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Gerald O'brian


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Nuclear vs renewable?

How do you argue in favor of nuclear other than its cheapness?

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  • Dec 31 2013: Nuclear should be taken to mean Gen IV reactors, not yesterday's Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology, burdened with meltdown and nuclear waste fears.

    Gen IV reactors are inherently safe - they shut down according to the laws of physics, without human intervention and in the absence of all power supplies and safety systems. Even the technological morons at Chernobyl could not have created problems with such reactors. The human error at TMI and the station blackout at Fukushima would both have been avoided had Gen IV technology been in place.

    The Gen IV technology, here and now and ready to go, is that of the Integrated Fast Reactor (IFR), the forerunner of which, The EBR-II, ran for 30 years generating electricity for the Argonne National Laboratory. Clinton closed it down in 1994 as payback to his (so called) environmentalist anti-nuke supporters.

    Requiring the biggest no-brainer decision ever place in front of any government, GE Hitachi are offering their PRISM Power Block (an IFR burner reactor) to the UK government, to burn the UK's plutonium stockpile, on what is tantamount to a no-win, no-fee basis.

    One process offered will render the plutonium useless as a bomb making material in 5 years and from the fuel produced over this period, the reactor will chug away for a further 50 or 60 years, supplying 622 MW of commercial electricity to the National Grid - almost enough to supply a city the size of Leeds. This is not an insignificant contribution to meeting the UK's carbon targets.

    IFRs can be configured as breeder reactors, capable of burning nuclear waste and in the UK, we have enough of that to provide all of our energy needs for the next 500 years - that's energy security with knobs on.

    The waste stream from IFRs is minuscule - around 1 tonne for supplying electricity to a city of 1 million people for a year. It decays to background radiation levels in 300 years - easily, cheaply and safely stored. No more nuclear waste problems.
    • Dec 31 2013: The problem is with trying to teach people about the different types of nuclear reactor technology and how intrinsically different they are from bombs, its like trying to teach a cat how to play fetch. Lack of intellectual capacity isn't the problem, but rather lack of inclination of the animal to learn.

      I often find that its not how well you speak that matters, but rather people's willingness to listen.
  • Dec 17 2013: This will reply to two posts above: First of all---the EPA is not objective. They have a vested interest in finding "problems". The more problems they find, the more they get to regulate, the more they get to load up their bureaucracy---they have been pushing the LNT which benefits them; hormsis does not benefit them. I believe in the data.

    When you see a 15% drop in cancer related fatalities in some 40,000 workers in the UK who work on their nuclear program, I find that important. When Cohen, with some 300,000 data points shows that extemely low levels of radon are associated with an elevated cancer risk (google Cohen, Radon and linear no threshhold)
    while moderate levels correlate with good lung health, I tend to believe it. When hundreds of studies suggest both from field experiments and in the laboratory that low-level radiation is beneficial, I tend to believe the preponderance of studies. Show me even 10 studies that clearly show a link between low levels of radon and increase lung cancer deaths, I would be inclined to study them. If you check the literature, I think you will find few if any studies connecting high natural levels of radon and increased morbidity.

    Of course you find an increase in leukemia when you get exposure to HIGH levels of radiation, not low levels. As I already agreed high levels of toxins, heat and radiation are lethal; low levels are beneficial. Despite being exposed to high levels of radiation, residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had an incidence level of cancer that resulted in about the same number of fatalities we experience on our highways.

