political baggage attached to it, both good and bad, but one UW professor thinks nuclear fusion may be the clean energy fix we’ve been searching for.

On April 24, Jackson School professor Scott Montgomery addressed an audience in Kane Hall, attempting to debunk myths and clarify intricacies in the geopolitical topic of energy sourcing. He argued that we may need to consider nuclear fusion more seriously than we have in the past.

Montgomery began his talk by acknowledging the fact that the contemporary discussion of energy sourcing is highly politicized. The 1970 oil crisis strongly alerted U.S. politicians to the risk of depending on other nations for oil exports, prompting a societal discussion about the importance of decreasing our national dependence on oil that persists into the present.

He also outlined what he considers distinct energy “eras,” with our current era defined by the emerging presence of Asia as an oil exporter, with China leading attempts to improve the efficiency of energy use. Montgomery considers nuclear fusion to be a dependable and promising energy source to satisfy both political and environmentalist motivations for moving away from fossil fuel-based energy sources.

Contrasting nuclear energy with renewable sources, Montgomery posits that U.S. policies to subsidize the development of the renewable energy industry may have created an overemphasis on renewables when nuclear should have received support instead. To Montgomery, renewables like wind and solar, which many have heralded as the energy of the future, “will not power countries.”

“The fuel used for fission is extremely abundant,” Montgomery wrote in a recent piece for The Conversation. “The same goes for fusion, but without any long-lived dangerous waste.”

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