How Green Are Your Nukes?

Environmentalists spar over nuclear power

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand, Viking, 325 pages, $25.95

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, by Al Gore, Rodale, 416 pages, $26.99  

Environmentalists fiercely disagree about the role nuclear power might play in addressing global warming. Two new books by big names in the green movement stake out the boundaries of that debate. On the pro-nuclear side stands Stewart Brand with Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto. In the other corner you’ll find Al Gore with Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.

Both men have impeccable environmentalist credentials. A self-described Green, Brand edited the landmark hippie handbook, the Whole Earth Catalog, back in 1968. Gore, who served as vice president under Bill Clinton, wrote in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance that we “must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.”

Once an opponent of nuclear power, Brand is now a big backer. Where others argue that reactor generation of power is an unsafe, expensive process that produces hazardous waste and could contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, Brand writes, “I’ve learned to disbelieve much of what I’ve been told by my fellow environmentalists.” On safety, he notes, “year after year, the industry has had no significant accidents” in the operation of 443 civilian nuclear plants around the world. “Radiation from nuclear energy has not killed a single American,” he says. Even in the deadly Chernobyl explosion in 1986, dire predictions that hundreds of thousands would die of radiation-induced cancers turned out to be wildly exaggerated.

Weighing the safety tradeoffs between nuclear power and man-made global warming, Brand cites this observation from his fellow environmentalist Bill McKibben: “Nuclear power is a potential safety threat, if something goes wrong. Coal-fired power is guaranteed destruction, filling the atmosphere with planet-heating carbon when it operates the way it’s supposed to.”

Brand is also fairly sanguine about handling the radioactive wastes produced by nuclear plants. He regards efforts to somehow isolate the wastes for thousands of years as not just prohibitively expensive but wrongheaded, arguing that we should instead figure out how to store the used fuel for a couple hundred years and leave future generations the choice of what to do with the stuff. “If we and our technology prosper, humanity by then will be unimaginably capable compared to now, with far more interesting things to worry about than some easily detected and treated stray radioactivity somewhere in the landscape,” he writes. “If we crash back to the stone age, odd doses of radioactivity will be the least of our problems. Extrapolate to two thousand years, ten thousand years. The problem doesn’t get worse over time, it vanishes over time.” Brand’s confidence in human ingenuity and future technological progress is anathema to the more ideological wing of the environmental movement.

And proliferation? Brand points out that Israel, India, South Africa, and North Korea secretly developed their bombs using research reactors, not power reactors. To reduce the chance of fuel being diverted for weapons, he suggests developing an international fuel bank from which nations would basically rent their fuel, then eventually return it for reprocessing. President Barack Obama endorsed such a proposal in an April 2009 speech in Prague.

While the drawbacks to nuclear power are overstated, Brand argues, the benefits are considerable. He lists four main advantages: base load, footprint, portfolio, and government scale.

Base load power is the minimum amount of consistent energy that utilities must supply to their customers—an important consideration in an increasingly urbanizing world. Brand dismisses solar and wind as base load power sources because of their intermittency; the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. So he sees only three viable sources for base load power: fossil fuels, hydroelectric plants, and nukes.

As for footprint, nuclear power is compact, whereas renewables occupy a lot of land. Brand quotes nuclear booster Gwyneth Craven, who notes, “A nuclear power plant producing 1,000 megawatts takes up a third of a square mile. A wind farm would have to cover over 200 square miles to obtain the same result, and a solar array over 50 square miles.”

By “portfolio,” Brand means that the problem of global warming may be so bad that humanity must simultaneously pursue all types of projects to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Ruling nuclear out of that portfolio makes the task of reducing emissions that much harder to achieve. By “government scale,” Brand means that big energy infrastructure requires big government funding and regulatory intervention. Given the array of subsidies currently on offer, the feds apparently agree.

But what about costs? Brand breezily waves them aside. “We Greens are not economists,” he writes. “We don’t really care about money. Our agenda is to protect the natural environment, not taxpayers or ratepayers.”

On the other side of the debate we have Al Gore, who criticizes “the grossly unacceptable economics of the present generation of reactors.” He opens his chapter on the nuclear option by calling it a “radioactive white elephant”—that is, an object that costs more to maintain than it’s worth. This turns out to be one of two chief arguments Gore makes against nukes. The second is the risk that nuclear fuel might be diverted to produce atomic weapons. Like Brand, Gore acknowledges that nuclear power is safe and that the issue of how to store nuclear waste could be solved.