    More people will live longer lives in Tokyo due to exposure to low-level radiation from the nuclear meltdowns there than die because of exposure to high levels of radiation.
  • Dec 16 2013: Worse Case Scenario: A Wind Economy

    Why doesn’t the NRC do a worst case scenario for a wind economy the same way critics have done with the nuclear industry? Here is what is possible:

    1) A massive high-pressure center stagnates over New Orleans,

    2) The entire country is subjected to the highest heat indices seen in 1,000,000 years,

    3) The wind dies throughout the wind corridor in Texas and the Nation’s center. We lose 95% of our primary source of electricity. The reason is that a drop in wind speed from 24 mph to 12 mph decreases electrical output by a factor of 9. If wind speeds drops to 6 mph, then all meaningful wind energy disappears,

    4) Just like we require of the nuclear power industry, we lose 50% of the back up power of the 10% of wind-generated electricity from the wind corridor. Thus the grid is missing over 50,000 mW of capacity,

    5) The grid, simultaneously, is completely swamped by a massive increase in demand from air-conditioner load yet experiences a huge drop in supply. The grid collapses from the strain and is down for 3 days to a week as people refuse to turn off their air conditioners in anticipation of the power returning. The start-up load of millions of air conditioners waiting to come on keeps the grid down,

    6) Thousands of Americans die of heat stroke mostly babies, infirm and the elderly,

    This is a thousand times as likely as a worst case scenario involving nuclear power---and we know that the wind dies.
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      Dec 17 2013: Nobody in his right mind would suggest an economy built entirely on wind energy. There are places where wind energy makes sense and others where it doesn't.
      • Dec 17 2013: My worse case scenario assumes that only 10% of our base load power comes from wind energy, not 100%
  • Dec 16 2013: Coal-fired plants emit greater amounts of radioactive uranium than nuclear plants. Indeed, you could not license a nuclear power plant with the amount of radiation emitted a typical coal-fired plant25. Coal-fired plants emit 100 times the radioactivity compared to a nuclear plant of comparable generating capacity; the radioactive waste from coal-fired plants is massive25 and may serve as a source of uranium in the future26.

    Here are the raw numbers for Death by Terawatt Hour by various kinds of electrical generation23

    ---Coal (China) = 278

    ---Coal (US) = 15

    ---Solar = .44

    ---Nuclear = .04

    From these numbers we can see that in this country 375 X the number of people die from coal-generated electricity than nuclear-generated electricity. World-wide, it is over 4,000. What is interesting is that roof-top solar fatalities cause 10 X the number of nuclear fatalities.

    How can anyone compare the cost of coal-generated electricity with nuclear-generated electricity without factoring in environmental degradation and mortality? Apparently dead people and a dead environment don’t matter i.e. acid lakes, mercury, sulfur, radium and uranium contamination, toxic spoil piles/leachate, toxic ash and global warming---when factoring in the cost of coal. Sequestration benefits the coal industry at the expense of the America public; this paradoxical observation is the result of the ability of the coal industry to make it appear they are doing something useful, when, in fact, it is really an attempt to hide the dead bodies and the dead environment.
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      Dec 17 2013: Would be a good idea if you could support your comments with references from the scientific literature.
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        Dec 17 2013: The random numbers following some words indicate that it's simply copied from some site... I too would like to see the sources of Richards information.
        • Dec 17 2013: 16. Feinendegen, L.E. 2005. “Evidence for Beneficial Low-Level Radiation Effects and Radiation Hormesis,” Brit. J. Radiology 78, 3-7.

          17. Feinendegen, L.E., Paretzke, H. and Neumann, R.D. 2008. “Damage Propagation in Complex Biological Systems Following Exposure to Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation,” Asian J. Exp. S. 22, 2, 7-24.

          18) Thompson, et al. 2008. “Case Control Study of Lung Cancer Risk from Residential Radon Exposure in Worcester County, Massachusetts,” Health Physics 94, 3, 228-241.

          19) Integral Fast Reactor, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor

          20) Till, C.E. 2006. “Plentiful Energy and the Integral Fast Reactor Story,” Int. J. of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, 1, 2, 212-221.

          21) World Coal Association. http://www.worldcoal.org/resources/coal-statistics

          22) Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language Second Edition Unabridged, Springfield, 1934, p.71.

          23) Deaths per TWH by Energy Source. March 2011. Next Big Future Coverage of Science and Technology Having High Potential for Disruption and Analysis of Plans, Policies and Technology to Enable Radical Improvements.

