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After Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Do we need to rethink the uses of nuclear energy, regarding pacific and warfare usage?

The experiences that were left by the uses of Nuclear energy are reminders of the danger that this kind of technology is to our lives and environment. Both warfare and pacific usage reclaim its price. The bombs delivered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused an instant genocide and the extermination of all natural life around by the explosion’s extreme heat. In addition, the radiation had consequences that lasted several years; the bomb’s explosion creates radioactive dust that pollutes air, water, fields and people. After World War Two, during the Cold War, in 1968 the USA and Russia had enough nuclear arsenals to destroy the planet several times. Now industries use this energy to power their machinery, we use its electricity at home as we use it in transportation. Nevertheless, the events in Chernobyl and Fukushima, the so called pacific use of nuclear energy, showed a great fault as to security, and the increasing numbers of nuclear plants, a lack of interest and investment in ecological and renewable sources and technology. Nowadays, atomic bombs are owned also by China, France, England, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea and Iran.

Is it necessary to think about the pros and contras of nuclear energy? How can we take side and make this responsibility to participate all of us? How can we lecture the average man and rise a voice that cannot be taken as retrograde?

Thank You!

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    May 7 2014: The advancement of science and technology should not be crippled by fear. It is important that nations should use nuclear energy for the good of humanity. Every good technology has its destructive parts; humanity should be trusted to be responsible. Except if we can no longer trust our humanity.
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      May 10 2014: If not fear is stopping dangerous technologies, what will? And the fear for this technology is more than entitled!
      • May 10 2014: An engineer for 34 years, I was against nuclear fission ever since I first heard there was NO plan as to what to do with the waste. However, 2 years ago I first heard about the alternative form of nuclear fission power (Thorium LFTR) And I think you might want to know that Fear of THATtechnology is not at all justified, scientifically.
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          Lejan .

          • +1
          May 11 2014: I am an mechanical engineer myself and as such know that there is no 100% security in any technology at any time!

          As a student I visited a Thorium Pebble-bed test reactor in Germany, the THTR 300, in April 1986, just a view days after the Chernobyl disaster and just a view days before the THTR 300 itself produced a radioactive leakage within the area I happen to live myself.

          Under the very 'fresh' impression of Chernobyl at that time, all students of my class on this school trip to this Thorium reactor were pretty sensitive about security concerns, and our prepared tour guide from the company which run that reactor at that time, spend a lot of time to explain to us, why THIS THORIUM technology was 'SAFE' ...

          A view days later, all of this became plain lip-service, when one of the pebbles broke within a pipeline of this test reactor and caused radioactive dust to escape into the ouside to create a fallout zone within a highly populated area and very close to my hometown.

          Today, this event is known as 'the THTR pebble event' and described as 'human error' ... what else, of course, as the TECHNOLOGY itself has to stay infallible for the lobbyists ...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble-bed_reactor

          The THTR 300 got closed down after this event, and cost millions of tax money in the whole process as part of a bail out program, because the private company who run this reactor couldn't cover the cost themselves.

          So much for save THORIUM fission energy and safety issues!

          And on Fukushima ... do you as an engineer have an explanation why all of our colleagues failed that miserably to install emergency power generators for the reactor cooling system into a basement BELOW the water level? And this in Japan and next to the ocean where is was known since ages that earthquakes will cause tsunami's ... ?

          Please, be real, of cause they knew about the risks and I can only assume, that they were silenced by their superiors for a reason!
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          Lejan .

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          May 11 2014: So please spare me the 'Fear of THAT technology is not at all justified, scientifically' talk, because I was exposed to increased radiation levels after the THTR accident at home and after I was told that this wouldn't, in fact, couldn't happen, scientifically ...,bla bla bla... ever!

