Why I Can’t Stand Edwards

Crap like this:

One more point about the Democratic debate in Las Vegas last night, specifically relating to the discussion of plans to turn Nevada’s Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste repository. Obama, Clinton, and Edwards each stated their unequivocal opposition to this plan, arguing that science has already shown it to be unsafe. While even this point is highly contentious, what followed was even more problematic.

Edwards took time to clarify that he was the only one of the three to outright oppose nuclear energy. Considering Edwards’s positions on global warming, energy independence, and “Big Oil”, it is baffling that he would dismiss nuclear energy out of hand. As it stands, nuclear power is the only environmentally friendly, economic, and efficient source of energy that can help the U.S. wean itself off foreign oil. Solar and wind will never meet our demand, and bio-fuels are still years–if not decades–away from becoming viable.

And I will say it again, even though it always rankles people. Three Mile Island was a success. It was not Chernobyl. It was not nuclear armageddon. No, that does not mean I am pining for meltdowns everywhere, but I think some perspective is necessary. While it damaged the reputation of the nuclear industry, no one was hurt. No radiation sickness. No spikes in cancer rates. It was a disaster, but it was a success.

Excluding nuclear energy from the possible ways to fulfill our energy needs in the future immediately makes you an unserious person, in my book.

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148 replies
  1. 1
    Jake says:

    It was a disaster, but it was a success.

    I think you’ve just written the Republican Epitaph for the Iraq War.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    Edwards gets the same electric power i do: from the clean-burning Progress Energy Sharon Harris Nuclear Power Plant. if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for a downtown fancy pants like Edwards.

  3. 3
    merciless says:

    I’m against building more nuclear power plants until we figure out what to do with the nuclear waste we already have. We have tons of the stuff, sitting in barrels in parking lots and in pits at Hanford, INEL, all over the place. And this stuff never goes away.

    So in my book, the real problem is being pro-nuclear power and anti-Yucca mountain.

    I’m not saying Yucca mountain is perfect, or even great. But it’s a whole lot better than what we have now, which is nothing.

  4. 4
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    I can’t understand the phobia about nuclear. Yes there are other technologies; Fusion, for instance, has been “just around the corner” for twelve years, but they all have their own drawbacks.

    Yes, nuclear waste is dangerous and long-lived. So is having the ice caps melt. We can mitigate the dangers posed by nuclear waste, melted icecaps not so much.

    If anything, nuclear can be a bridge while we figure out something better.

  5. 5
    Zifnab says:

    Three Mile Island was us getting lucky. I’ve got no problem with safe, competent nuclear energy, John. But that implies we have safe, competent companies under responsible governmental regulation.

    Take a look at the coal miner deaths we’ve seen in the last year or two. You freak’n live in West Virginia. This should be a no-brainer. Now take the Bush Admin’s careful and prudent oversight of the coal industry and give it to the nuclear power industry. Three Mile Island wasn’t a Chernobyl, but Chernobyl sure as hell was. If we had nuclear plants run by the same guys who oversaw our coal mining and our subprime lending and our Bagdad Embassy Construction, I would not be surprised to find out I glow in the dark.

    As for this:

    As it stands, nuclear power is the only environmentally friendly, economic, and efficient source of energy that can help the U.S. wean itself off foreign oil. Solar and wind will never meet our demand, and bio-fuels are still years—if not decades—away from becoming viable.

    I’ve got one response to that. Nanosolar. Solar power that is coal cheap. We’ve been getting sold a bad deal on hydrogen power and “clean coal”, nuclear energy and free Iraq pony oil. All the while, solar has squeeked by at the University level. Now the industry is primed to take off, so why are we still messing with 50s-era dinosaur technology? Screw nuclear. We’ve got better options.

  6. 6
    Delia says:

    One thing no one ever mentions in talking about nuclear energy is the process of obtaining uranium. Mining uranium is extremely hazardous to the health and well-being of the miners, even more so than mining for more conventional substances, since it leaves them with radiation-caused health problems. It also leaves the land and surrounding water sources poisoned by radiation and heavy metals for, like, forever. It also takes a great deal of fossil fuel to carry out the whole operation. The Indians of the Four Corners area are currently engaged in litigation to prevent a return to uranium mining in their area, which would poison their only water sources for all time.

    Ditto for the process of refining raw uranium ore (which is U238) to fissile uranium (U235). This doesn’t just happen. It’s a long, complicated, hazardous, energy-intensive process. People are only focused on the problems of cleaning up the mess after we extract the energy and seem to assume all we have to do is pick the usable uranium up off the ground. But there are intractable problems on both ends.

    Other than that, it’s a great energy source.

  7. 7
    ThymeZone says:

    Excluding nuclear energy from the possible ways to fulfill our energy needs in the future immediately makes you an unserious person, in my book.

    Agreed. But ….

    Three Mile Island was a success.

    Aside from the fact that only a major shareholder in nuclear power stocks would actually think such a thing …. no.

    And I know what you meant, you meant that even though they fucked up the drill and damaged the plant, nobody got hurt and there was no damage to the surrounding area.

    But that’s not a success, that’s called dodging a bullet. The lesson from that wasn’t that the basic design was bad, in that it worked and prevented disaster … the lesson was that the people who built and ran the thing made assumptions about the maintenance and operation of the plant that resulted in a colossal fuckup that could have been entirely prevented had anyone cared to take the time to do so.

    So, that particular fuckup didn’t kill anybody in the nearby down. Hooray. But the problem is, they fucked up, big time, and got away with it.

    That’s not a success in my book. It’s not the concept of nuclear power that worries me, it’s the people who run the things and take care of them that worry me. Are they up to the level of safety that we want?

    I seriously doubt it. I have worked, let’s say, up against the edge of that industry, and all I can say is, I wouldn’t bet my life on them. No way, Jose.

  8. 8
    Robert Johnston says:

    Nuclear power scares people because it can kill a whole lot of people in one great big cataclysmic incident. Never mind that in the long run it kills fewer and otherwise harms far fewer people than coal and oil based power.

    People, as a general rule, overreact to spectacular events, forgetting that probability matters. That’s why we spend $100,000,000,000+/yr in Iraq (never mind that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11) and next to nothing comparatively improving highway safety, even though a lot more Americans are endangered and killed by traffic accidents than by terrorism. It’s why people can get away with using the ticking bomb scenario as a justification for torture. We’re a society of statistical illiterates, and an undue reluctance to use nuclear power is one of the results.

  9. 9
    myiq2xu says:

    At least he’s not proposing to burn biofuels produced by his Magical Unity Pony

  10. 10
    ThymeZone says:

    And …. you “can’t stand Edwards” because he doesn’t agree with your particular view on nuclear power?

    Wow. Thanks for the non-unserious commentary.

    When I look at most of the feeble monkeys who ran for president this cycle, and see a guy whose main shortcoming is that he is a luddite on nuclear energy … compared to the fucking lunkheads on the GOP side especially …

  11. 11
    John S. says:

    Say what you want about Edwards, but at least he isn’t a terrorist.

    The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

    Oh the delicious irony. All that talk about Democrats being in league with the enemy and the first lawmaker (I think) to be indicted for actually aiding terrorists is a Republican.

  12. 12
    John Cole says:

    And …. you “can’t stand Edwards” because he doesn’t agree with your particular view on nuclear power?

    Wow. Thanks for the non-unserious commentary.

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

  13. 13
    Delia says:

    Oh, and here’s a link to more information. Sorry, my computers are hostile to John’s nifty embeds. Or maybe it’s comcast.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/57530/

  14. 14
    Bombadil says:

    I was going to post a long-winded rant here (surprise, surprise), but fortunately I read the comments first.

    Put me down with merciless, Zifnab and ThymeZone on this one. They made all my points, and better than I would have.

  15. 15
    myiq2xu says:

    Now take the Bush Admin’s careful and prudent oversight of the coal industry and give it to the nuclear power industry.

    Here’s how you guarantee diligent oversight – make the fucking inspectors and their bosses live next door to the nuke plants.

  16. 16
    Delia says:

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

    And which one of the candidates wasn’t pandering to NV voters on that one?

  17. 17
    John Cole says:

    And I know what you meant, you meant that even though they fucked up the drill and damaged the plant, nobody got hurt and there was no damage to the surrounding area.

    But that’s not a success, that’s called dodging a bullet.

    Sure, but when you are in a head-on in your volvo and walk away unscathed but the car totalled, you also dodged a bullet. But it was a success. You don’t go around trying to wreck your car, but if you are going to, that is how you want it to happen.

  18. 18
    Thom says:

    John, it would be a compelling argument but for one point:

    As it stands, nuclear power is the only environmentally friendly…

    It shouldn’t need explaining how foolish and wrong that is, and given that the argument is lost.

    And what logic allows you to use Three Mile Island but write off Chernobyl as a joke? Because Americans would never be so incompetent as those Commies? Really?

  19. 19
    myiq2xu says:

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

    So is Yucca Mountain, so maybe that issue is important to the people of Nevada?

    When should he talk about it? While he’s in Hawaii? When they’re in Michigan they talk about the auto industry, when they’re in Iowa, they talk about corn and pigs.

  20. 20
    Andrew says:

    Inexpensive nuclear power also requires a lot of water, something that we’re currently lacking in, here in the Southeastern U.S.

    Air cooled designs still need expensive certification and ocean based sites need a lot of expensive land.

    Anyhoo, we should just tax carbon and let the market figure it out.

  21. 21
    Scotty says:

    If France can do it, we can do it 10 times better.

  22. 22
    Tim (the other one) says:

    If the same guys who built the bridge that collapsed in Minn. are going to be building the nuclear power plants or waste storage facilities, we need to talk.

  23. 23
    Ninerdave says:

    Oh, and here’s a link to more information. Sorry, my computers are hostile to John’s nifty embeds. Or maybe it’s comcast.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/57530/

    A list of talking points from a left wing website. Great way to make your argument.

  24. 24
    Zifnab says:

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

    Yeah. Stupid Nevadans. How dare they oppose a nuclear waste dump in their state? They’ve got some nerve, and the candidates have real gaul in supporting them. Next thing you know, people are going to start demanding clean air and drinkable water. Quality health care. Let the panderfest begin.

  25. 25
    4tehlulz says:

    Because Americans would never be so incompetent as those Commies? Really?

    I’d say not using a containment vessel counts as incompetent.

  26. 26
    Elvis Elvisberg says:

    I agree, 100%, with John and Robert Johnson on the policy here.

    But this isn’t a disqualifier for Edwards, to me.

  27. 27
    Zifnab says:

    Sure, but when you are in a head-on in your volvo and walk away unscathed but the car totalled, you also dodged a bullet. But it was a success. You don’t go around trying to wreck your car, but if you are going to, that is how you want it to happen.

    If the brakes go out on my Volvo, I skid off the road into a tree, my airbag deploys, and I’m not instantly killed, I don’t call that a success. Nor do I run out and buy a new Volvo.

  28. 28
    Mike W says:

    It also leaves the land and surrounding water sources poisoned by radiation and heavy metals for, like, forever.

    Like, forever is a long time!

    Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t removing this “poison” from the ground only help the situationfor the surrounding land and water? If I had cancer and somebody removed it, I’d be pretty happy!