          24) “About Greenpeace l Greenpeace USA,” http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/nuclear/

          25) “Coal Ash is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste,” December 13, 2007, Scientific American.

          26) “World Uranium and Thorium Supplies,” http://nucleargreen.blogspot.2008/03/today-nuclear-power-offers-large.html

          27. Cost of Electricity by Source, Wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/cost_of_electricity_by_source

          28. Taconite Symposium. 2003. International Symposium on the Health Hazard Evaluation of Fibrous Particles Associated with Taconite and the Adjacent Duluth Complex. http://www.ierfinc.org/activities_tacsymp.html

          29. Fujita, K. and Sleep, N. 1991. “A Re-examination of the Seismicity of Michigan,” Tectonophysics, 186, 1, 2, 75-106.

          30. “The Nuclear Green Revolution Uranium and Thorium Supplies
      • Dec 17 2013: 1) AEC Authorization H.R. 7576 Public Law 87-315 Approved September 26, 1961.

        2) Stanford, G.S. Dec. 2001. “Integral Fast Reactors: Source of Safe, Abundant, Non-polluting Power,” National Policy Analysis # 378. http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA378.html3) de Laeter, J.R., Rosman, K.J.R., and Smith, C.L. 1980. “The Oklo Natural Reactor: Cumulative Fission Yields and Retentivity of the Symmetric Fission Products,” Ear. Plan. Sci. Lttrs., 50.

        4) “Chernobyl: The True Scale of the Accident,” Sept. 5, 2005, World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html

        5) Feinendegen, L.E. and Pollycove, M. 2001. “Biologic Responses to Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation. Detriment versus Hormesis. Part 1. Dose Response of Cells and Tissues,” J. Nuclear Med., 42, 7, 17-27.

        6) Cutler, J.M. 2010. “Commentary on Using LNT for Radiation Protection and Risk Assessment,” Dose Response, 8, 3, 378-383.

        7) The Chernobyl Accident UNSCEAR’s Assessment of the Radiation Effects http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html11) Feb. 27, 2007. “On Radiation,”

        8) Sciscoop Science http://www.sciscoop.com/2007-2-27-174148-109.html

        9) Voelz, G.L., Lawrence, J.N.P. and Johnson, E.R. 1997. “Fifty Years of Plutonium Exposure to the Manhattan Project Workers: An Update,” Health Physics, 68, 157-174.

        10) Carpenter, L.M., Higgins, C.D., Macnonchie, N.E., Oman, R.Z., Fraser, P., Beral, V., and Smith, P.G. Nov. 1998. “Cancer Mortality in Relation to Exposure in Three UK Nuclear Industry Workforces,” Brit. J. 78, 9, 1224-1232.

        11) Cohen, B.L. 1995. “Test of the Linear No-threshold Theory of Radiation Carcinogenesis for Inhaled Radon Decay Products,” Health Phys. 68, 157-174.

        12) Erickson, B.E. 2007. The Therapeutic Use of Radon: A Biomedical Treatment in Europe; An ‘Alternative’ Remedy in the United States,” Dose Response, 5, 1, 48-62.

        13) “Health Benefits of Low-level Radioactivity,” Townsend Letter The Examiner of Alternative Medicine.
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          Dec 17 2013: Great work, thanks for that!

          I'm going to leave it to someone else to check the validity though since I don't have the energy.

          Edit: No pun intended.
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      Dec 17 2013: MOst of your references have nothing to do with your comments.