Gore notes that in the 1960s the old Atomic Energy Commission predicted that the United States would have 1,000 nuclear power plants operating by 2000. That didn’t happen. Only 104 plants currently operate, generating about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. The cost of building one increased from $400 million in the 1970s to $4 billion by the 1990s, while building times have doubled. Gore highlights bottlenecks that could choke any nuclear renaissance, including the fact that critical components such as containment facilities to house reactors are currently being produced by just one company in Japan.

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  • Morty Rubinowitz||

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 216.90 or 2.09% at 10,172.98.

    down 400 points since Obama called out the banks.

    FUCK YOU YOU STUPID FUCKING MORON.

  • PIRS||

    This isn't a bug. It is a feature.

  • Morty Rubinowitz||

    Destroying wealth is a good thing? Diminishing the assets of elderly women (the largest group of equity holders) is a good thing?

    Stupid out the butt much?

  • PIRS||

    "Destroying wealth is a good thing? Diminishing the assets of elderly women (the largest group of equity holders) is a good thing?"

    Not to me, but to Obama. It gives Obama a greater oportunity to control our lives.

  • Kroneborge||

    Stocks priced do NOT equal wealth. They represent claims on real assets. Those assets are still worth the same.

    Also elderly women should NOT be invested in stocks, unless it's an immaterial portion of their portfolio.

  • ||

    Or unless grandma really loves the rush from risking her money.

  • ||

    Or Grandma's in Franklin Templeton stock for thirty years, and has turned $10,000 into several $millions$, and is getting a big enough dividend check every quarter that she donates Social Insecurity checks to the local church.

    Remember, risk is risk but over time the stock market has cranked out WAAAAY more winners than losers.

  • ||

    I wasn't implying anything negative. Grandma just might not get enough of a rush from some sort of secure annuity. She likes to live on the edge. But she never gets cut.

  • vampire diaries season 2||

    Great share thanks for the read

  • luxury bags||

    Let them sit at the levels where they belong for a while, and don't get overly worried about their phony profit reports.

  • Mike M.||

    It bounced back too high recently to begin with, thanks mostly to their massive taxpayer-funded bailouts.

    It's not good for Wall Street to become as disconnected from the real economy as it has in recent years. You might have noticed that national unemployment is at its highest levels in nearly thirty years, perhaps even more. Let them sit at the levels where they belong for a while, and don't get overly worried about their phony profit reports.

  • ||

    LOL @ Morty Rubinowitz. He's from the Matt Drudge / Neil Cavuto school of economics; Take any change in the market and tie it to an event or utterance to further your own political agenda. Remember, I told you a few days ago that the Red Team media said the markets rallied because Brown won the senate race in MA ? !! If they rally on Monday Fox News will tell us it's because Wall Street was inspired by Sarah Palin's appearance on Oprah ffs.

  • Maxwell||

    I know it's a dead thread but ... told you so

  • PIRS||

    Isn't solar power simply nuclear power by proxy?

  • Morty Rubinowitz||

    Yes and you are compost by proxy. What's your point?

  • PIRS||

    Are you new here?

  • watch vampire diaries season 2||

    Thanks great share and no he's not new here

  • ratman720||

    that is probably the funniest thing i have read in a long time

    on other notes a new reactor design is the first in years to be built in the US do to its massive cost reduction and safety increases

    solar is still languishing

  • ||

    on other notes a new reactor design is the first in years to be built in the US do to its massive cost reduction and safety increases

    My interest is piqued, but your sentence is too confusing. Please explain :)

  • ||

    I think it makes more sense like this:

    "[In] other [news] a new reactor design is the first in years to be built in the US [due] to its massive cost reduction and safety increases"

    Nope, still doesn't make sense.

  • DADIODADDY||

    except it's being built in China...2nd mouse gets the cheese.

  • ||

    You could think of solar power as wirelessly transmitted fusion power, sure.

    By association, most power on earth is solar power, and hence fusion power:
    Wind = air movement caused by the sun's heat

    Biomass = chemically stored solar energy

    Fission fuels don't derive from our sun, but they DO come from the (super)novas of previous starts that contributed to the matter of our solar system.

    Conclusion: The Sun is God

    Science is fun.

  • PIRS||

    +1

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Even geothermal heat is derived mostly from the decay of heavy isotopes (i.e. supernova remnants) in the core (the not inconsiderable coalescence heat alone would have long since radiated away).

