Nuclear Power - A Fear That We Need To Get Over
I agree with almost everything in this excellent article but want to focus a bit on why nuclear power has been left out of the equation for 30 years. In a word, it boils down to fear--fear that we can't dispose of the waste properly and fear that the plant next door will melt down. But these fears are unfounded, and the United States no longer has the luxury of ignoring nuclear power as a, perhaps the most, viable alternative to fossil fuels. Consider: The US currently generates 20% of it's electricity from nuclear and 60% from coal. Burning the latter releases 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air (10% of global emissions). If that ration were reversed, the United States could meet the Kyoto limits with no further action.
Nuclear waste is also not as serious a problem as most people think. Though the US has shown reluctance to deal with the issue, we do know what to do. First, most spent fuel can be reprocessed and used again as 95% of it's energy is still locked up inside. Second, 40 years after being extracted from a reactor, spent nuclear fuel has only 1/1000 of its original radioactivity.
The only nuclear plant accident to happen in the US, Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island, was completely contained by a reactor design that did exactly what it was supposed to do. Chernobyl, arguably the worst nuclear and environmental disaster in history, was a very different situation. There a criminally faulty plant design contributed to a situation where poorly trained operators practically blew up their own reactor. But even with all of the deaths from Chernobyl the toll doesn't approach the number of people who have died in 170 years of coal mining and doesn't approach the number dioxin related deaths from burning coal and cracking petroleum.
Unfortunately, even if the United States where to begin constructing new nuclear power stations today, it would be 20 years before we'd see a major shift in our power generating mix. That's not a reason to delay. We must not delay! We don't have an alternative, but it's not the only step we should take.
Fusion as opposed to Fission I think is a better way to go.
They (several countries) were supposed to be building a giant Tokamak but they have been fighint on where to build it (Japan or France).
It's really too bad because if successful a fusion tokamak could power a large part of the world.
But there in lies the rub...He who controls the Tokamak has considerable political influence over the world...Hence the fighting and stalled projects.
For more info, see Nuclear Fusion: Powering The World by 2015?
"Rad Decision" is available online at no cost to readers at RadDecision.blogspot.com - - and they seem to like it, judging from the reviews they're leaving at the homepage. There's nothing else like it out there.
20+ years in the nuclear industry.
"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand.
"Very nice, good pace. The tech was good but not overwhelming." - a reader.
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The big problem is, US investment groups won't touch alternative energy projects. Wind, bio gas, hydrogen farms etc are well proven, but cabn't go anywhere without financial backing.
BTW: Do you eat chocolate frogs?
PoliS...Agreed, but depending on whom you're talking to, cost effective fusion power is either 20 years away or 100 years away.
Are you stark raving mad? Or is it just too much easter chocolate?
Cartledge, not mad at all. In fact, I'm a huge proponent of alternative energy sources, as evidenced by the addendum that I wrote to this post. But even massive deployment of wind, solar, hydro, and wave won't deliver the continuous electricity loads required by the US grid. Most experts have predicted that in 30 years time we could deploy enough alternative sources to take on about 15 to 20 percent of our requirments, and I'm all over that. But what about the other 45% that would still be generated with coal? There has got to be an alternative that doesn't dump 1.5 billion tons of CO2 into our atmosphere, and that's nothing compared to what's going to be happening in China in 30 years time. Nuclear is it.
BTW...chocolate flies for me! :-) [smack]
On the other hand, I did think that there wasn't any solution to the nuclear waste problem and that seems not to be the case. That's an important consideration. I still wouldn't want to live near one, even if there was a way out.
And NONE of them, even combined, will come anywhere close to supplying US energy needs because A) we're such a huge economy, even if Red China owns it all now and B) we are serious energy pigs. My main problem with nuclear power is putting in the hands of for-profit utility companies. In Texas, those bastards just got the law changed so they can, literally, allow the poor and elderly to die from lack of air conditioning without having to lift a finger to help them. They are, in the immortal words of the late, great Mickey Leland, "Evil mother f*ckers!"
In reality it is 'huge energy consumers'.
While I agree with the basics arguments of my chocolate fly eating friend, I quiver at the thought of such awesome power in the hands of incompetent corporations.
But hey! At best I've shot my half life long ago. Decay is well underway and I doubt I will ever see the consequences of the probable distaters.
I'm thinking next time I might come back as Jeramiah...
Ramsey Clark as drafted an International appeal to Ban the use of DU weapons. If anyone would like to read they why's and wherefor's the link is here:
And to quote from an article on nuclear waste:"High Level Waste(HLW) is highly radioactive material from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. HLW includes spent nuclear fuel, liquid waste, and solid waste derived from the liquid. HLW contains elements that decay slowly and remain radioactive for hundreds or thousands of years. HLW must be handled by remote-control from behind protective shielding to protect workers." So..if you can only handle it behind protective shielding..its gotta be pretty nasty stuff in my POV.
Reprocessing for use as fuel for nuclear power generation, as I understand it, is re-enrichment without the chemical process and only to a "low-level" 4% or so unlike the 90% required for a nuclear weapon. The reason enrichment was banned in the first place was to address nuclear weapons proliferation.
Could someone more knowledge than I comment? I might be wrong about whether there is a HLW byproduct of fuel-to-fuel reprocessing.
The waste will be at 1/1000 of its radioactivity after 40 years in storage, and will also be in a solid form, which despite the shielding is relatively safe as there are no radioactive gases or liquids involved. It is also worth bearng in mind that In terms of power output, the energy produced from a store of 3000 tonnes of fissile material can produce over 1 million MW power. When compared to a fossil fuel reactor, this is three orders of magnitude larger output per tonne of fuel.