      "Coal-fired plants emit greater amounts of radioactive uranium than nuclear plants"
      This is from one of your sources you cited:
      "The chances of experiencing adverse health effects from radiation are slim for both nuclear and coal-fired power plants—they're just somewhat higher for the coal ones. "You're talking about one chance in a billion for nuclear power plants," Christensen says. "And it's one in 10 million to one in a hundred million for coal plants."
      I assume your death numbers are coming from a NextBigFuture article.
      Whether the numbers are actually correct or not, I don't know. The article doesn't explain where the data come from.
      Anyway, that coal causes more death than nuclear energy, shouldn't be a surprise.
      However, your comment of roof top fatalities are 10x higher than nuclear is meaningless. The numbers are probably higher because much more people are working on the installation of solar panels than working in nuclear plants. Hence, the chance of fatalities occurred by people falling from roofs might be indeed higher for solar energy, however, this obviously tells nothing about how clean one energy form vs. another is.

      You are taking bits and pieces of information out of context re-assembling them to fit your needs.
      At the end, you tried to make a case for nuclear vs. fossil (which isn't that difficult) but not a case of nuclear vs. renewable.
      • Dec 17 2013: I have not deliberately taken anything out of context; I am merely preventing studies as I find them.

        Did you check this reference?

        23) Deaths per TWH by Energy Source. March 2011. Next Big Future Coverage of Science and Technology Having High Potential for Disruption and Analysis of Plans, Policies and Technology to Enable Radical Improvements.

        Nuclear versus renewable is a no brainer. We have subsidized solar for decades in America and it still comprises only 0.1% of our electrical supply. The only reason Germany can rely on renewables so heavily (Germany has decided to burn lignite the dirtiest type of the dirtiest coal) while closing down their nuclear plants, is that they are able to stabilize their grid with cheap nuclear electricity from France.

        Greenpeace, is, in my opinion, an environmental terrorist organization that recommends the pie-in-the-sky world where there is no nuclear and no coal. They have caused millions of needless deaths from coal-related pollution. When they shut down nuclear power in the States by scare-mongering, they brought the world coal, not renewables.

        Why didn't they realize that due to cost, only coal could compete with nuclear in the 1970's for base load power (before cheap natural gas appeared), so when they actively fought to shut down nuclear power they brought us coal? Now they bring us the idiotic "Santa" ads showing the melting of the North Pole, something they were instrumental in causing.

        The best way to use solar energy would be to require every new housing unit, absent variances, to employ passive solar hot water heaters as part of their building code south of some latitude.

        Hiigh-temperature gas-cooled reactors for generating hydrogen makes sense; they are 50% more efficient than electrolysis. It can be burned as is or we can convert it to methanol. Wanting to convert solar electricity to hydrogen is naive. It will never, in BTU equivalent, be cost effective to burn hydrogen from solar electricity.
  • Dec 16 2013: Here are some excerpts from an article called, "Hormesis and the Rebirth of Nuclear Power" published two years ago. It is available from Infinite Energy magazine.

    Here are the facts: Cows exposed to high levels of radiation during the Trinity tests of the A-bomb in 1946 had to be euthanized because of extreme old age. Mice exposed to uranium dust at ten times the maximum dose level during the Manhattan project lived longer than control groups8. Men working at Los Alamos who ingested large quantities of radioactive plutonium had lower mortality than the average population. Workers in the UK nuclear industry had a lower incidence of cancer than the general population. Moderate exposure to radon, a radioactive gas, correlates with good lung health11. In fact radon is regarded as a biomedical treatment in Europe. Extremely low levels of radon correlate with elevated levels of lung cancer.

    We knew as far back as 1963 that the LNT model was suspect because AEC scientists exposed rats, mice and guinea pigs to low levels of radiation. The life spans of these animals extended beyond the life spans of the control group. The AEC’s findings were validated within a decade by hundreds of experimenters. Mice brought up in Chernobyl lived longer than control groups.

    Here are the mechanisms of hormesis: 1) Low levels of radiation stimulate the immune system; high levels suppress it, 2) Damaged cells “commit suicide”, a process called, “Apoptosis”, rather than spread the damage; this process is enhanced by low levels of radiation, 3) Repair enzymes flourish in response to low levels of radiation (that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger), 4) The real culprit in cancer is, “Reactive Oxygen Species—ROS”, scavenging processes to remove them are enhanced by low-level radiation, but high levels depress it.