  29. 29
    myiq2xu says:

    They’ve got some nerve, and the candidates have real gaul in supporting them.

    They are descended from Germanic tribes?

  30. 30
    ThymeZone says:

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

    Sorry, no sale. If the guy is not a nuke fan, and is smart enough to say so in a state where the subject is very very touchy (Nevada, nuclear waste, nuclear tests, etc etc) then I think it’s smart politics.

    I don’t get you sometimes. I’m pretty sure Edwards would not take on an anti-nuke position just to garner the few delegates from a Nevada primary. He appears to be against the technology and was talking to people in a region where nuclear isn’t a positive thing. So what?

    John Edwards said he does not favor nuclear energy during Monday night’s debate, citing cost, time, and waste management concerns. His answer seemed eerily similar to the Bush administration, where policies were formed around pre-conceived opinions instead of letting science lead the way.

    That’s an account of a July debate …. he didn’t invent the position for Nevada.

  31. 31
    Jake says:

    No, because it is typical of his pandering bullshit. They were in Nevada, TZ.

    John’s List of Candidate Don’ts:
    No calculating.
    No pandering.
    No pontificating.

    McCain 2008!

  32. 32
    John Cole says:

    That’s an account of a July debate …. he didn’t invent the position for Nevada.

    I was wrong then about him, he is wrong about nuclear, and I still don’t like him.

    /sullivan

  33. 33
    Zifnab says:

    They’ve got some nerve, and the candidates have real gaul in supporting them.

    They are descended from Germanic tribes?

    My spelling is fail.

  34. 34

    John:

    I met the guy who was in charge of the cleanup at TMI at a party. We were both well-lubricated with frosty adult beverages at the time, as it was still my drinking days back then. He was certainly more lubricated than me. Friction-free, almost. I asked him a lot of questions and learned that in vino, there truly is veritas.

    TMI was a LOT worse than we were ever told. A hell of a lot worse. We came very, very close to quite the disaster there. More than we were ever told, because the spinmeisters were some of the first people in the door and the government had a very vested interest in keeping that situation tamped down.

    Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not discounting nuclear energy out of hand. But there were more than a few cautionary tales in that guy’s story. Enough so he brought that party to a silent standstill.

  35. 35
    TheFountainHead says:

    They are descended from Germanic tribes?

    Nominated for PotD.

  36. 36
    Pb says:

    Three Mile Island was a success.

    Some of the locals disagreed.

    Using better analytic and statistical techniques, he found that among the 20,000 people who lived near the plant and close to the plume’s path, lung cancer and leukemia rates were two or more times higher than what they were near the plant but upwind from the plume. Among those in the most direct path of the plumes, lung cancer incidence went up by 300 to 400 percent, and leukemia rates were up by 600 to 700 percent.

    “Several hundred people at the time of the accident reported nausea, vomiting, hair loss and skin rashes, and a number said their pets died or had symptoms of radiation exposure,” he said. “We figured that if that were possible, we ought to look at it again. After adjusting for pre-accident cancer incidence, we found a striking increase in cancers downwind from Three Mile Island.”

  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    And I will say it again, even though it always rankles people. Three Mile Island was a success. It was not Chernobyl. It was not nuclear armageddon. No, that does not mean I am pining for meltdowns everywhere, but I think some perspective is necessary. While it damaged the reputation of the nuclear industry, no one was hurt. No radiation sickness. No spikes in cancer rates. It was a disaster, but it was a success.

    Agree with you here. It’s interesting that people want to worry about the possible deaths related to developing nuclear power, but kinda gloss over all the actual deaths related to coal mining. And as others have noted, France gets a significant portion of their power from nuclear energy and no one much complains.

    I’ve got one response to that. Nanosolar. Solar power that is coal cheap.

    Copper indium gallium diselenide, used in nanosolar, is not particularly clean, and obtaining it and dealing with the materials related to its application is as dirty as any other manufacturing process . Solar power is not like shining sunlight on plants and getting perfect energy.

  38. 38
    Tim (the other one) says:

    “I was wrong then about him, he is wrong about nuclear, and I still don’t like him.”

    Way to kill a discussion thread man. Like it’s your blog or something.

    back to work…

  39. 39
    Partisan says:

    John,

    Edwards would have been pandering if he was against Yucca only while he was in Nevada, but he is not.

    True, if you are NIMBY because nuclear power plants might go boom, then you are truely “unserious”.

    If on the other hand, you are pro-nuclear power because:
    “As it stands, nuclear power is the only environmentally friendly, economic, and efficient source of energy that can help the U.S. wean itself off foreign oil.”
    you might think that you are a “serious person” and other pundits might believe you are a “serious person”, but you are not.

    If you add up the health and environmental costs from mining uranium, refining uranium, add it to the costs of safely running a nuclear powerplant, and add in the health and environmental costs of disposing of the waste,

    well, it is much more fiscally more prudent to just give everyone free solar panels and a pony.

    Only because the environmental costs and health costs at the back end and front end are either socialised downwards, or ignored, is it even possible to talk about nuclear energy as a viable alternative.

    Talking frankly about nuclear energy, to the point of being seen by the MSM as “unserious”, plays in Nevada.

    Not so much because of Yucca, more because so many of them are “downwinders”. They remember what happened to them the last time they trusted so called “serious people” to actually be serious.

  40. 40
    srv says:

    Three Mile Island was us getting lucky.

    Not.

    It was about plant engineers who ignored procedures repeatedly, and when faced with a decision point, made the wrong choice every single time. They could not have possibly made worse decisions, and we never got lucky.

    They did their absolute worst, and nobody died.

  41. 41
    ThymeZone says:

    he is wrong about nuclear, and I still don’t like him.

    I wouldn’t say he is wrong, although I would probably disagree with him on policy WRT nuclear. I am for more use of nuclear, but with absolutely anal regulation and enforcement of regulation. And if that drives the cost up too high, then, so be it. I won’t lower the cost at the expense of safety.

    As for liking him, I can understand not voting for him if there’s a policy difference you care about, but why would somebody “not like” a guy on the basis of a pretty mundane policy difference? It’s not like he wants to send all the college professors to Guantanamo.

    If you get my drift.

  42. 42
    ThymeZone says:

    with absolutely anal regulation and enforcement

    Please, in the name of God, no Larry Craig jokes.

  43. 43
    gypsy howell says:

    Excluding nuclear energy from the possible ways to fulfill our energy needs in the future immediately makes you an unserious person, in my book.

    The ‘unserious’ people have a pretty good track record for being right over the last 7 years, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    :-)

  44. 44
    RandyH says:

    I don’t have HUGE objections to nuclear power. Look at the French, who get a mojority of their power from nuclear and run safe plants. Look at the Japanese with their modern American-made nuclear power plants that we’re too afraid to install here. As long as competent management is mandated and closely regulated, I’m okay with it. And the storage of nuclear waste needs to be dealt with and we have the know-how to do that. Maybe not at Yucca Mountain, but somewhere.

    What bothers me when this topic comes up is that people try and frame the argument with “We have no choice because solar and wind will NEVER be good enough.” I’m not buying that premise at all. A good combination of solar, wind and hydroelectric in the right parts of the country could power the entire country. No problem. The companies who sell us all the fossil fuels don’t want us to believe this so they spread propaganda like this. And it’s just not true.

  45. 45
    Delia says:

    A list of talking points from a left wing website. Great way to make your argument.

    I made my argument in my previous post, then went and found her article, which has a helluva a lot more than talking points. I don’t see you doing anything more than slapping labels on things you don’t like and walking away.

  46. 46
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    I thought that anal regulation was part of the Republican platform – or was it one of Huckabible’s proposed constitutional amendments.

  47. 47
    Jake says:

    Please, in the name of God, no Larry Craig jokes.

    No worries, we’re all tapped out.

    [flees]

  48. 48
    robz says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

    “In the best case scenario, the reactor vessel would hold the molten material (as at Three Mile Island), limiting most of the damage to the reactor itself. However the Three Mile
    Island example also illustrates the difficulty in predicting
    such behavior: the reactor vessel was not built, and not
    expected, to sustain the temperatures it experienced when it
    underwent its meltdown, but because some of the melted
    material collected at the bottom of the vessel and cooled
    early on in the accident, it created a resistant shell
    against further pressure and heat. Such a possibility was not predicted by the engineers who designed the reactor and would not necessarily occur under duplicate conditions, but was largely seen as instrumental in the preservation of the
    vessel integrity. (However, it should be noted that the
    reactor vessel was inside a containment building, as in all
    American nuclear plants, so a failure of the reactor vessel
    would not mean that radioactive material is released into the environment.)”

  49. 49
    The Pale Scot says:

    Thymezone, Zifnab & Delia’s first remarks cover all the points against; well maintained nuclear power plants run by competent personnel would be safe, but it ain’t going to happen, just observe the invisible hand of the market, aka. as insurance rates. If nuclear power is actually safe let General Power get their coverage from Allstate, it ain’t goin’ happen.

    Fusion could work if real effort were put into it. According to the Wikigods;

    “In the EU almost € 10 billion was spent on fusion research up to the end of the 90s”, that’s 10 billion over 40 years. Uh, how much do those B-2s cost?, what was their development cost? Right.

    Successful fusion will spin off other technologies just like the space program, especially in materials and supermagnets, but that would kill off too many industrial dinosaurs and we can’t have that.

  50. 50
    Andrew says:

    I don’t believe solar + wind + hydro are feasible for all our power needs (unless it’s space based solar). There are times when it’s dark and the wind just isn’t blowing. Unless you are using thermal solar plants you are going to need an order of magnitude improvement in battery technology to deal with power in those circumstances.

    Nuclear power is really the only viable realistic option to give us the baseline power we need. There is not an argument against nuclear power that hasn’t already been solved. I agree with John in this case. If you are opposed to nuclear power no matter what, I can’t take your opinions seriously. I feel the same way about this as I do about people who don’t believe in evolution.

  51. 51
    Zifnab says:

    Copper indium gallium diselenide, used in nanosolar, is not particularly clean, and obtaining it and dealing with the materials related to its application is as dirty as any other manufacturing process. Solar power is not like shining sunlight on plants and getting perfect energy.

    Agreed. The process isn’t perfect. But you can’t honestly be comparing the mining of copper, indium, gallium, or selenium with mining uranium. And the waste product of a solar cell is… what exactly? Is the process any worse than making Styrofoam? Lithium batteries? Paint?

    I still continue to stare slack-jawed at the man who would suggest going nuclear when we stand on the edge of the solar power revolution.

  52. 52
    The Pale Scot says:

    “France has nuclear power and no one complains” Yeah, and in France corporations aren’t acknowledged as a person in court and Brussels reserves the right to crawl up your but with a flashlight.

    Take a look at how the American chemical industry, after lobbying their little hearts out, are submitting to EC regs on safety and labeling

  53. 53
    Jake says:

    There are times when it’s dark and the wind just isn’t blowing.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but, a wind turbine (for example), could generate more energy in a given period than is used in a given period. I’m also guessing that extra energy is (or could be) stored. So you’re positing a period where the wind stops dead or the sun doesn’t shine for longer than the back up period?