  • ||

    Sorry, i didn't cover everything. I wanted to get my post up before OM or robc beat me to it again ;)

  • ratman720||

    yes and no there is an alternative that the geothermal heat is produced by friction from gravitational forces like the moon similar to mars old core

  • ||

    Another good point.

    However it works, I don't think we should really go crazy about geothermal, even if we could make it cheaply accessible at thicker spots in the crust.

    What happens if we start leaching more and more heat out of the planet? Could have very adverse effects on tectonics.

    Anthropogenic Global Earthquakes. Much worse than climate change.

    (Am i serious? I can't even tell anymore)

  • ||

    Oh, and speculating on the core's heatsource:

    Seems likely that earths magnetic fields are generated by moving conductive fluid in the core.

    If these conductors are generating a magnetic field then they're carrying current, right? Could that current contribute to the heating of the material?

    Ultimately, the real source of the power would be the angular momentum earth started out with to get the core spinning.

    But the gravity/friction/compression route sounds most likely. Just throwin out another possibility.

  • ||

    OH OH OH!

    "the angular momentum earth started out with" came from accreating towards the sun!

    BAM, geothermal = solar

  • ||

    show off.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Tidal heating is the primary driver for Io, but it's pretty small for the Earth.

    Figure it this way tidal forces go linearly by the mass of the body, and falls off by the cube of distance. Add to that the periodicity (orbital period for Io as it is tidally locked, the day for the Earth vis-a-vis the moon) to get to a maximum power available.

    Io is about 25% further away, and the period in 1.7 days, but the factor that drives the difference is that the mass of Jupiter is 10^5 times that of the moon.

  • DADIODADDY||

    you might be really surprized at who owns those "geothermal" leases, really really surprized.

  • vampire diaries season 2||

    I agree science can be alot of fun!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Coal = compressed biomass

    Oil = " "
    Natural Gas = " "

    Techical aspects aside, this is basically it. Nuclear is basically the only power that wouldn't come from the sun.

  • ||

    Oil is solar power by proxy. Ditto for every other hydrocarbon fuel. Wind power too.

    So I guess its all nuclear energy after all...

  • Psychologist||

    Yep. FUSION POWER!

  • Ska||

    I just pocket mulch.

  • Rich||

    LOL

  • jester||

    Ron, please tell me you checked out the Al Gore book from the library after your city wasted $26 on it.

    Or does Al give you a free copy to review at your discretion?

  • ||

    The environmentalists who are concerned about AGW and are honest with themselves and others are apologizing for their past anti-nuke positions.*

    ~40% of US CO2 emmissions are from fossil fueled electric plants. If only we'd have gone nuke in the '70s.

    * I don't include myself and the few other like me because we've been a pro nuke environmentalists for decades.

  • ||

    are apologizing for their past anti-nuke positions.

    So they're not ALL hopeless. The human race's chance for survival just went up a few points.

  • ||

    Gorax the Slaughterer is also "pro-nuke.'

    In a slightly different way, of course.

    ;)

  • Tom||

    "The best way to figure out which technologies are the most economical is to set a price on greenhouse gas emissions and let various energy sources compete against each other. No subsidies needed."

    Uh, no, the best way is to realize that anthropogenic climate change is a myth and a fraud and remove all government restrictions, penalties, and subsidies on energy, and let the individuals who produce and purchase energy figure out what works best.

  • Kroneborge||

    This still ingores the HUGE costs associated with air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

    http://www.earth-policy.org/in.....2/update17

    Asthma etc

    So yet even if you don't believe in climate change, there could still be an arugment for a tax on fossil fuels. (perferably a net zero one, with a reduction in income or payroll tax)

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Typing "huge" in all caps does not in fact prove that the costs are huge.

  • ||

    Air Pollution Fatalities Now Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 3 to 1

    WTF? THAT is the headline of your reference? Ironic that you would think that it would advance your argument.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    That is a pretty retarded link. Don't be Choad.

    If you have asthma, it is because of your genetics. The impact of anthropogenic versus natural environmental factors is impossible to calculate.

  • ||

    "Nuclear power accidents have not killed a single American."

    Within five years of the start up of the Hanford reactor, the cancer death rate in the City was up by 58%. The same is true of other reactors; Of course, the Industry will always spin it somehow.

  • Joiner||

    I know!

    And that notorious nest of right wing snakes, wikipedia, refuses host of word of it!

  • ||

    I read on Conservapedia that Wikipedia is just a bunch of liberal lies.