    Radiation can alter cell cycle timing. This can extend the time before the next cell division (mitosis).
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      Dec 17 2013: Hormesis is a fringe idea.

      I suggest you read this study that shows that low radioactive radiation can cause epigenetic changes.

      As to cancer: there are different causes. Free radicals is only one of them.
      • Dec 17 2013: Your response is a fringe idea; hormesis effects have been demonstrated hundreds/thousands of times, yet the very study you quote says it is the first study to demonstrate an association with low-level radiation. Don't you find it surprising that the linear no threshhold people have been arguing this for decades and we only get thefrirst hint of the dangers of low-level radiation now. Unless you are not familiar with science you would know that this study is an outlier and hardly representative of the discipline. What you should also consider is motive---these scientists, by virtue of the their findings, are absolutely guaranteed to get additional funding. They would not get additional funding if they got a null result.

        What you fail to mention is that in the 1960's investigators learned they could get funding by "scaring the pants off Congress". There is no funding if you say low-level radiation is harmless, just like saying there is no need to study anything that doesn't cause cancer. Find a "cause" for cancer and you'll get funding; find something that doesn't cause cancer and you'll get no funding.

        What we have with the LNT is analogous to taking 1000 aspirin and dying and saying that if 1 million people eat one aspirin/day, 1000 will die of aspirin poisoning. That is the logical basis for the LNT model.
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          Dec 17 2013: Richard, you make a lot of claims but once again, no literature references.
          I think nobody has much doubt that high levels of radioactivity cause harm if not outright death.
          Hiroshima and Chernobyl come in mind as proper evidence.
          As to low level radiation. First define what means "low level" to you. Beside, it's not only the level of exposure but also the time during which the exposure occurs that has to be taken into account.
          There are stochastic health effects related to low level chronic exposure such as cancer, changes in DNA (mutations)
          According to EPA there is no safe exposure to radiation beyond the background radiation for stochastic effects.
          For example 5-10 rem would already cause changes in blood chemistry.
          The paper RADIATION HORMESIS by Roger M. Macklis and Beverly Beresford, both from Harvard Medical School come to following conclusion:
          "On balance, it appears that the large populational data sets such as the RERF data and the radon data do not support the existence of a discernible hermetic effect in the range of 1-25 cGy total absorbed dose."

          That said, the LNT model doesn't seem to be the right approach either.
      • Dec 17 2013: Without doubt the single most misunderstood indispensable concept by the American Public, Greenpeace and the Press is the concept of hormesis---the time tested, scientific concept, with a wealth of observational, laboratory tested and reproducible results. Stated simply, hormesis is the ability of a potentially lethal substance at high levels, typically heat, toxins and radioactivity, to be beneficial at low levels. Countless studies establish, beyond any reasonable doubt to a rational individual, that hormesis is “settled” science about on a par with believing in global climate change. These opponents to hormesis should be branded hormesis “deniers”.

        One noted scientist calls the suppression of the truth about low-level radiation to be the “one of the greatest scandals in the 20th Century”. Starting almost 60 years ago scientists began to provide false data to vilify all forms or radiation by “scaring the pants” off Congress whenever they sought funding. It was very effective. They cemented the LNT as the accepted paradigm when the only real data was based on poor science from fruit fly studies.

        Known hormesis effects form algae studies date back over a century; that it is still greeted with skepticism is testimony to the power of institutionalized lies i.e. the LNT. This deliberate corruption of the science has crippled nuclear power in this country, led to unreasonable fear of diagnostic medical imaging, unnecessary expensive radon abatement, and has been used as a tool to terrorize the residents of Chernobyl. What is missing from the discussion so far is that the residents of Europe performed over 100,000 needless abortions because of the scare over Chernobyl. Now for the most incredible aspect of the Chernobyl farce is, “There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation." References provided on request.
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          Dec 17 2013: Richard, I don't question hormesis per se. It might work for some agents, but here we are talking about radiation.
          This comes from the WHO:
          "A large increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer has occurred among people who were young children and adolescents at the time of the accident and lived in the most contaminated areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. This was due to the high levels of radioactive iodine released from the Chernobyl reactor in the early days after the accident."