  54. 54
    J sub D says:

    40% of the CO2 produced by burning fossile fuels in this country is from coal used to make electricity. If the US had gone nuclear for electrical generation decades ago, as we should have, we be well below the limits proposed by Kyoto and a lot of mountains in West Virginia would not have been needlessly decapitated.

    I’m a rational environmentalist, deniers to the right, pipe dreamers to the left.

  55. 55
    dlw32 says:

    I honestly don’t get the Yucca Mt idea, primarily for two reasons. First, we’re going to move radioactive waste from plants all over the country and send them to NV? How? Train? Plane? What happens when there’s a crash? Is this really the most efficient way to deal with this? It strikes me as more dangerous than running the plant in which case why don’t we just leave the waste there?

    The second question is cost. When people say nuclear power is so cheap, do they include the cost of shipping, collecting, inspecting, and storing the waste? (I really am asking here) It seems to me a very expensive proposition to store waste for as long as we’d need to store it.

    btw, I have always said that I believe you could do nuclear power safely, my concern is that we won’t. I don’t want the plant to be built or run for profit. I don’t want it built by the guys who bid the least. I’m okay with nuclear power from the cleanliness aspect, but I don’t have faith that we’d spend what we’d need to to make it safe.

  56. 56
    Paul L. says:

    John Edwards is a nuke power Luddite

    EDWARDS: Well, yes, there are a lot of things that need to be done.

    If you were to double the number of nuclear power plants on the planet tomorrow — if that were possible — it would deal with about one-seventh of the greenhouse gas problem. This is not the answer.

    It goes beyond wind and solar. We ought to be investing in cellulose-based biofuels. There are a whole range of things that we ought to be investing in and focusing on.

    Does anyone know where he got his BS.
    How many Nuclear power plants are on the planet now? 500?
    Why are we limited to doubling the number of nuclear power plants?
    I am surprised he did not use the “we tried Nuclear power and it failed” line since thanks to people like him and the roadblocks they set up that the US has not built a Nuclear power plant in 30 years.
    I like how he went to cellulose-based biofuels as corn ethanol sucks as a solution requiring more energy to produce and has caused a increase in food prices.

  57. 57
    Z says:

    The nuclear industry is one of, if not the, most heavily regulated and regularly inspected industries out there. I have family members who work in the business. There is redundancy after redundancy after redundancy built into their safety systems. It was like that before 3-mile island, and it has improved even more since then. Plus, everyone I know who works in the power industry says that solar and wind can NOT make up for other power sources, because you need a steady constant supply and energy storage on a large scale isn’t feasible.

  58. 58
    sidereal says:

    Solar … will never meet our demand

    This is short-sighted and stupid. The same kind of stupid as “man will never fly for he was not given wings” was in the 1890s.

    Global energy consumption is around 15 TW (terawatts). Meanwhile we’re getting 174 petawatts (that’s 174,000 TW) all the time. And we’re radiating 111 petawatts back into space all the time. We’re killing each other to scrabble under rocks for the next spoonful of oil and meanwhile we’re being hit in the face with enough energy to power the earth 10 thousand times over.

    Harnessing that power is hard, but we’re getting better at it and it’s not as hard as splitting the atom or generating a Bose-Einstein condensate, so I’m pretty confident we’ll have it licked in the next 20-40 years.

    Fortunately, the clowns at The Plank aren’t required for the process, so they’re welcome to go off all day about how 174PW of solar energy will never be useful to us and how important it is we participate in the goddamn neverending petroleum autogenocide.

    As you were.

  59. 59
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Nanosolar is interesting to be sure but I can’t find any information on the ratio of the total energy it puts out over its lifespan to the energy required to get the materials and manufacture them into a working panel.

    If it’s close to a wash then fine but if there’s a net deficit then there’s a problem.

  60. 60
    Davebo says:

    I hate to say it, but much like health care, when it comes to nuclear energy we should take a lesson from the French.

    Standardize designs of all future nuclear power plants, rather than letting engineering companies re-invent the wheel every time.

    And I’m very pro nuclear.

  61. 61
    leumas says:

    Nuclear power certainly can be made safe, but what do you do with the waste? Even if Yucca Mountain is the designated facility, the waste must be transported there. How can that be done safely? Trains derail, tucks can rollover and spill. Until the waste problem is dealt with, nuclear remains suspect.

  62. 62
    Zifnab says:

    Why are we limited to doubling the number of nuclear power plants?

    A nuclear plant costs a cool $2-$6 billion. So 500 nuclear power plants would cost us… $1-3 trillion dollars. This would cut into our Iraq War Budget if we didn’t make cuts somewhere else. Ergo, the only sensible thing to do is scrap Medicare and Social Security and turn all the money over to Halliburton to build 500 nuclear power plants.

    Brilliant!

    Nanosolar is interesting to be sure but I can’t find any information on the ratio of the total energy it puts out over its lifespan to the energy required to get the materials and manufacture them into a working panel.

    If it’s close to a wash then fine but if there’s a net deficit then there’s a problem.

    They’ve got 25-year warranties. So assuming they produce more energy in 25 years than they took to print, we’re looking at a net gain. Moreover, at $1/mWatt, I can’t possibly assuming they are costing a great deal of energy to make unless Nanosolar has some repository of cheap renewable energy they use to process everything.

  63. 63
    Pb says:

    Z,

    everyone I know who works in the power industry says that solar and wind can NOT make up for other power sources, because you need a steady constant supply and energy storage on a large scale isn’t feasible

    I suppose everyone you know in the power industry doesn’t actually work on solar power, then? Ask them if they’ve heard about, say, molten salt

  64. 64
    sidereal says:

    There is redundancy after redundancy after redundancy built into their safety systems. It was like that before 3-mile island, and it has improved even more since then

    You’re nuts. People fail. Read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....d_accident

    and come back and tell us there was enough redundancy. Choice excerpts:

    The accident began when the plant’s main feedwater pumps in the secondary non-nuclear cooling system failed at exactly 4:00 a.m. EST on March 28, 1979…Because water was no longer flowing through the secondary loop, the steam generators no longer removed heat from the reactor. First the turbine, then the nuclear reactor, automatically shut down.

    To prevent primary side pressure from becoming excessive, the pilot-operated pressurizer relief valve (PORV), at the top of the pressurizer, opened automatically. The valve should have closed again when the excess pressure had been released, but it did not do so. The indication to the plant’s operators that the signal to close the valve had been sent was, in the absence of any indication to the contrary, taken by them to mean that the valve had closed…Cooling water poured out of the stuck-open valve at the top of the pressurizer and caused the core of the reactor to overheat.

    There was no dedicated instrument to measure the level of water in the core. Instead, the operators judged the level of water in the core by the level in the pressurizer (which is mounted higher than the reactor in the closed pressure loop, so intuitively, if there is water in the pressurizer then there is water in the core), and since it was high, they assumed that the core was properly covered with coolant

    Following the loss of the main feed pumps, three emergency feedwater pumps started automatically, but two valves on the emergency feedwater lines were closed, preventing the feedwater from reaching the steam generators. The emergency feedwater system had been tested 42 hours prior to the accident; and, as part of the test, these valves were closed. They should have been reopened at the end of the test, but on this occasion it appeared that the valves were not reopened, through either an administrative or human error.

    Because of these voids, the water in the system was redistributed and the pressurizer water level rose while overall system water inventory decreased. Thus, the pressurizer level indicator, which tells the operator the amount of coolant capable of heat removal, incorrectly indicated that system water level was rising. This caused the operators to stop adding water by turning off the emergency core cooling pumps

    With the PORV still open, the quench tank that collected the discharge from the PORV overfilled, causing the containment building sump to fill and sound an alarm at 4:11 a.m. This alarm, along with higher than normal temperatures on the PORV discharge line and unusually high containment building temperatures and pressures, were clear indications that there was an ongoing LOCA, but these indications were initially ignored by operators

    At 4:15 a.m., the quench tank relief diaphragm ruptured, and radioactive coolant began to leak out into the general containment building. This radioactive coolant was pumped from the containment building sump to an auxiliary building, outside the main containment, until the sump pumps were stopped at 4:39 a.m

    It was not until 165 minutes after the start of the problem that radiation alarms activated as contaminated water reached detectors — by that time, the radiation levels in the primary coolant water were around 300 times expected levels, and the plant was seriously contaminated.

    It was still not clear to the control room staff that the primary loop water levels were low and that over half the core was exposed: a Loss of coolant accident.

    How many fuckups do you count in there? People screw up. Remember the live nuclear warheads flying over the continental US because a serious of ‘redundant safety measures’ were completely ignored because people are lazy and eventually fuck up? The solution isn’t ‘redundant safety measures’, it’s to not build technologies that could potentially result in areas this large being uninhabitably radioactive for hundreds of years.

  65. 65
    merciless says:

    dlw, nuclear waste is already shipped (by truck) from all over the country to a repository in Carlsbad, New Mexico. This waste is mostly medical, so it’s not quite as toxic as the waste from nuclear plants (and also the spent nuclear cores from submarines, waste from the creation of nuclear weapons triggers, etc).

    The reason Yucca mountain is an idea at all is because high-level nuclear waste is horribly, incredibly, irrevocably toxic. It takes tens of thousands of years to become benign. One part per million in your lung will kill you. Right now we have lots and lots of little piles of it, just sitting around at nuclear sites all over the country, like eternal poisonous dogshit that nobody wants to touch. So it doesn’t get touched.

    Yucca mountain is a marginally safe place to put a lot of this stuff, so that long, long after we’re dead, we don’t poison future generations.

    Naturally, the good people of Nevada, who’ve been nuked more than once over the years, don’t want the stuff there. Nobody does. So we argue. And the piles of stuff sit in leaky barrels in parking lots in Illinois, or leach into the soil and water in Washington, South Carolina, and New Mexico (and lots of other places).

  66. 66
    J sub D says:

    You don’t wisely make policy on what you think (hope) will (might) be developed in the future. Say what you want about nuclear, it works.

    If your worried about anthropogenic global warming, consider this. The people in China and India, ~2.2 billion, are not going to remain satisfied living with 18th century technology. Nor should they. They want, and deserve electricity. They want and desrve transportation for the masses. Y’know, like we have.
    Barring a global disaster, expect energy needs by humanity to at least double in the next century.

    Fusion has been 10 years away since 1960. Biofuels today do more harm to the environment than they mitigate. I have realistic (I hope I’m right) hope for geothermal as an electrical power generation source, but that’s hope. It’s not something to base future energy needs policy on.
    I’m not going to go into my luddite/NIMBY coalition bashing rant here, but I will say that safely storing nuclear waste is a political problem, not a technological one.

  67. 67
    Anne Laurie says:

    Delia, Zifnab and Merciless for the trifecta — nuclear’s horrendously expensive in human & environmental terms to produce, the waste products will hang around longer than humans have been a distinct species, and the current crop of American Robber Barons and their political peons are the least trustworthy parties imaginable to handle this stuff.