          No, we have to increase our effort in pushing environmentally safe and renewable energy sources to cover all of our energy needs. Tthat's why I highly welcome and support the decision of my nation, Germany, to part from nuclear energy technology forever, as the lessons learned from Fukushima. And I can only hope, that we will be able to mange this transition as good and 'green' as possible ... we'll see ...
    • May 12 2014: "trust our humanity" Is this a joke? Look around at this humanity, coming from Nigeria I find it totally bazaar that you would say anything like that. Are you happy with humanity in Nigeria, because I live in the "do no wrong USA" and I am not happy with what humanity is doing to the entire world. I think we have a long way to go before we can look around and say "yes this is right, this is good, this is the best we can hope for".
  • May 7 2014: No. Stop being superstitious. Add up all the civilian deaths from NON-NUCLEAR warfare. Add up all the ecological damage and deaths from NON-NUCLEAR power.

    Compare it to the tiny amount from nuclear sources.

    Now, stop being superstitious.
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      Lejan .

      • +1
      May 10 2014: Apparently you are a believer of and a crusader for the nuclear power industry propaganda, to stay in your linguistic framing of 'superstition'.

      Also apparently you risk assessment doesn't reach any further than a view years, but this isn't surprising for the usual ignorance supporters of this technology have to have to keep cheering for it.
      • May 12 2014: No, I'm just a non-moron. I do not crusade for any industry. The silly, superstitious, childish, knee-jerk TERROR that people have about nuclear power needs to be exposed for what it is--irrational claptrap. Add up the deaths from coal. Add up the deaths from petroleum.
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          May 12 2014: A 'non-moron', eh?

          So I suppose as the 'statistics guy' you seem to be you can prove your claims?

          So lets start with Chernobyl, how do you determine its impact it has on human health ever since. Or Fukushima, where day by day tons of radioactive polluted water is flooded into the ocean, and therefore released into the maritime food chain. What is your long term and scientifically backed insight on those marginal 'side issues' of nuclear disasters?

          I assume it helps for those bolt claims, that radiation and radiation caused diseases are difficult to track to its original sources, right? One just need to claim there is no relation at all, which makes for a good start for an open discussion ... :o)