          "Ionizing radiation is a known cause of certain types of leukaemia (a malignancy of blood cells). An elevated risk of leukaemia was first found among the survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan some two to five years after exposure. Recent investigations suggest a doubling of the incidence of leukaemia among the most highly exposed Chernobyl liquidators"
      • Dec 17 2013: Abstract

        The frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct is a matter of controversy. Many surveys have asked scientists directly whether they have committed or know of a colleague who committed research misconduct, but their results appeared difficult to compare and synthesize. This is the first meta-analysis of these surveys.

        To standardize outcomes, the number of respondents who recalled at least one incident of misconduct was calculated for each question, and the analysis was limited to behaviours that distort scientific knowledge: fabrication, falsification, “cooking” of data, etc… Survey questions on plagiarism and other forms of professional misconduct were excluded. The final sample consisted of 21 surveys that were included in the systematic review, and 18 in the meta-analysis.

        A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Meta-regression showed that self reports surveys, surveys using the words “falsification” or “fabrication”, and mailed surveys yielded lower percentages of misconduct. When these factors were controlled for, misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others.
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          Dec 17 2013: If you doubt scientists you must doubt every scientist even those that seem to support your views.
          You exhibit a very strong bias toward your favorite position without even being aware of it.
      • Dec 17 2013: It bears emphasis that the Environmental Protection Agency is no objective arbiter of the truth when it comes to radon and health effects (hormesis). Here is how they justify their existence: 1) Create a “problem” in this case radon, 2) “Study” the problem 3) Scare the public, 4) Convince politicians to “fix” the problem, 5) Set standards, 6) Enforce the standards. Through this process the EPA, can convince Congress they are doing the public “good” and then sit back and load up their bureaucracy with people to create and enforce the standards.
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          Dec 17 2013: Who is a "objective arbiter of the truth" according to you ? How do you decide who to believe and who not ?
      • Dec 18 2013: Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects

        (Updated 25 November 2013)
        •Natural sources account for most of the radiation we all receive each year.
        •The nuclear fuel cycle does not give rise to significant radiation exposure for members of the public, and even in two major nuclear accidents – Three Mile Island and Fukushima – exposure to radiation has caused no harm to the public.
        •Radiation protection standards assume that any dose of radiation, no matter how small, involves a possible risk to human health. This deliberately conservative assumption is increasingly being questioned, and its application following the Fukushima accident caused much suffering and many deaths.
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          Dec 18 2013: "Natural sources account for most of the radiation we all receive each year."
          Sure, that's what is called the background radiation.
          "The nuclear fuel cycle does not give rise to significant radiation exposure for members of the public"
          "Three Mile Island" no health impact was to be expected because according to the U.S. NRC background radiation for the approx. 2 million people living closest to TMI-2 were only exposed to an estimated 1 mRem above background radiation, which in this area is about 100-125 mRem/year.
          As to Fukushima: 100.000 people were evacuated from the area, that's why no radiation related health problems were registered.
          Beside, the main radioactive waste products freed in the Fukushima accident were Iodine-131 with a half life of only 8 days.
          Measurements of Caesium-137 in rice showed about 1/4 of the permitted level.
          Beyond that, it's still too early to know if there will be long term health issues related to chronic radioactive exposure.