    Yes, it may turn out we “need” nuclear as part of the energy mix, but we can’t make an informed decision about that until we’ve eliminated the megacorporatist spin from mining & power companies. The countries with successful nuclear-power generation treat it as a government responsibility, not something to be handed to this election cycle’s Enron Boyz or Jack Abramoffs. If nothing else, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have created such a bad image of the nuclear industry that only an “anti-nuclear” president like Edwards would have the political clout to spearhead new plants *if* it should turn out that nuclear power really does need to be part of America’s energy future, just as “only Nixon could go to China”.

  68. 68
    p-rex says:

    sorry john but this is one of the rare times when i have to disagree with you:

    Despite claims by the nuclear industry that “no one died at Three Mile Island,” a study by Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, professor of radiation physics at the University of Pittsburgh, showed that the accident led to a minimum of 430 infant deaths.

    the nuclear power question probably won’t ever be solved because it causes a great deal of irrationality on both sides of the issue. but there’s always going to be the question of how to deal with the waste. i’m not surprised in the least that no one, including nevadans, wants it in their backyard. really, with the amount of money that’s being proposed for subsidizing the nuclear industry, couldn’t we find a better option that doesn’t have the obvious downside and doesn’t inspire such (mostly irrational and/or dishonest) venom from each side of the debate?

    i’m actually quite proud to be an unserious person, btw. bill kristol considers himself to be a serious person, and i would never want to be in any way associated with that asshat.

  69. 69
    ThymeZone says:

    The solution isn’t ‘redundant safety measures’, it’s to not build technologies that could potentially result in areas this large being uninhabitably radioactive for hundreds of years.

    Yes, good summary of the event.

    But see, the thing is, that entire event could have been anticipated, and prevented through better design of the infrastructure, process, and incident management techniques.

    To me the way you make this work is to force the advocates to do such a good job that the cost is high and they take it very seriously. Ergo, no new plants in 30 years. You don’t let new plants get proposed until the advocates come back and say, okay, you win, you get the service level agreements you asked for, the safety levels, and your cost per kWh is …. whatever. Then, the market decides.

    Are you arguing that there’s just no way to do that and proceed in a safe manner? Im thinking that if you can get the market to pay for it, the safety can be there.

    I’d pay 50% more for electric power if I thought that we could end dependence on Arab oil and reduce pollution. And I live in Arizona, where electricity ain’t cheap and the demand is high. For 50% more than I am paying now, to a power company that already operates a nuclear plant, can’t I get some serious safety?

  70. 70
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    It was a disaster, but it was a success.

    I think you’ve just written the Republican Epitaph for the Iraq War.

    POTD!

    Anyway, I am not explicitly against nuclear power, but I do share a lot of the safety concerns voiced in this thread. I’d especially be worried about new plants–we give the contract to some firm that’s all buddy-buddy witht he right politicians, the firm (naturally) cuts corners in order to maximize revenue…then what? Meltdown? It goes ‘splodey? And what do we do with the waste, anyway? There’s just so much that can go wrong, and with this stuff, when something goes wrong, it’s not just a problem, it invites catastrophe.

    I suppose, in a way, I’d be a classic NIMBY on this issue. I wouldn’t be staunchly opposed to a new nuke plant, but I wouldn’t want to be within fallout range of it, ya know?

  71. 71
    p-rex says:

    some of the assertions from the Sternglass paper:

    In a paper delivered to the Fifth World Congress of Engineers and Architects at Tel Aviv, he said that data from the U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics showed that there were “242 [infant] deaths above the normally expected number in Pennsylvania and a total of 430 in the entire northeastern area of the United States,” a rise of clear statistical significance. The linkage with TMI [Three Mile Island] was clear because “large amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 were released from the plant” and the peak of infant mortality came within a matter of months thereafter. The greatest rises took place near the plant, with effects decreasing as a function of distance away from Harrisburg.

    He backed up his case by analyzing the amount of radiation to which pregnant women downwind might have been subjected. Accepting minimum official estimates, Sternglass calculated that the doses of radioactive I-131 alone could have been on the order of one hundred millirems to individual pregnant women in the path of the plume. Such doses, he said, were clearly capable of causing rises in infant mortality.

    Using federal statistics, Sternglass then demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s infant death rate in July was the highest of any state east of the Mississippi that month (except for Washington, D.C.), although Pennsylvania usually has one of the lowest rates in the nation. He went on to say that a similar rise was evident in infant-mortality rates in northern New England–where wind had carried fallout from the plant–as opposed to southern New England, where it had not.

    For more info – Ernest Sternglass, “Infant Mortality Changes Following the Three Mile Island Accident,” presented at the 5th World Congress of Engineers and Architects, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1980

  72. 72
    demer says:

    Nowhere to put the waste and it’s the most expensive way to boil an egg.

    Nuclear is not viable, money would be better spent on renewables.

  73. 73
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    No, that does not mean I am pining for meltdowns everywhere,

    Way up on the list of things that really shouldn’t have to be made obvious.

  74. 74
    Mark says:

    If the brakes go out on my Volvo, I skid off the road into a tree, my airbag deploys, and I’m not instantly killed, I don’t call that a success. Nor do I run out and buy a new Volvo.

    But as previous commenters have already established, Three Mile Island wasn’t a case of your brakes going out, it was a case of you being a monumental idiot and falling asleep at the wheel–user error, not mechanical failure. What Three Mile Island demonstrated was that despite the grossest of human errors, the technology and fail-safe mechanisms were safe enough to prevent disaster.

  75. 75
    The Other Steve says:

    I honestly don’t get the Yucca Mt idea, primarily for two reasons. First, we’re going to move radioactive waste from plants all over the country and send them to NV? How? Train? Plane? What happens when there’s a crash? Is this really the most efficient way to deal with this? It strikes me as more dangerous than running the plant in which case why don’t we just leave the waste there?

    I’m curious how you think the uranium gets to the plant to begin with.

  76. 76
    Zifnab says:

    I’m curious how you think the uranium gets to the plant to begin with.

    Magic Uranium Ponies?
    Mined in America for America by America?
    Iran smuggles it in?

  77. 77
    Paul L. says:

    A nuclear plant costs a cool $2-$6 billion. So 500 nuclear power plants would cost us… $1-3 trillion dollars. This would cut into our Iraq War Budget if we didn’t make cuts somewhere else. Ergo, the only sensible thing to do is scrap Medicare and Social Security and turn all the money over to Halliburton to build 500 nuclear power plants.

    I know you lefties think the government should have all of the money.
    Google “US gross domestic product” and “US federal budget”
    BTW, the US has 109 nuclear power plants that generate 20% of the electricity.

  78. 78
    The Other Steve says:

    I know you lefties think the government should have all of the money.

    It occurs to me that Paul L. doesn’t understand sarcasm.

  79. 79
    Brachiator says:

    Agreed. The process isn’t perfect. But you can’t honestly be comparing the mining of copper, indium, gallium, or selenium with mining uranium.

    Yeah. I can. Mining uranium is not in itself excessively toxic. But after a certain point, mining, refining and fabricating minerals introduces pollutants that have to be dealt with. Part of the processing of CIGS: Most gallium is produced as a by-product of extracting aluminum from bauxite, while the remainder is extracted (principally by Dowa Mining in Japan) from by-products of zinc processing.

    My main point here is that solar is not necessarily clean just because the sun is shining. You have to consider how the materials related to solar energy are produced and how the solar panels are ultimately disposed of.

    And the waste product of a solar cell is… what exactly? Is the process any worse than making Styrofoam? Lithium batteries? Paint?

    You mean the styrofoam that is choking the oceans and adding to climate change, or the lithium batteries that various states say can’t just be chucked out in the trash, but must be disposed of separately?

    I still continue to stare slack-jawed at the man who would suggest going nuclear when we stand on the edge of the solar power revolution.

    from a Guardian UK story on Nanosolar:

    ‘He added that the first panels the company was producing were aimed for large- scale power plants rather than for homeowners, and that the cost benefits would be in the speed that the technology could be deployed. “We are aiming to make solar power stations up to 10MW in size. They can be up and running in six to nine months compared to 10 years or more for coal-powered stations and 15 years for nuclear plants. Solar can be deployed very quickly,” said Oldekop. …

    At the moment solar electricity costs nearly three times as much as conventional electricity to generate, but Nanosolar’s developments are thought to have halved the price of producing conventional solar cells at a stroke. ‘

    This is promising, but not quite, yet, a revolution.

    By comparison, nuclear energy is just not as bad as people want to believe. I think that some people oppose nuclear because of its associations with weaponry, not because of problems related to the technology itself.

  80. 80
    Jake says:

    For 50% more than I am paying now, to a power company that already operates a nuclear plant, can’t I get some serious safety?

    Sure. But look at the insane clown posse that makes up the current mAdministration. You can create a list of regulations that is 99.9999% fail-safe today but what if some Regents University putz winds up in charge of oversight down the road?

    Maybe if an international body like the IAEA were in charge, but I can’t see that happening.

  81. 81

    Excluding nuclear energy from the possible ways to fulfill our energy needs in the future immediately makes you an unserious person, in my book.

    Huh? Nuclear is at best a medium-term solution–at best. It’s still using a finite resource, and one that is potentially more environmentally damaging than the worst fossil fuel. It might be worth looking at nuclear as a bridge to true renewable sources, but I’m not even real wild about that, given our tendency to use bridges until they fall out from underneath us. I’d rather take the hit now and push for renewables while we have the impetus. Meanwhile, I guess I’ll have to find some way to live with the fact that you consider me unserious.

  82. 82
    bob says:

    Simply imagine every roof in your town covered with solar electrical generating capacity. Then imagine every roof in your state. Then the whole country. That is a LOT of solar energy. Nearly zero roofs in this country have solar. If every house had solar and wind, the need is small for any other source except at night. Excess power from homes can charge the grid during the day. Most local industry could use this source of power in the day. Fossil fuel plants would only be needed at night. Each home could have electric vehicles charged by their own solar during the day. Even if you can only go 40 or 50 miles on a day’s charge, well, an awful lot of people drive quite a bit less than that and it still reduces use of fossil fuel.

    Imagine further if solar and nano-capacitor technology had been being worked on at the rate of computers in the last 25 or 30 years due to an emphasis placed on it. But the same argument was made then as now, “it’ll NEVER work. We’re DOOOOOMED.” It is not only possible, but imperative that we invest time, money and resources in other sources of energy. The University of Delaware recently tested a new photovoltaic provider that is more than twice as efficient as the Nanosolar cell. That would make it 100 times as efficient as the current models, which DO after all work. I was a nuclear power technician in the Navy in the ’70s. I used to believe in it’s potential. I no longer do. Am I unserious? Guess so.

  83. 83

    Put me down in the unserious anti-nuke camp. All the other concerns are already well stated, but bottom line for me is that we have no right to leave mountains full of toxic waste that would be deadly to so many generations after us. It’s wrong on many levels.

  84. 84
    srv says:

    the nuclear power question probably won’t ever be solved because it causes a great deal of irrationality on both sides of the issue.

    No one on the pro side has any irrational fears of anything. You’re projecting.

    20 years from now, Fusion will be 30 years away and cheap solar will be 5 years away.

    That’s how far away it all was 30 years ago. I know, because that’s what they promised me then. It’s all ponies.

    And all your pony fantasies will just leave us with several hundred more coal plants. And it will be 100% your fault.

