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Thread: Nuclear power

  1. #1
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    Nuclear power

    My parents were very sceptical of nuclear power. I vividly remember watching the burning Chernobyl reactor on TV thinking that tens of thousands of people would die. I saw a firefighter running past a broken graphite block with a large hole drilled through it and realized with horror that a fuel assembly used to be inside that hole.

    I studied various natural sciences, and discovered that radiation is less dangerous than most people think. I also realized that nuclear plants, even though many of them are very old and unsafe by modern standards, only extremely rarely blow up, and that the Chernobyl reactor was a very peculiar and dangerous design that no one but the Russians would dream of building.

    In 2005 I learned that very few people actually died from the Chernobyl disaster even though the whole reactor core had blown apart and done a very good job of distributing itself across the landscape and into the air. Only thyroid cancer has had a detectable increase, and that could have been avoided by distributing iodine tablets immediately. This study was conducted by the IAEA, the UN and WHO. You can't find much more respectable institutions than those.

    I discovered to what extent the negative aspects of nuclear power are exaggerated when I read The nuclear energy option by Bernard L. Cohen.

    At the same time, global warming has become steadily worse, and renewables, despite intense effort, has not really helped much at all so far. The only zero emission energy that can even be seen on a pie chart is nuclear and hydro. Look at the charts in this article. We just don't have any more time to waste. A steady stream of previously anti-nuclear environmentalists are coming to the same conclusion.

    The last couple of weeks I have been reading up on fast reactors and the IFR, which seem to have a realistic chance of providing us with safe, inexpensive energy that will never run out.

    Nuclear energy at least deserves its own thread at TMC
    Last edited by eledille; 2012-04-02 at 02:54 PM.

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    Model S 03182 ElSupreme's Avatar
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    I too am a big supporter of nuclear energy. I have always found it odd that the environmental people rally against it. It is probably the LEAST damaging to the environment of all power schemes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ElSupreme View Post
    ..I have always found it odd that the environmental people rally against it. It is probably the LEAST damaging to the environment of all power schemes.
    Mighty broad brush you are using there
    Waste product from coal plants can be more radioactive than nuclear plant waste. I really wish the media would pay more attention to those hazards and the damage they do. This is a start at least: A power plant, cancer and a small town's fears - CNN.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zythryn View Post
    Mighty broad brush you are using there
    Waste product from coal plants can be more radioactive than nuclear plant waste. I really wish the media would pay more attention to those hazards and the damage they do. This is a start at least: A power plant, cancer and a small town's fears - CNN.com
    And nobody wants to start talking about all those chemicals that go up through the chimney. According to B. L. Cohen the number of premature deaths due to air pollution from coal is around 50 000 per year for the US alone. Another example is that Norwegian freshwater fish contains so much mercury primarily from UK coal emissions that we can scarcely eat it anymore.

    It now turns out that Japanese radiation hysteria has killed 573 people so far due to the much larger than needed evacuation. A suggestion to how this could have been handled more rationally can be found here.
    Last edited by eledille; 2012-04-02 at 11:10 PM.

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    S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13 jerry33's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElSupreme View Post
    I too am a big supporter of nuclear energy.
    +2 So am I. There are some thoughtful articles at brave new climate.
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    Model Sig 304, VIN 542 Arnold Panz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElSupreme View Post
    I too am a big supporter of nuclear energy. I have always found it odd that the environmental people rally against it. It is probably the LEAST damaging to the environment of all power schemes.
    I think it's partially a generational thing -- people in the US who fought the "no nukes" fight in the 60s/70s and remember Three Mile Island (or saw Silkwood), are instinctively opposed to nuclear energy. Many environmental groups and environmentalists come out of these battles from years ago, and therefore seem unusually hostile to nuclear energy relative to its environmental damage as compared to burning fossil fuels.

    I think they're also somewhat rightly concerned that nuclear shouldn't be a substitute for seeking sustainable energy from wind/solar/hydro. Nuclear can be an excellent bridge source of energy until we can harness those others, but given how long it might take before we're using solar and wind for our energy needs, nuclear would be a far better option in the near and medium term than continued burning of fossil fuels.

    I'd also point out that no nuclear plant has been built in the US in decades, and yet they would be much safer now than during their heyday in the 70s when they were being built. A real shame that we can't get this one right.

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    Roadster 537, Sig P85 ggr's Avatar
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    I think the most realistic worry around nuclear power is disposal of radioactive waste, but with cheap power and reusable rockets (SpaceX) we could dispose of radioactive waste by shooting it into the sun...

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    Model S 03182 ElSupreme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arnold Panz View Post
    I think it's partially a generational thing -- people in the US who fought the "no nukes" fight in the 60s/70s and remember Three Mile Island (or saw Silkwood), are instinctively opposed to nuclear energy. Many environmental groups and environmentalists come out of these battles from years ago, and therefore seem unusually hostile to nuclear energy relative to its environmental damage as compared to burning fossil fuels.

    I think they're also somewhat rightly concerned that nuclear shouldn't be a substitute for seeking sustainable energy from wind/solar/hydro. Nuclear can be an excellent bridge source of energy until we can harness those others, but given how long it might take before we're using solar and wind for our energy needs, nuclear would be a far better option in the near and medium term than continued burning of fossil fuels.

    I'd also point out that no nuclear plant has been built in the US in decades, and yet they would be much safer now than during their heyday in the 70s when they were being built. A real shame that we can't get this one right.
    Well I am paying for these on my power bill. Hoping these catch on ... or something similar.
    Vogtle Electric Generating Plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I am all for rooftop PV solar, I honestly don't know why there are not HUGE incentives for every new roof to be solar. This is truly free energy, it lowers cooling loads and produces electricity at the same time. I am supportive of Hydro and wind but I believe done responsibly nuclear would have similar impact. And not to mention the added waste heat that nuclear provides could be used for desalination or municipality heating purposes in norther climates.

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    Model S VIN P01536 Robert.Boston's Avatar
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    The biggest barrier to building new nukes is the uncertainty about regulation -- what standards will be applied for design and construction? where can the waste go? how many times will my application be held up and reevaluated? DOE tried valiantly to streamline the regulations, but it's not clear that you can pin down something that opponents want to make a constantly moving target.

    (This is from my perspective as someone whose team is working/has worked on regulatory approvals for Vogtle, Indian Point, Calvert Cliffs, and South Texas.)

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    I don't think it's just about that. I think that there are also subtleties in the various forms of nuclear power that are important but also very hard to teach the roving public about. A lot of this goes back to the lack of basic science education in enough of America - thus, a country which has enough brilliant people to make nuclear work safely also has a whole segment of the population that thinks vaccines cause autism and thinks teaching creationism in schools as science is acceptable (!?!) can't make progress towards having a viable source of baseline power.

    Even worse, if it weren't for the continuous and valiant effort of a few people, the long-term arc towards viable fission power would already have died - but it's still very much at risk because the public simply can't think through the risk/reward of a 30 year bet.


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