          As I said, yes, the LNT model is currently questioned, but that doesn't imply that low radiation is beneficial for one's health.
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      Dec 17 2013: Richard, if you wish to provide links, which is a general good way of going about. What you do is copy the address field (where you type www.ted.com) and paste it into a comment, keep spaces on both sides or it won't get red.
      • Dec 17 2013: Thanks Jimmy; the above bibliography is from my personal files; Infinite Energy did not put my article on line yet (They are, after all, in the business of selling subscriptions!).
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    Dec 6 2013: Luckily there's a TED Debate about that!


    Edit: Apparently I'm writing it wrong... There a TED Talk, the only debate that I've ever seen on a TED stage between Stewart Brand (often called the father of environmentalism) and Mark Z. Jacobson (Civil and environmental engineer) Stewart is pro nuclear and Mark isn't. It's really informative and bring up all the best arguments for and against.
  • Dec 6 2013: Some conservation groups are supporting nuclear energy. Nuclear waste is something many people look at and think of tons of material. If you recycle nuclear waste, you will find that most can be reused and what you are left with is a very small amount. One of my friends who worked on the Manhattan Project and was in Nuclear Energy research for his entire career stated that all the nuclear waste if recycled would fit in one 50 gallon barrel. (never checked his math)
  • Timo X

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    Dec 6 2013: There is only one argument in favour of nuclear, but, apparently, we are forbidden to use it. Makes me wonder: how do you argue against nuclear energy other than the possible effects of nuclear waste?
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      Dec 6 2013: I was about to mention it. The New Nuclear or the clean nuclear are technologies that have reduced the risk but half life periods of radioactive isotopes in the nuclear wastes are normally in the order of thousands of years. It can be a very uncomfortable question as to who has the moral authority of putting thousands of generations in the future to risk and why?
      But then most of our 'present' prosperity is borrowed from our childrens' future.
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      Dec 6 2013: there are a great number of arguments against, just as with everything. generally, things have countless arguments for and against which we need to account.

      just to be specific, here are some: 1, current(!) designs are only viable large scale. you can't make a nuclear powered settlement, factory, car, drill, etc. 2, terrorists might lay a hand on radioactive materials. 3, nuclear is knowledge-intensive and engineering-intensive. a poor country can't build one without the help of an advanced country. 4, fuel is extremely sparse. geopolitics are in play. 5. high initial investment poses financial risk, makes it harder to find investors on the market.

      please note that these are counterarguments, but not game changers. oil rigs have similar properties (1, 3, 4, 5), yet we have many private oil rigs.
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    Dec 5 2013: This whole debate may take a very different turn if one asks how much energy one individual needs to expend. How much commercially supplied energy and how much embedded energy in consumables. I find that most of these debates do not pay much attention to the demand side but remain completely fixed on the supply side. We are a 19 terrawatts world now. 3 Terawatts of New Nuclear = Building 3-reactor, 3-Gigawatt nuclear plant every week, 52 numbers a year for 25 years.
    Next our energy generation and distribution strategy is centralized (plant and transmission). How about a decentralizing strategy?
    • Dec 5 2013: Decentralization will be more expensive. If economics of scale hadn't made power plants the cheaper option, they'd have all been dismantled long ago.

      As for fixating on supply rather then demand, its because demand is in the hands of the general public alongside every single corporation in existence, the lot of which are ruled by no one. Its much easier (read: realistic) to increase supply then to go after changing the world to reduce the need for it.
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        Dec 6 2013: That's a technological challenge. I wish to offer tougher challenge to technology because I wish better, safer and happier future.
        I believe innovation seeks to solve the tougher problems not the easier ones. It's business and commerce that seek easier ways to prosper.
        • Dec 6 2013: That's exactly the problem, its not a technological challenge, its a social one.
          Reducing demand is partially about more efficient technology, but its more about getting the general public being minimizing use of energy. Its much easier to build an extra couple of power plants than to convince the public it needs to use less power.
          Going for an easy solution isn't about laziness, its about maximum effect for minimum resources and minimizing chance of failure.