  85. 85
    caustics says:

    Edwards lost me last night when I learned he had voted for the Repub’s bankruptcy bill, which I hadn’t known before.

    For me the nuclear issue involves peak-uranium verses more advanced approaches. I’d link and elaborate, but I’m stuck using an ancient G3 until my ailing PC gives up its latest dsysfunctional secret. Using Exlporer 3.1 is like playing the piano wearing oven mitts.

  86. 86
    bc says:

    I will support nuclear powerplants when the liability caps are removed. As long as the industry thinks they need the liability caps in order for nuclear power to be viable, I have no reason to believe that nuclear power is safe. Yucca Mountain is a good answer to storing nuclear waste on a technical basis, but it is politically not feasible – too many locals oppose it. If the rest of the country wants to use Nevada as a dumping ground, there should be something in it for the Nevadans – and I don’t think there is.

  87. 87
    Zifnab says:

    My main point here is that solar is not necessarily clean just because the sun is shining. You have to consider how the materials related to solar energy are produced and how the solar panels are ultimately disposed of.

    It’s as clean as I’ve seen to date. I don’t know what more you can ask for. Byproducts of aluminum and zinc production hardly strike me as major pollutants, especially when compared to the byproducts of uranium production. As has been mentioned upthread, 90-odd% of the uranium dug out of the ground isn’t power-plant worthy. However, 100% of the uranium dug out of the ground is toxic to the environment. Thus, you end up with a great deal of trash uranium.

    You mean the styrofoam that is choking the oceans and adding to climate change, or the lithium batteries that various states say can’t just be chucked out in the trash, but must be disposed of separately?

    Yes, those. We tolerate this degree of “trashiness” all the time. This is largely an issue of learning to recycle more efficiently, and one we can tackle in time.

    By comparison, nuclear energy is just not as bad as people want to believe. I think that some people oppose nuclear because of its associations with weaponry, not because of problems related to the technology itself.

    If you re-read your own article you’ll note how the solar arrays aren’t just cheap and easy to make, they’re also quick to deploy. Nuclear Plants take an estimated 10 years to construct. Solar Plants could go up in months. People opposed nuclear because they associated it with a giant mess. Everyone wants the juice, but no one wants to deal with the mess it creates.

    Currently, plans are in place to add a pair of nuke plants to East Texas. Permits are in the works and companies plan on shelling out some $230 million just to appraise the project. Construction isn’t projected to begin until 2010.

    Nuke plants are slow, dangerous, god-awful expensive, and messy. Solar Plants, on the other hand, would be quick, safe, cheap, and make no more of a mess than a parking lot. How is this even a contest?

  88. 88
    Andrew says:

    Anyone who thinks nuclear waste is a problem hasn’t taken the time to really think about it.

    First, we can recycle it. Keep putting it back into breeder reactors and reusing it. After each cycle you are left with a smaller amount of much more radioactive waste. The great thing about that is that the MORE RADIOACTIVE THE WASTE IS THE SHORTER THE TIME IT IS DANGEROUS FOR.

    The stuff really isn’t that bad at all. There are radioactive materials all over the place and we do fine. At least this way we know where they all are. Chances are 20 or 30 years from now someone finds out a good use for them and they stop being a problem all together. It certainly beats just spewing the pollution into the air and not containing it at all!

    Eventually power generation is going to be space based solar and fusion. We aren’t within 20 years of either of those. Unfortunately we need electricity now. If you start building nuclear plants now and build enough to make electricity cheap we’ll have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of the new technologies when they are available.

  89. 89
    Z says:

    I don’t think I stated this earlier, but I would like a more distributed electrical system. I have priced solar panels, and can’t afford them at the moment.

    I started talking about this issue, because most of you don’t seem to understand the extensive, and I mean extensive, safety measures that go into producing nuclear power. For instance, despite all the cute rhetoric about leaking casks of radioactive waste, the truth is that fuel rods are sealed in thick layers of steel and concrete.

    I also get the clear feeling most of you haven’t a clue how the grid works. I think it is great that the folks who are working (at the test facility, note TEST facility) on solar polar are working on ways to store the power. We need more of it. That is the sticky issue. Our power grid doesn’t store much power the way most of us think of it. Most power ‘storage’ is doing things like pumping water back up into the reservoirs during off peak hours, so that during peak hours more water is available to generate power. One way or the other the power is burned shortly after it is produced.

    With nuclear, when you bring a plant online, you plug it into the grid and it produces power 24/7. You don’t have to fill in the gaps (of when it is not producing power) with gasoline and oil burning generators. That is what most power companies have to resort to, anyway, during periods of high demand. When you get more unreliable power production, you also get more oil and gasoline burning power generation.

  90. 90
    HyperIon says:

    So I’m wondering what the French do with all that waste. Wiki has a nice article on “Radioactive waste”. Evidently they vitrify. But this bit on the Swedish approach was informative and I actually understood it. So “forever” is around 100 ky.

    KBS-3 (an abbreviation of kärnbränslesäkerhet, nuclear fuel safety) is a technology for disposal of high-level radioactive waste developed in Sweden by Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB by appointment from Statens Strålskyddsinstitut (the radiation protection agency).

    The method:

    * The waste is first stored in intermediate storage for 30 years.
    * The waste is encapsulated in iron.
    * The iron capsule is encapsulated in copper.
    * The capsule is deposited in a layer of bentonite clay, in a circular hole, 8 meters deep and with a diameter of 2 meters, drilled in a cave 500 metres down into primary rock.
    * After the storage facility is full, the drill hole is sealed and the site marked.
    * After 100,000 years of storage, the radioactivity level of the waste is at the same level as that of uranium ore mined to make the fuel.

  91. 91
    Pete says:

    Is Nuclear power utilities possible in the USA without taxpayer-funded insurance for them?

    If they’re a success, why do they need government welfare to function?

  92. 92
    jimbo says:

    The only people who need nuclear are those who have an investment in nuclear. Period. There are sources of energy coming online soon (see below) that will put an end to this discussion. In desperation you will see articles like the one in TNR that in part says: “Solar and wind will never meet our demand, and bio-fuels are still years–if not decades–away from becoming viable.”

    Utter and total bullshit. Google the Jan 13 2008 agreement between GM and a company called Coskata Inc. Theirs is a patented process to produce celluosic ethanol with the science in hand using many non-human food biomass feedstocks, costing less than $1.00 per gallon. Rumor has it that big oil is megapissed. This huge breakthrough blows their big campaign about ethanol (scare tactic) using up human food completely out of the water. Breakthroughs like this is also probably why the desperation from nuclear; it is not needed and each passing day will make that more obvious. Take a little time and do some Google research. Look at things like Nanosolar going into production, breakthroughs in converting heat directly to electricity, look at algae as a huge source of energy that eats only CO2 and produces 4,000 to 10,000 gallons of natural oil per acre per year and a high protein food. Big oil and nuclear will be toast, and we the people will once again be in control. No more $3.50 a gallon of gas for those of us who have to travel 50 miles or more each way to work.

  93. 93
    p-rex says:

    srv,
    your post basically illustrates my point. to say it will be 100% my fault is irrational. that’s an absolute that puts the entire blame for “several hundred more coal plants” on me, or people like me. and that will never be true.

    furthermore, to say “no one on the pro side has any irrational fears of anything,” is beyond provable. once again, an irrational assertion. on the “pro side,” one irrationality to which i can reference is the tendency for any industry — whether it’s the nuclear energy industry or the pharmaceutical industry or the cat food industry — to gloss over their problems and come up with phrases like, “safe, clean and abundant” as a catch-all response for any and all criticisms of their methods and results.

    to call the mere concept of investing billions of dollars into clean, renewable energy “pony fantasies” smacks of a particular and regrettable unwillingness to discuss our energy problems in a responsible and civil manner. i never promised you anything 30 years ago. i don’t know who “they” are, as you refer to them. but i do know this: there already has been demonstrable progress made with solar technology over the last 30 years, and it’s been with a small fraction of the investment of money and time that’s gone into trying to perpetuate our oil economy, or trying to bring back the nuclear energy industry in america.

    i hardly think it’s irresponsible to want a true renewable energy source for our country and to think that in the long run we’d be much better off by putting our investment dollars and research time into such an endeavor.

    what do you have against ponies, anyway?

  94. 94
    Tripsy McStumble says:

    World current energy needs are about 13 terawatts, growing to nearly 25 terawatts by mid-century. A nuclear plant gives about 1 Gigawatt. That’s 25,000 nuclear plants. Over one plant/day for the next 50 years. It is not a serious alternative to coal and oil. Thousands of reactors across Europe, Asia, Central/South America, Africa.

    Not gonna happen. There’s also not enough uranium.

    Similar analysis for biofuels, wind, and thermal: they do not scale.

    Only solar can do the job. See the earlier comment on the numbers. Also see: http://nsl.caltech.edu/energy.html

  95. 95
    The Pale Scot says:

    @ caustics,

    Hey, you can download netscape 4.0 for classic right here

    the page is

    works OK for classic9 in the modern web

    sorry about the links John, but a mac in need…..

  96. 96
    J sub D says:

    This is likely the worst industrial accident in history. Here is a picture of the site. Is something like that near you? Quite possibly. Unlike nuclear reactors, even after Bhopal chemical plants don’t get much press. Don’t ask me why the chicken littles and luddites don’t worry about them. Shall we compare deaths between TMI and Bhopal?

    But Ohhh! Ban the nuclear plant! Let’s get all of the middle aged ex-hippies out to the site (hey, we’ll take the Expedition. It’s comfy.) and stop that impending ecological disaster, that possible Chernobyl!

    If it wasn’t so pathetic, I’d laugh.

  97. 97

    After reading up on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, I am not willing to say that nuclear energy is the future. You cannot say that something will not go wrong (machine/human error). I think the risk (even though small) is not worth the destruction caused by nuclear accidents. Nuclear energy is a lazy way of opting out since it is an existing technology, instead of working to come up with a better solution.

  98. 98
    jimbo says:

    jsubd
    Uh, couple of problems before you bust a gut. First, IMO nuclear energy and Bhopal are both big corporations who answer only to big money. Bhopal occurred because of avoidance of regulation of dangerous processes elsewhere. The nuclear industry wants we the people to pay trillions to put in a process that will crowd out other more effective energy sources.

    Look at a different way. Nuclear requires huge sums to become viable, sums so vast that they cannot be supplied by normal risk investment. On the other hand, an energy source like that from Coskata Inc. will be initiated by investments from we the people who will benefit from our investments both moneywise and from the power we need. Nuclear answers only to itself, their lobbyists will make sure of that, and we’ll be almost totally dependent on that power source. On the other hand, energy produced like that of local processing biomass, or producing oil from algae, or producing hydrogen or many others will be constantly subject to competition, constantly coming up with new more efficient processes. Also, local entities will be invested in the sense that a city will be incented to purchase an energy-from-waste plant like that from Coskata because it will be able to efficiently get rid of its human and biomass wastes and get energy for its citizens in return. Too bad you can’t see the difference.