          Ah, before I forget, it would be interesting to me if you could provide some valid numbers on how many people were killed by solar-cells and wind-generators in proportion to MW/h / per victim ....
  • May 11 2014: Lejan: From your comments, I deduce that you haven't really looked into the LFTR. And the steam engine analogy: There is NO steam, water, high pressures, or fuel rod meltdowns in the LFTR , because that is all NOT present, not because there are some magical gizmos to activate in case of emergency, which we agree are not entirely trustworthy. I haven't had time to research the German pebble bed , but from what I remember, it was NOT a molten salt device.
    I am dubious about Geothermal energy because it seems not favorable costwise, except in places like Iceland. As for deep drilling, etc , if you are talking about fossil fuels, I can't see that as any kind of real solution: Have you seen the photos of Peking Smog? I understand that the average Chinese lifespan is radically shortened because of that , which is surely a reason why they are developing Thorium LFTRs far more than we are.
    As to safely destroying Uranium LWR waste, Thorium LFTRs can do that. It is not that there is NO residue, but the the volumes, and time span of radiation, is drastically reduced. I think the ratio is something like 200:1, and the time span down to a few hundred years instead of many thousands. Isn;t that worth doing? I have heard that the present "Plan" of dealing with these waste is a cash cow worth many billions, and , apparently mostly unnecessary. By the way, a lot of this "waste" has actual commerical value; it is actually "unburned fuel" on account of the Uranium LWRs being so hopelessly inefficient.
  • May 11 2014: Lejan: I fear I didn't do justice to your concerns about safety. I think a very good analogy to what we face is in the history of railroad trains. I am old enough to remember vividly a time when all the many trains were pulled by steam engines, which were so convenient and efficient that they were a major factor in the great wealth created in the Victorian Age , up to WW2. One striking fact about steam engines, they could and did sometimes blow up spectacularly, and do great damage. And that hazard could not be safely managed.
    So what was the answer ? Not to give up on trains, but to stop using steam engines, and move on to Diesel. Note that steam explosion hazards determine the design of our existing nuclear plants, which you , and Alvin Weinberg, rightly deplore. So, Viva LFTR! Unless you can give me some good reasons against it. By the way, you can find interviews with retired ORNL engineers on the questions about LFTR Practicallity. I know there are still details which need to be worked out, but considering the history of A Bomb development , they do not seem fundamental. By the way, about radiation damage, look up "Hormesis" . I hadn't heard about it either until recently. Just like the brainwashed masses , I thought it was all "Bad".
  • May 11 2014: Lejan : How refreshing to be able to talk to someone who has the technical background to understand some of the problems, for a change.
    Thanks for the update on the German THTR, I had not heard of that incident. But I can only infer from your comments that you have not looked into the Thorium LFTR. As I understand it, the pebbble bed system is an attempt to avoid using Liquid Fueled Thorium processing , for the simple reason that there are thousands of experts on Uranium , which has been favored for generations, because you can make bombs with Uranium, but not Thorium. In other words, it is a variation of the fuel rod meltdown syndrome, whereas the LFTR cannot meltdown.
    All this was a political decision, of course , based on fear. Alvin Weinberg, the holder of patents on the Uranium LWR, thought they were completely unsuitable for civilian use, and was fired for saying so. Let's note that those stupid Fukushima mistakes were also not made by engineers, but by business management, Japanese style. Not that ours are much better.
    You might want to check up on the LFTR . See Youtube, Thorium LFTR, Kirk Sorensen, or the Thorium Energy Alliance. No one is saying that anything is 100% safe (I hope) , But we could do much better. Molten Salts freeze automatically at room temperature, without any interventions. I haven't heard any scenario where any significant radiation would be released . Have you?
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      May 11 2014: So you are basically saying, that I should not have trusted the THTR lobbyists in 1986, because they were obviously wrong in hindsight, but today in 2014 and thanks to Kirk Sorensen, the LFTR now is safe, or safer ...?

      Sorry, as long as you can not explain to me what was wrong with the THTR concept and what made the people in charge make me believe in its safety, at that time, I do not see any reason why I should cheer now for this new hype about the LFTR ...

      The history of railroad trains isn't a good analogy to the development of energy production, as the latest bullet train accident in Spain may made clear that is doesn't matter to the victims if the cause of their death was an exploding steam vessel or the kinetic energy of an derailing electric high speed train.

      The analogy is even worse, because it makes no difference if a 'stem vessel' explodes or a 'fission reactor' turns critical. Nobody knows today when the region around the Fukushima power plant can be safely populated again and how many generations of Japanese citizens will be negatively effected by long term radiation exposure.

      Actually, a nuclear power plant only substitutes the 'coal' in your old fashioned steam train analogy, not the steam vessel, which are high efficient steam-turbines today ...

      And when a steam vessel explodes you can walk the site right after that incident. When a fission reactor runs critical, you can not walk that site for many decades, probably centuries without risking your health, and, even worse, the health of your unborn children, in case you are planning to have them. This is what is so dangerous about nuclear energy, the radiation, which is part of the Thorium LFTR process as well.

