Erich Schneider: ‘Nuclear power can help people around world have access to energy’

Nuclear engineer Erich Schneider responds to a question asked by a student from Cote d’Ivoire about the purpose of nuclear power.

A student from Africa had a question for scientists about nuclear energy.

Niezied: Greetings ladies and gentlemen. I’m Niezed from Cote d’Ivoire, and I’d like to know the purpose of developing nuclear programs.

Several countries around the world are now building or planning to build nuclear plants. To understand the purpose, EarthSky asked Erich Schneider in the Nuclear and Radiation Engineering program at the University of Texas. He spoke of energy as key to humanity’s future.

Erich Schneider: Everybody needs to have access to energy. It’s a fundamental need for humans to live good, long, productive, happy lives.

Schneider said, in Africa right now, fewer than 25% of people have reliable access to electricity. He said scientists are working toward smaller-scale power plants for small cities or towns, or even a cluster of villages. He said he’s not advocating for or against nuclear power, but that nuclear plants are safer now. The problem of radioactive waste disposal hasn’t gone away, but small amounts of uranium do provide a lot of energy.

Erich Schneider: In the case of coal, to supply me with electricity for one year, I would need enough coal to fill a small room. In the case of nuclear power, the uranium that I need is the size of a tablet of aspirin.

Schneider added that nuclear power has other advantages, too. For example, it doesn’t contribute to global warming.

Erich Schneider: Nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases. If we want to fight climate change, we can adopt nuclear power.

He said for Cote d’Ivoire to go from getting 80% of its energy from coal to 80% from nuclear might take several decades.

Our thanks to the Monsanto Fund, bridging the gap between people and their resources.

Our thanks to:
Erich Schneider
Nuclear and Radiation Program
University of Texas, Austin

Lindsay Patterson