  99. 99
    demimondian says:

    By the way, modern high-efficiency plants don’t use water as a coolant. They use helium 4 — non-reactive, highly available, easy to confine, low cross-section for neutrons (thermal and non) and did I mention non-reactive? Yeah, it’s a noble gas, so it’s non-reactive, and it has a low neutron cross section.

    Oh, and the other nice thing about helium? It’s a gas, and it can be fed directly into a gas turbine to generate electricity without the need for a heat exchanger, and without the loss occasioned by boiling water.

  100. 100
    demimondian says:

    I suppose everyone you know in the power industry doesn’t actually work on solar power, then? Ask them if they’ve heard about, say, molten salt…

    I’ll give you a quick idea of what they think of it. Did you know that molten salt feels like hyperthermic snake oil?

  101. 101
    srv says:

    one irrationality to which i can reference is the tendency for any industry—whether it’s the nuclear energy industry or the pharmaceutical industry or the cat food industry—to gloss over their problems and come up with phrases

    Since you don’t understand “alternative” or Nuclear energy, let’s start with the basics:

    Irrational belief: An unreasonable conviction that leads to emotional and behavioural problems.

    While we’ve all wasted the last 30 years since TMI discussing your non-alternatives, several hundred coal plants have been built to replace all the nukes we didn’t. They have poured billions of tons of crap into our atmosphere. Several hundred more will be built or will begin operating longer hours to charge all those magical electric cars you think will solve the problem. 1500 planned worldwide over the next decade. That’s three a week.

    We have invested Saganist billions and billions into alternative energies in the last 30 years, and where is it? It’s in the pass east of me, where birdlovers have shut down most of a windfarm. Please, run out there and scream at them that I’m irrational and I just can’t be civil!

    Sheesh.

    The only single success that is more declared than success in Iraq is success in alternative energy. Your belief that it is a panacea to anything but a sliver of our energy problems is completely unsubstantiated. It is completely irrational and unhealthy to the planet.

    it’s been with a small fraction of the investment of money and time that’s gone into trying to perpetuate our oil economy, or trying to bring back the nuclear energy industry in america.

    Only in America is it irrational to invest in that which actually is demonstrated to work.

    You people are like Ethanol, dot-com, zero-point, Truther crazies. Just look thru this all these posts. Nuts right here are talking about more hydro (could you be more batsh*t crazy than to believe that?), more “nano-” or “cellulo-” or “algea-” ethanol ponies. All these COMPLETELY FANSTASTICAL AND UNDEMONSTRATED claims are going to solve our problems!

    Grow up and smell those coal fumes, because that’s what anti-nuke hysteria and irrational beliefs in “alternatives” makes real.

  102. 102
    demimondian says:

    that’s an absolute that puts the entire blame for “several hundred more coal plants” on me, or people like me. and that will never be true.

    So, what part of “your actions will cause this consequence, which is harmful” are you having trouble with?

    Did you know that 27% of the United States’ electricity is produced by nuclear reactors right now? How many people have died of the complications of those reactors, plus those of uranium exaction by mining (which, by the way, can also be done from phosphate waste, of which we have, quite literally millions of tons)? Now, how many people have died as a direct result of coal mining in the last year? What’s the balance?

    Did you know that France sells electricity to Germany and Italy? They’re good anti-nuke NIMBY’s…until they need to turn the lights on. At that point, not so much.

  103. 103
    Andrew says:

    The stuff really isn’t that bad at all. There are radioactive materials all over the place and we do fine. At least this way we know where they all are.

    Indeed, we know that a bunch of toxic nuclear waste is leaking its way down to the Columbia river at Hanford.

    hey use helium 4—non-reactive, highly available

    Says who?

  104. 104
    sidereal says:

    This is likely the worst industrial accident in history.

    WTF are you talking about? The Union Carbide plant made pesticides, not energy, so it’s irrelevant to the question of whether nuclear power is worth it. Are you seriously trying to say that middle aged ex-hippies don’t care about pesticides?

    Here is a picture of the site

    Interesting fact about that picture: there’s a guy standing there afterwards. The half-life of cesium-137 is 30 years. There’s 18 million curies of radioactive material sitting around at Chernobyl, covered by a decaying wall of concrete. It will be fatally radioactive forever.

  105. 105
    caustics says:

    Hey, thanks Pale Scot. As it turns out, I’ve got the PC breathing again – narrowed down to more ATI crap.

    But it has inspired me to restore the G3 to museum quality.

  106. 106
    demimondian says:

    It will be fatally radioactive forever.

    I take it you’re not a computer scientist. If you were, you’d know a pattern that would mean you would never say something that foolish.

    The pattern? “1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64…” You’d know that the tenth item in that list is 1024, and you’d know why that mattered.

  107. 107
    demimondian says:

    Um, Andrew? That’s a great link — from a year and a half ago.

    Helium 4 is emitted by the radioactive decay of our planet’s core, so we’ve got a basically eternal supply of the stuff. (Well, sometime in the next 5 billion years or so, the sun will blow up, at which point our planet will evaporate. At that point, we’ll still be getting a fine stream of thorium-derived alpha particles, although the supply of uranium derived particles will be getting a little thinner.)

  108. 108
    myiq2xu says:

    Yo, whitey!

    Read JC’s post from 2 days ago about embedding links!

    This ain’t Redstate, we expect a minimum of ‘puter literacy from our commenters.

  109. 109
    Jose says:

    There are some things mentioned above that need further response:

    Transportation: Fuel and spent fuel (as well as weapons) are transported in casks that have been tested in ways that are truly frightening to watch. They have been spun into concrete buildings, dropped onto knife edges, crashed on trucks, and in a couple of very exciting tests had trains crashed into them at speed – once with a locomotive pushed by rockets and once in england by a locomotive at speed. They haven;t leaked yet. I’m sure someone could posit meteors or such that might crack one, but it is very, very unlikely.

    Waste storage: One of the things with nuclear waste is that the components of the waste do not all decay at the same rate, but we treat all the waste in the stream as if it does. Separating out the shorter lived constituents and separate storage would reduce substantially the volume of material ( IIRC 15% or so of the total) that has the incredibly long half lives that take millennia to decay. Storage for the shorter lived stuff becomes easier.

    Waste disposal: one way to dispose of the long lived components is to glassify them, and dump them in a subduction trench offshore. They get re-absorbed into the crust long before they would decay on the surface, and nobody could get at them to make “dirty bombs” or the equivalent.

    Nuclear technology: Remember what a 1960’s vintage car was like, compared to today? Couple that with the philosophy that each plant was designed different in that second generation of power plants, and that people I knew in the industry thought that the designer of the TMI plant built high performance but brittle designs. Plants are a LOT better today, and the approach has changed to feature standardized designs that would have averted a lot of the display confusion that went on at TMI.

    Future technology: Fast fission approaches that are currently under serious study could produce plants that could actually consume most of the heavy long lived isotopes, and again reduce the volume of fuel that needed to be stored.

    Properly handled, nuclear can be a part of the solution to global warming, along with some of the other items mentioned here. Getting the US power industry to cold turkey coal and politicians to get off the teat of the coal lobby (and the coal union lobby) will not be accomplished with solar and wind alone.

  110. 110
    demimondian says:

    There’s also not enough uranium [to build 25,00 reactors].

    There isn’t? How much uranium do we need to fuel 25K plants? (which, by the way, is an overestimate, since modern plants are much larger that 1000 MW.)

    Here’s a hint: the Canadians and the French don’t have massive enrichment plants; in fact, the Canadians don’t have *any* enrichment plants. They still manage to run extremely large reactors with no problem.

  111. 111
    p-rex says:

    srv,
    speaking of emotional and behavioral problems, just read your own posts on this issue, man. angry is the first word that comes to mind. you’re attributing things to me that i haven’t said. you’re broadly associating me (“you people”) and equating me with “truther crazies”. you’re misspelling words in all caps, displaying what appears to be an unhealthy rage at the mere suggestion of clean, renewable energy as an alternative to nuclear energy as the basis for america’s future energy needs.

    and yet you have yet to say anything substantive that might convince me, or anyone else, of the viability of nuclear energy. your only arguments are against these “ponies,” as you call them, but you apparently have nothing convincing to say in favor of nuclear energy. you may think i’m a crazy, but how in the world do you think anyone else who reads what you’ve written come could away with anything else but the opinion that you appear to be angered to the point of irrationality by the mere mention of renewable energy?

    rage on, friend. rage on. but screaming about ponies isn’t going to convince anyone that your views on energy policy in america have any real merit. you really should be spending your time saying why nuclear is the best option, and not complaining about why everything else isn’t.

  112. 112
    sidereal says:

    take it you’re not a computer scientist. If you were, you’d know a pattern that would mean you would never say something that foolish.

    Don’t be an insufferable jackass. I know what a geometric series is. I know how half-life works. I know that the Chernobyl FCM (and surrounding area) contains Plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years.

    I take it you are a ‘computer scientist’ (which is a self-important synonym of ‘software jockey’), since that’s the only reason I can fathom that you’d think you’d have to write software to know the powers of 2.

  113. 113
    sidereal says:

    Also, the tenth term in a 0-based series of powers of 2 is 512. 2^10 is the llth term. Pwned.

  114. 114
    demimondian says:

    I know how half-life works. I know that the Chernobyl FCM (and surrounding area) contains Plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years.

    And how dangerous is Pu? You’d do well to look into that — the usual number is quoted by Helen Caldicott, simply, wrong.

    I take it you are a ‘computer scientist’ (which is a self-important synonym of ‘software jockey’), since that’s the only reason I can fathom that you’d think you’d have to write software to know the powers of 2.

    No, I’m a mathematician; my doctoral work was in set theory.

  115. 115
    demimondian says:

    angry is the first word that comes to mind. you’re attributing things to me that i haven’t said. you’re broadly associating me (“you people”) and equating me with “truther crazies”. you’re misspelling words in all caps, displaying what appears to be an unhealthy rage at the mere suggestion of clean, renewable energy as an alternative to nuclear energy as the basis for america’s future energy needs.

    Let me get this straight…

    somebody is advocating policies which will in short order destroy humanity, having done so for half a century or more, even though those policies were known to be unnecessary, and he or she gets upset that his wanton, wilful destruction angers people? Hey, p-rex — when did you stop calling opponents of the war in Iraq “shrill”?

  116. 116
    Delia says:

    We have invested Saganist billions and billions into alternative energies in the last 30 years, and where is it? It’s in the pass east of me, where birdlovers have shut down most of a windfarm. Please, run out there and scream at them that I’m irrational and I just can’t be civil!

    Sheesh.

    [etc.]

    Well, I don’t know quite what to make of this, but I do know that after Jimmy Carter, the last president to try to get Americans to take alternative energy matters seriously and try to wean us from our oil addiction, St. Ronnie ripped the solar panels off the White House and handed the country back to the oil and coal giants, where we’ve been ever since. So if you can’t handle a real discussion with people who disagree with you, maybe you’d better just have a nice drink and go watch some FoxNoise for a while.

  117. 117
    caustics says:

    Sorry, I had meant to mention this about the possible future of nuclear fuel cycles.

  118. 118
    demimondian says:

    So if you can’t handle a real discussion with people who disagree with you, maybe you’d better just have a nice drink and go watch some FoxNoise for a while.