          And that's without even considering things like industry, for whom consuming large amounts of power (sometimes more than the general public), isn't a luxury so much as a necessity.
          Your average citizen can get by without indoor heating and driving a few kilometers less if he really wanted to (and most of them really don't want to). You try to do the same to a factory, and you don't have a factory by the end of the process.
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      Dec 5 2013: decentralization does not reduce cost. repeat your calculations with small scale (20-100kW) wind, and see how that works out.
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        Dec 6 2013: I am not talking about a scale of a small city or community at remote location. I am talking about decentralization through a technology that works in the scale of individual. Suppose we have a technology enabling us to generate 3000 watts (which is world average) energy daily? We do generate about 100 watts daily just by eating and digesting food, don't we?
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      Dec 6 2013: decentralization still does not reduce the cost, unless you believe the grid is the major factor. in fact, decentralization increases the cost.

      "suppose we have" doesn't feed anyone
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    Dec 4 2013: Given that there is a burgeoning world population of power consumers, it has to be nuclear - but acting as an interim transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

    Only nuclear has the capacity to cope with such demand (without the risk of regular power outages) until renewable energy generation and storage technology improves.

    Power consumption also needs to be vastly improved during that transition. The amount of power that gets wasted in futile city lighting schemes and thermally inefficient housing stocks, is nothing short of scandalous.

    My argument therefore, is to embrace nuclear as a means of weaning us off fossil fuels, and to buy enough time to improve renewable technology and our power consumption habits.

    Switching directly from fossil fuels to renewables is not realistic.
  • Dec 4 2013: First off, cheapness isn't exactly a moot point. Its not about greed, the money you save on your energy bill can go to anything from healthcare to infrastructure to education. Saving money is a big deal, and nuclear is cheaper than renewables (though not as cheap as fossil fuels).

    Moving on from price, its really no fun at all when mother nature has control of the on/off switch. If you're using solar, you need to provide that power from somewhere else when its overcast, and wind doesn't give you much on a still day. That means you need to have an entire non-renewable backup infrastructure that can provide as much power as your renewable one for when mother nature is feeling lazy.

    Nuclear also uses negligible amounts of land as opposed to massive wind farms or solar panels, and can be set up regardless of the local geography. Solar won't get you far if you live far from the equator, and wind requires, well, steady wind which you don't have everywhere.
    Hydroelectric and geothermal are even worse in that regard. Both are very cost efficient, but if you don't have an appropriate body of water or thermal vent, there's not much they can do.
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    Dec 4 2013: nuclear is not anymore cheap. as standards became more and more rigid, now it is expensive. but clean. nuclear has the lowest impact on the environment of all energy sources that are available large scale anywhere.

    it is weird that greens advocate solar and wind. in fact greens should advocate nuclear above all. from the perspective of the ecosphere, nuclear is the less noticeable.
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    Dec 4 2013: That's it? I have had many discussion topics denied because I did not provide enough detail. How did you get approved with a single sentence? Oh well, that aside...

    Nuclear has many advantages. We can produce large amounts of power in a small footprint, thus saving huge plots of land from being plastered with solar panels. Also they can be used in locations were wind and solar are not practical. In addition, nuclear power produces no CO2, so if you're worried about that, there's another plus. Nuclear, even using current technology, is rather safe. Yes, there have been some pretty nasty accidents, but when you compare damages vs power output, I doubt you would find it less safe than most other technology.

    In addition, we now are coming into the age of Thorium reactors. Thorium reactors can destroy weapons grade nuclear material. The waste products are far more manageable, and indeed, they can be re-purposed if facilities to do so are produced. There are large Thorium reserves in the United States and in India. Oh, and did I mention that Thorium reactors do not melt down?

    Lastly, nuclear is useful in one other area. This is related to the concept of a small footprint. Nuclear is useful in closed systems. They are great for powering larger ships and of course submarines. Looking at super-ships like The World and possibly in the near future Freedom Ship, nuclear reactors make the most sense for powering such vessels.