A selection of three essential articles read aloud from the latest issue of The Economist. This week, a new nuclear era, what America’s next recession will look like (10:15), and why you shouldn’t bring your whole self to work (31:40).
For some, nuclear power may conjure images of mushroom clouds or bring back memories of disturbing nuclear disasters like Chernobyle and Fukushima. But despite public fear around nuclear power, the technology has proved to be an emission-free, reliable way to produce large amounts of electricity on a small footprint.
As a result, sentiments about the technology are beginning to change. Both the U.S. government and private companies including X Energy, NuScale and, Bill Gates-backed, TerraPower are pouring money into developing, what they say will be smaller, safer nuclear reactors. CNBC visited Idaho National Laboratory to see the Marvel microreactor firsthand and learn what such developments could mean for the future of nuclear power.
After humankind discovered nuclear fission, the first applied use was the atomic bomb. The study of fission for electricity production came later. In December 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his fateful Atoms for Peace speech, an impassioned plea to reconstitute the power of the atomic bombs dropped in World War II for a more noble cause.
“Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United States does not wish merely to present strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace,” Eisenhower told the United Nations. Almost 70 years later, the tension between those end uses still underlies the space today. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States dramatically increased its nuclear energy generation.
But the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and Chornobyl meltdown in 1986 changed the landscape, spurring fear that nuclear energy could not be controlled safely. Since the 1980s, nuclear energy capacity and generation in the U.S. has largely stayed flat. Today, the country’s fleet of nuclear power reactors produces only 19% of the country’s electricity, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration.
In more recent times, the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in 2011 — and earlier this year the capture of nuclear power plants in Ukraine by invading Russian forces — have added to public concerns. But despite its fraught origin story and the psychological effect of high-profile accidents, nuclear energy is getting a second look. That’s largely because nuclear energy is clean energy, releasing no greenhouse gasses.
Meanwhile, the world is seeing more of the effects of climate change, including rising global temperatures, increased pollution, wildfires, and more intense and deadly storms. “We need to change course — now — and end our senseless and suicidal war against nature,” Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in Stockholm on Thursday. “There is one thing that threatens all our progress. The climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet,” Guterres said. “Scientists recently reported that there is a 50-50 chance that we could temporarily breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years.”
This year, events are taking place across the country to celebrate the 1,900th anniversary of the construction of Hadrian’s Wall (the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that this most-famous Roman landmark has also featured, in some capacity, in every issue of CA since January).
This month our cover story considers whether the Romans too may have commemorated the Wall’s construction – and we also have an opinion piece asking how sure we can be about its date.
From monumental stonework to modern quarrying, we next head to Bedfordshire to learn about archaeological investigations at Black Cat Quarry, carried out before extraction works began on the site. There, excavations have revealed an impressive multi-period landscape, including Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements, a significant Roman farmstead, and what may be the remains of a Viking ‘fort’ referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Boris Johnson survives a confidence vote – but at what price? Plus: Putin’s threats over Western weapon deliveries to Ukraine, a flick through today’s papers and a special update from the 2022 edition of Salone del Mobile.
Soldiers desperate for advanced arms to match their Russian enemies have resorted to Google Translate to decipher the instructions for their sophisticated new tools.