    Perhaps you should understand that you are parroting the statements of a group which is every bit as perverse as the global warming deniers. I love it when Germany touts a 300% increase in the amount of renewable energy used there. It’s up to, what, .3% of total annual electricity consumption there?

    I mean, wow! W00t!

    Even Iceland, the nation on Earth with the best hope for being able to actually support its economy on renewable sources, can only manage a few tens of megawatts, and those at a horrific price. No, their failure isn’t through lack of effort, talent, or resources — the problems of extracting hot steam from around a still molten caldera are daunting.

    There’s a problem with reality-based types — they’re ideologically unreliable. In this case, you are allowing ideology to blind you to the facts, which, painful as they may be, are that renewable energy sources are not going to be sufficient any time in the near future. If you care about the Earth, you need to put aside your bigotry and your ideology and accept that. Having done so, you have two choices: nuclear fission, or PONIES.

    Problem is, all the PONIES are in Iraq, where they’re needed more.

  119. 119
    MLE says:

    Yeah, I hate all the uneducated talk about nuclear waste disposal and using it as an excuse to avoid using nuclear power. Deep geologic disposal is the ultimate in safety [patentstorm.us], especially if combined with modern glassification [srs.gov] techniques. But why bother? Recycle using breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] — there is after all a finite supply of mine-able uranium [scienceweek.com] on the planet. But if you do decide to bury it, then recover the left over energy [energy.gov] indirectly; Geothermal energy is just indirect nuclear energy after all.BTW, I used to work here so I am pretty familiar with the issues.

  120. 120
    LiberalTarian says:

    I came up with a whole slew of alternative energy schemes over at Popular Mechanics, but decided y’all could look for alternatives yourselves.

    I was actually looking for an article saw a while back regarding replacing leaky transmission lines on the power grid with high conductivity cables, but I couldn’t find it. That alone will save tremendous amounts of energy. Gadgets that produce their own electricity (requiring no transmission and therefore zero losses) are also well on their way, as well as engineering marvels we haven’t seen because they are still being developed in academia.

    Nuclear is not our only hope. It has some pretty gnarly drawbacks, and just because France uses it a lot doesn’t make nuclear waste any prettier. One use the military has been using the waste for is depleted uranium armor and bullet casings. Since dust on the other side of the world is less than a year’s atmospheric travel from the US, I wonder how long it will be before we start using DU as a means to age-date water (like we do radioactive elements from the good old nuke bomb testing era in the 40s-50s).

    What we really need is to get our science and engineering programs back up to speed instead of trying to resurrect an admittedly dirty power.

    PS: Popular Mechanics has a review of all the candidates energy policies at Geek the Vote. I dunno how much access everyday users have, since I login via the UC library.

  121. 121
    srv says:

    and yet you have yet to say anything substantive that might convince me, or anyone else, of the viability of nuclear energy.

    I suppose you think my job is to talk to you like a child and explain to you why you shouldn’t believe in things that aren’t real, and why you should believe in things that are real. But after 30 years and seeing this same, exact behavior with Truthers, and Wingnuts, it’s obvious you share a common rationality: your reasoning is not reasonable.

    Nuclear energy is providing a quarter of the US electrical needs. Right now. The onus is not on me to prove that it is safe or viable. The onus is on your ilk to prove your pony alternatives are viable.

    That you cannot understand that basic, fundamental concept and are blind to it does not make me irrational. Again;

    Irrational belief: An unreasonable conviction that leads to emotional and behavioural problems.

    You have a belief in a conviction that is completely undemonstrable. Historically and today. I have a belief in something that is keeping tens of millions Americans warm right now. You are emotionally tied to your undemonstrable conviction, and thus you are unable to behave or argue rationally when making decisions about what is and what isn’t viable.

    That irrationality, writ large, is driving energy policy decisions. Those decisions are destroying the environment. Your children and society will suffer because of them. You are responsible.

    Well, I don’t know quite what to make of this, but I do know that after Jimmy Carter…

    So if you can’t handle a real discussion with people who disagree with you, maybe you’d better just have a nice drink and go watch some FoxNoise for a while.

    If you think he’s having a “real” discussion, you probably don’t have enough sweaters on.

    Thus ends todays practice.

  122. 122
    srv says:

    Problem is, all the PONIES are in Iraq, where they’re needed more.

    Man, I wait and then after deciding to reply you always say it better. F**k you.

  123. 123
    myiq2xu says:

    OMG – John Cole and Tucker Carlson agree!

    “If you’re against nuclear power just reflexively in 2008, you’re not a forward-thinking person, it seems to me.”

    GMTA!

  124. 124
    bob says:

    The problem with the alternative deniers is this: you have been saying the same things since Carter. It’ll NEVER WORK. Bullshit. If we invested anywhere NEAR the amount of money into photovoltaics that we do in nuclear, oil and coal subsidies and such, we would have done it long ago. The technology HAS advanced without any assistance and in fact, outright resistance. The new technologies of Nanosolar coupled with the use of linked microcapacitors for storage make solar personal transportation reachable withing 2 or 3 years, easily. Much of this could have been done years ago with a forward looking energy policy. But since Reagan, when the problem was just becoming evident, it has been oil, oil, oil, coal, coal, coal, dam, dam, dam, nuke, nuke, nuke. Now photovoltaics are approaching universal usability WITHOUT any help from big business, OR government. So individuals had to do it alone, when as a group we could have done it DECADES ago. Keep dragging your feet. Of all of you who have commented on this thread I’d be willing to bet I’m the only one trained to run a nuclear power plant by the Navy. Nuclear power has so many negatives it is beyond listing in comments. I used to believe nuclear power was viable. It is not. I can’t give you all the background on why I say that. I took too much schooling in it and have too much experience, which actually isn’t THAT much because I got out as a conscientious objector, which is another story altogether. The point is I am yet another veteran who is against the thing he is the veteran of. Why won’t you conservative types and pro nuke types listen to us? We are the ones who were actually THERE.

  125. 125
    LiberalTarian says:

    Hey Bob, I believe you. I’m going to back to reading popmech.

  126. 126
    demimondian says:

    We’ve been saying the same thing since Carter because we’re right, bob. We don’t say it’ll never work, but rather that the costs will be prohibitive, and that the performance will be less than projected, and that the barriers are bigger than you think.

    And you know what? We keep being right. Lithium batteries are great things — but their energy density is two orders of magnitude lower than gasoline. Guess what? That limits their utility for transportation solutions. Think we’re wrong? Why are there no electric airplanes? Yeah — the energy density is too low. Ultracapacitors? Kewl. And, yes, coupled with other systems, they can make an automobile which uses a smaller engine yet has decent acceleration from a stop. But that doesn’t solve the underlying problem, which is that…cars burn gasoline, and that releases carbon dioxide.

    And so on.

    And that’s not even getting into issues of industrial scale concentration, which the “alternative reality” energy types keep ignoring, because it’s inconvenient to think about how you make steel without a lot of energy concentrated in one place.

    Can it be done? Maybe. Will it happen any time soon? No. Simply, no. Stop lying about it, and accept the truth — we can’t get there in time.

  127. 127
    Shade Tail says:

    Never mind the nuclear waste that comes out afterward (which takes upward of 240,000 years to be considered “safe”). Mining and refining reactor-grade uranium is dirtier and more poluting than coal mining. Anyone who says that nuclear power is cleaner and safer than other alternatives knows absolutely nothing. Nuclear power is easily the dirtiest form of energy we have, in both the short and long terms.

  128. 128
  129. 129
    demimondian says:

    Yes, Andrew — and it says there’s currently no shortage. It says that a particular field is going to be exhausted in a short period of time. There are other fields.

  130. 130
    DBrown says:

    Standard light water fission reactors can not and never will meet all our energy needs, since the entire world’s supply of uranium would run out in about twenty years if we all went nuclear. The breeder reactor would be able to meet all our needs and last far longer but unlike the light water boiling reactor (like 3-mile island) this reactor, if a melt down occurs, will explode as a small atomic bomb – reread that – will explode like an atomic bomb; want that plant in your backyard? If 3-mile had been a breeder, a good part of the Northeast would be uninhabitable for four or five generations.
    Stop discussing only nuclear fission – there are other ways to generate clean nuclear power – nuclear fusion but it would cost a third to a half billion dollars to build an experimental prototype reactor (yes, it CAN be done, I was involved in an advanced research group that proposed building this puppy and all the basic technical problems have been solved but it was turned down because we don’t need unlimited, clean power costing half billion dollars – the DOE decided that there was only enough money to development weapon testing system at this time (the ICF = over $2 billion and counting).)

  131. 131
    McDuff says:

    If nuclear power can manage to achieve economical and safe power generation without government subsidies then I say the energy companies can go for it.

    On the other hand, if the choice is as to what we should spend billions of tax dollars on my choice would be to subsidise renewables to the hilt (with the exception of the corn industry, which already gets too much money from DC). If the nuke industry turns up to DC cap in hand and says “we need $16Bn to be competitive and we also need the federal government to clean up after us” I’d be asking some hard questions about why that money shouldn’t go into wind, solar, hydro, geotherm, distributed generation, energy efficient housing, long distance power transmision and high capacity power storage.

    If, after those questions, nuke plants are still the viable medium-term option they appear to be now, then by all means give the private companies in the free market the permits to build them.

    It’s not that Nuclear is too messy and dangerous to be acceptable. It’s that Nuclear is too messy and dangerous to subsidise.

  132. 132
    The Raven says:

    I am curious as to how secure Mr. Cole would feel if Haliburton was operating nuclear power plants worldwide, and the Homeland Security was protecting the fuel chain. Do you trust either of them to do their job of keeping the public safe, and not slip quantities of fissionables to, say, Pakistan? What about the Chinese, the Russians, and the Arabs? Does he support the intense level of national and international government regulation and policing required to operate nuclear technology safely? We corvids dislike the human practice of poisoning our food; we eat the dead but we cannot eat death itself. Caw!

  133. 133
    demimondian says:

    this reactor, if a melt down occurs, will explode as a small atomic bomb – reread that – will explode like an atomic bomb

    You can reread it all you like, but it won’t make it other than a blatant lie.

    Seriously, I could go all technical on you, but it’s easier to ask: what’s the difference between a breeder reactor and a light water reactor? The simplest answer? The breeder reactor is in Canada, and the LWR is in the United States.

  134. 134
    Rihilism says:

    Given the large number of posts (I didn’t read them all) this may be redundant, but I feel compelled to respond to the “unserious” comment. John, I do not know if you have a science background, but I assume that don’t given your apparent lack of expertise regarding the viability and sustainability of the alternatives to fossil-fuels. I suggest that you take time to educate yourself before making such blanket statements regarding the efficacy and usefulness of nuclear technology. Although it might be amusing to you to possess opinions that are contrary and antagonistic to certain vocal environmental groups, a little research on your behalf may reduce your risk of appearing foolish, let alone unserious…

  135. 135
    Evinfuilt says:

    30 years of mis-education. America will be the last country to solve energy because they’re all so stupid. They don’t understand base load, they don’t understand that waste only sits out their because of politics.

    The same people who have warned you about Global Warming since the 80s, have told you Nuclear Power is the key to saving us.