      I can even understand why the lobbyists are so much into this new 'Holy Grail' of their guild, as it would be so nice to make some further use of all the nuclear waste worldwide nobody knows what to do with it ... yet it won't solve the problem 'residue-free' at all.
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      May 11 2014: Do some research on geothermal energy, combine that with the existing deep drilling technology of the oil industry and you can solve most of our energy problems at all places, and not just on Iceland ...
  • May 10 2014: Yes, it is critical to a civilised society to have cheap power, and plenty of it. That is a basic reason for our present rather comfortable level,for many millions, the cheap power of fossil fuels.
    But the downsides of it are very evident.
    There is an alternative source of energy which could be cheaper than coal. The already invented and demonstrated alternative, safe form of nuclear fission called the Thorium Liquid Fueled Reactor (LFTR) Invented and demonstrated as a secret nuclear aircraft engine during the Cold War. It was abandoned because the process was unsuitable for making bombs, but it seems conceivable that people nowadays are willing to struggle on without any more nuclear bombs than we already have, but would like cheap power. Well, there it is. Thorium is cheap and widespread, not even worth fighting about, unlike Uranium. Thorium LFTRs have almost none of the unwelcome by products of the common Uranium LWR plants. Such as fuel rods, meltdowns, water, steam, high pressures, hydrogen explosions, co2, etc. They also are 200 times more efficient than LWRs. Even the "waste" products are actually valuable material. Additionally, they are capable of safely destroying the very large and longlived LWR waste, which is a result of the Uranium plants obsolete design. This alone would save many billions of dollars every year, and reduce the longlived radioactivity hazard from many thousands of years to a few hundred, and a tiny fraction of the volume. Everyone needs to be much more educated as to the actual hazards of radiation. Humans have always been surrounded with it, and will be as long as we stay on Earth. It's all in the dosage. We experience great increases in radiation exposure just by taking airplane flights. Coal plants smokestacks actually produce much more radioactive waste than any nuclear plant would be allowed to, thanks to an accounting trick. (It isn't counted) Incidentally, LFTR was dropped exactly because : no Bombs.
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    May 10 2014: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

    "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

    Albert Einstein
  • May 9 2014: Nuclear power is dangerous, but it is not 'evil.' Instead it has done much 'good', expecially when compared to the alternatives:

    - Nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused the surrender of Japan. The estimated casualties were 80,000 and 120,000. Invading Japan was estimated to have cost millions of lives, both American and Japanese.
    - Nuking those cities was a deterrent for the future. Unknown numbers of deaths were prevented by that example and Mutually Assured Destruction policy.
    - No major wars in 70 years due to the existence of nuclear weapons.
    - Firebombing Dresden caused more deaths than the nukes did. The problem was not the nuclear weapons themselves but rather the total war that was raged worldwide.
    - Nuclear accidents are rare. Steps can be taken to improve safety. Different reactor types do not create the materials to make nuclear weapons and are safer.
    - The accidents that have happened also happened to conventional power sources. Exxon Valdez, BP Gulf Oil spill, etc. Improved safety is the answer.
    - We need power. Shall we get it from a nuclear source or shall we burn all the oil, forests, etc? Shall we risk a meltdown which decimates a large area or burn coal which destroys the entire world? These are the choices we must make.
    - There are Bad Guys in the world. Confronting them with massive armies is very expensive. Threats of nuclear nature are much cheaper than maintaining million-man armies.

    I'm not overly fond of nuclear weapons or power, but it seems to be the 'least-evil' option we have at present.
    • May 10 2014: Martin: You are on the right track, but please stop talking about "Meltdowns" as if they were inevitable. It is like saying that using steam railroad trains involves inevitable steam explosions. Yes, it does , which is why we don't use them anymore, except for fun. If you want to know more , look up Thorium Liquid Fueled Reactor (LFTR) on Youtube.
      • May 12 2014: Yes, Thorium Reactors are an option. Personally I'm hoping for LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions.) It seems that Andrea Rossi in particular has 'found somthing', although many are looking at it. If that technology pans out you can kiss every nuclear fission reactor in the world goodbye overnight.
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    May 9 2014: .
    Yes!

    We need.

    About 90% of energy we spend is for invalid happiness.
  • May 7 2014: MA

    Pacifistic use of atomic energy is a good thing and, as has been said, should not be vilified by fear or incompetence. Would you prefer a horse or a car. Cars kill people, but then horses have killed people, airplanes kill people and even water kills people.
    How can we lecture the average person against the urge to lecture everybody else on matters that they, themselves, have only a biased position on and limited knowledge? See, here I am lecturing you. I guess it is just a human failing. I think we need to understand that however and not approach what is deemed to be politically correct or motivated as if it is a truth.