    Solar/Wind + Nuclear = energy independence.

    10 Myths about Nuclear Power

    10 Green Arguments For Nuclear Power

    Get educated, before its too late and you become as stupid as Edwards.

  136. 136
    horatius says:

    What’s the half life of Uranium-235?

    I believe it’s about 4.3 million years.

  137. 137
    Rihilism says:

    Solar/Wind + Nuclear = energy independence.

    It seems now the proponents of nuclear power have become as irrational as the scary environmentalists they decry. Given the amount of time (anyone who says it will take 6 years or less to build a new plant has never been involved in a large construction project. btw, the estimate of 6 yrs comes from the nuclear industry) and investment (nuclear is and will be subsidized to within an inch of its life) it would take for an expansion of nuclear capacity that would have a significant impact of global warming, there’s NO reason to believe that the same impact can not be reached with solar, wind, geothermal or other technologies.

    I’m fully aware there is a significant amount of disinformation out there regarding safety of operation and health effects of nuclear plants. However, there also is a great deal of info floating around that suggest that nuclear is some sort of magic bullet. It is not. No more than any of the other alternatives. To suggest to those that do not wish to pay through the nose for a technology that has no advantages over other technologies (including the issue of diurnal cycles which can be resolved for the other technologies) and that still has significant disadvantages (waste) is just plain silly.

  138. 138
    Rihilism says:

    Sorry, should have said “on” global warming”.

    And that last sentence should have said “… are unserious, is just plain silly”.

    I really need an editor…

  139. 139
    Bombadil says:

    I am curious as to how secure Mr. Cole would feel if Haliburton was operating nuclear power plants worldwide, and the Homeland Security was protecting the fuel chain.

    Meh, so what? If there are any problems, I’m sure FEMA will be able to take care of us.

  140. 140
    J sub D says:

    Nuclear energy is a lazy way of opting out since it is an existing technology, instead of working to come up with a better solution.

    Has somebody stated that fission is the be all and end all? Of course we continue to work towards better solutions. In the interim, we invest in nuclear energy, keep burning coal, or reduce our enegy use drasyically. The first two are viable. The third will likely precipitate a political revolution. Reality isn’t all peaches and cream and often you are forced to chose between imperfect options. Y’know, like everytime we vote. I’d wager (my own money) on geothermal for a very long term solution (the interior of the planet is expectrd to remain hot for quite some time). I won’t wager our descendents prosperity on an unproved technology though.

    As I noted earlier, deniers to the right, pipe dreamers to the left.

  141. 141
    Rihilism says:

    I won’t wager our descendents prosperity on an unproved technology though.

    Solar, wind, geothermal are all proven technologies (as far as overall technologies go, making use of solar, wind, or geothermal energy is quite old technology). An investment in solar, wind, or geothermal can return the same reduction in greenhouse gases AND provide us with a cleaner alternative.

  142. 142
    Z says:

    They can be built in 6 years because I have seen in happen, Rihilism. Live up to your name.

  143. 143
    McDuff says:

    J sub D

    Nuclear is a mature technology. Can you justify subsidising mature energy generation?

  144. 144
    Qmanol says:

    horatius, the thing most people don’t seem to realise is that, follow me now, as the half-life increases, the radioactivity decreases. So thing with half-lives of days are insanely dangerous for a short time, but exhaust themselves relatively quickly. Isotopes that are naturally occuring, like U235, 238 and Th232 tend to have half-lives in the millions+ of years, and have a very low level of radiation. Remember, there is a background level of radiation that we are always exposed to.

    The real problem is stuff that comes in between those two extremes. Plutonium-239 has a half-life of ~25,000 years, making it radioactive enough to be dangerous, while long-lived enough to be dangerous for a long time. This is one of the benefits of fast breeder reactors – they can be designed to burn off most of these mid-range isotopes, leaving pretty much only ones with half-lives in the millions of years range, and ones with half-lives more in the range of a couple hundred years and below. Still not the best, but far better than the waste from LWRs. Breeders also wring a lot more energy out of a given amount of uranium, meaning you get less waste per watt, and use uranium less quickly.

    The major concerns for fast breeders are proliferation, and a greater level of complexity in the design.

  145. 145
    The Raven says:

    Meh, so what? If there are any problems, I’m sure FEMA will be able to take care of us.

    Caw! Caw! Caw!

  146. 146
    The Pale Scot says:

    If nuclear energy is a good idea, let free markets make it work, have insurance companies write the policies, and have the utilities float construction bonds on the potential of the plant’s future revenue stream, just like every other business does.

    the insurance won’t touch it, no matter what the incentives, and wall street won’t write the bonds, so how good of an idea can it be?

    If solar and fusion got the same tax subsidies that oil and coal have gotten over 40 years, they would be far more advanced.

    Follow the money, how it gets into people’s pockets explains how the world works.

  147. 147
    fleinn says:

    You know – this is why I hate american politics so much. Allright, so you oppose nuclear power – do people ask why? Do they push people to explain themselves, until they end up actually admitting to some sort of reasoning – even if it consists of “Long Island and Chernobyl was bad, it’s dangerous”? Oh, no – go on the attack, and just say the guy who said it is a loon, or worse, “unserious”. End of discussion. And noone learned anything.

    So what about the ones who support nuclear power? Do people ask why? Do they push people on safety- regulations, or on nuclear safety concerns – oh, I don’t know – do they bring up the kind of progress that has been made lately, but which the nuclear industry won’t implement, since burning the MOX from the cold war remnants is much cheaper? Do they bring up the IAEA, and sacrifice some brain- time on why they’re getting a hell of a beating from any government currently eyeing a golden opportunity to trade cheaply run reactors with their dedicated new allies in the “developing world”? Oh, no. Because supporting goddamn nuclear power is.. well… serious, and responsible, and statesmanlike. Isn’t that right?

    Really. Invective, invective.

  148. 148
    Matthew Smith says:

    Forgive my taking a moment to comment on my own story. This year I’ll finish an undergraduate degree in physics, and I’ve decided to pursue a career in nuclear energy. I’m in the UK (Imperial College), where there aren’t many postgraduate degrees in nuclear engineering available, so I’m likely to end up studying in France.

    The perennial questions people raise when arguing the pros and cons of nuclear power are: (1) What about the waste? (2) Is it safe? (3) Shouldn’t we spend the money on renewables?

    Its not possible to answer any of these questions categorically or straightforwardly, because there are so many variables. The most satisfactory way to address these concerns is to perform a life-cycle analysis for every technology currently available and make quantitative comparisons. To my knowledge, the most exhaustive attempt to do this so far is the EXTERNE study being done by the European Commission. Link: http://www.externe.info/ You do need to do some reading around the site; this is not something that can be summarised into a few numbers without losing a lot, although they do try.

    Here’s my attempt to answer the questions anyway, to the best of my ability.

    (1) a) Radioactive wastes are produced in volumes that are very small on an industrial scale, or when considered in proportion to the energy output. About 10 tonnes of high level wastes – that is, used nuclear fuel – are produced per plant per year, assuming a 1,000 MWe light water reactor. The volume of this material is about that of a large refrigerator. By comparison, a 1,000 MWe coal-fired plant would produce several hundred thousand tonnes of fly ash, and millions of tonnes of waste gases. Imagining the future widespread use of photovoltaics, it is difficult to estimate likely annual volumes of used panels due to uncertainties over cell thickness and recyclability, but I will say this – the front and back end disposal issues of PV will not be trivial if the technology is used on a utility scale.

    (1) b) I don’t think it is reasonable to categorise used nuclear fuel as waste. Of course, I’m referring to the prospect of a future breeder economy in which the remaining transuranics in used fuel are transmuted and fissioned for energy. In this context, the ‘real’ waste products are the fission products, all of which are very radioactive and have very short half-lives. Completely fissioned nuclear fuel would be safe within a period of hundreds of years.

    (2) a) When something has never been done before, we have to estimate the risks. This is a highly technical business. Engineers are generally conservative, and build in a great deal of margin to ensure safety. This practice has definitely been followed in the nuclear industries of most countries. My own feeling on the initial subject of this blog post – Three Mile Island – is that the ‘asleep at the wheel’ analogy is more apt than the ‘brake goes’ one, although both are defensible to varying degrees. As expertise in operating reactors has been accumulated, it has been possible to use this designed-in margin to generate more electricity; this is why the amount of nuclear energy in the US has continued to increase over the past 30 years even though no new plants have been ordered.

    (2) b) Once something has been done for a long time, it becomes possible to measure the safety of that activity with statistics. The details of particular events are not really that important, as Robert Johnston pointed out, we tend to overreact to single large events. The statistics of nuclear safety have been very extensively studied and have been found to be highly satisfactory; the EXTERNE report goes into some detail on this issue. Of course, no activity is perfectly safe; we will probably see major nuclear accidents in the future, especially if (as I hope) nuclear energy is more widely used in the future. The point is that they will not change the overall statistical picture – nuclear energy is very safe.

    (2) c) Taking a step back, as a physicist, I appreciate that the reason nuclear reactors pose certain non-trivial safety issues is not so much *that they are nuclear* per se, rather that they generally operate with three years worth of fuel built in, meaning that there is a great deal of latent energy inside a machine that has been designed to release that energy. This leads to unique engineering requirements, but shouldn’t be a show-stopper. In themselves, radioactive elements do not pose more or less risk than toxic chemicals or fast-moving objects – merely different risk, requiring different safety measures. Nuclear things become a lot less scary once they are familiar. I think that a lot of the worry here comes from people being told (wrongly) that plutonium is the ‘most dangerous substance known to man’, and not being aware of how meaningless that statement is.

    (3) In principle, it is certainly possible for industrial society to be run using only renewable primary energy sources; as has been pointed out, there’s more than enough of them out there. Some countries already have entirely renewable electricity grids. In these cases, however, the energy sources used are those where geography provides concentrated, reliable energy streams, such as hydroelectric dams or geothermal plants. The supply of such industrially convenient geography is very limited. No industrial economy has ever run on majority diffuse, intermittent renewable primary energies such as wind or sunlight, and there are practical reasons for this beyond simple lack of investment.

    As has been pointed out, storing energy on a utility scale is very difficult. People often have little concept of how difficult it is. You’ll hear about pumped hydro and compressed air, fuel cells, batteries and molten salt but the bottom line is: at present, there really isn’t a solution, or set of solutions, that can provide utility scale energy storage for more than a small fraction of geographically advantaged parts of the global economy.

    Even presuming you have a super battery tech that solves this problem, the business of catching very diffuse energy streams inevitably involves moving a lot more stuff around for a given energy return, even more so if you have to back up your energy collectors with super batteries. And consider that if you start taking significant volumes of energy out of the Earth system for our use, the knock-on effects may be… undesirable. Just something to think about. (To clarify, I’m talking about local effects – we aren’t yet at the point where our energy consumption is on the same scale as the global Earth system energy balance.)

    Now let me be clear – this does not mean we shouldn’t invest in renewables. On the contrary, I think they should be receiving a great deal of investment, and I’m very excited about Nanosolar and their ilk. I just think its important to understand the limitations of this sort of technology.

    Okay, I think that will do!

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