  • ||

    Which is funny beacase wikipedia's article about conservapedia is well balanced and neutral-POV.

  • ||

    Hanford was a bomb reactor complex (the first one, actually) and part of the Manhattan Project. The plutonium that destroyed Nagasaki was made at Hanford.

    The government's sixty year bomb development and procurement program has killed dozens - if not hundreds - of people over the years (not counting the obvious casualties of using the weapons.

    The private sector nuclear industry in the United States though, has not inflicted a single fatality. All fatalities that I am aware of on nuclear facilities has been due to non-nuclear causes.

  • Old Mexican||

    What do you mean "the Industry"? The Hanford Site was government owned and operated.

  • robc||

    Damn you OM. I shouldnt have wasted time with the apples comment.

  • oaktownadam||

    And the government has steadfastly refused to admit any health effects from Hanford.

    http://www.doh.wa.gov/hanford/publications/health/mon3.htm

  • robc||

    I would point out that Hanford wasnt a POWER reactor. Hanford was for weapons production.

    Apples and Orangutans (and your stats are wrong too).

  • zoltan||

    robc, nuclear engineer extraordinaire, won't you wow us ignorami and tell us what the differences between the two are? I would really like to know, as this is definitely not my subject.

  • G.R.L. Cowan||

    Power reactors are harder to make. A lot of heat must be moved from them to the heat engines that make the power, and the heat has to be at a high temperature if the engines are to be efficient.

    High temperature suppresses fission. Two reactors might both be taking in icewater (0°C) and putting 42 thermal megawatts into it. Reactor 'A' takes a tonne per second and heats it to 10°C, reactor 'B' takes 0.04 tonnes per second and heats it to 250°C. Only reactor 'B' has the potential to drive a heat engine that can turn that 42 MW (thermal) into some 10-MW-ish amount of mechanical or electrical power, but for that to happen, parts of reactor 'B' must be hotter than 250°C. Water must be pressurized to stay liquid at such temperatures, and the plumbing must resist its much greater corrosiveness. Also, to overcome the fission-suppressing effect of high temperature, reactor 'B' must differ from reactor 'A' in some combination of the following ways: being bigger and using fuel of higher enrichment.

    A nice analogy is that power reactors are to weapon production reactors as car engines are to guns. Car engines and guns both are heat engines, so if transport were still largely dependent on horses, and horse tax revenues and private revenues together supported a significant number of people, academic institutes and advocacy groups dedicated to preventing gun proliferation by diversion of civilian car engine parts might exist, and produce treatises with titles such as "Proliferation: Breaking the Thermodynamic Link".

    Of course guns would proliferate anyway, but this would be cited as evidence that existing car motors were not sufficiently proliferation-resistant.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Zoltan, are you fucking kidding? Piss off.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Think for thirty seconds. Robc is saying that all deaths at nuclear power plants occurred from non-nuclear causes i.e. not anything intrinsic to nuclear power.

    Would you call a worker killed at a coal power plant by an exploding pipe or falling beam a coal related death?

  • ||

    Damn both of you OM and robc. I was working on a much better post while y'all we're busy beating me to it.

    Superior Post:

    The hanford reactor was not a power plant. it was responsible for producing the plutonium used in FatMan and LittleBoy. The tiny nearby city of Richland, WA was, at the time, likely composed mostly of employees at said plant.

    So the claim that “this reactor caused cancer in the nearby city to skyrocket” is disingenuous, when really it was “this reactor caused the cancer rate of its employees to skyrocket”.

    We made a lot of safety mistakes in the beginning. I love the story about the researcher who was moving some Pu-239 blocks around in an experiment. (By hand!) A momentary slip of his screwdriver caused the mass to go critical, irradiating himself and a few observers. He died 9 days later, the observers got lucky and survived the incident (likely on to get cancer later on). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_core

    Comparing the safety of groundbreaking research to mature reactor technology is total BS.

  • ||

    Actually, Little Boy was a U weapon; Fat Boy was Pu.
    (*got* that nit...)

  • ||

    Ouch. I read the article too fast and inserted a bomb that wasn't mentioned.

    Cmon, the more bombs the merrier!

  • ||

    Guess I shoulda read farther down the thread. Oops.

  • Steve Chaos||

    Which is awfully remarkable, given that stochastic cancers generally take 10-20 years to form. Next up, we are regaled to the magically instantaneous effect of smoking bans upon heart attacks? Who needs causality?

    Also, [citation needed].

  • oaktownadam||

    I can't comment on the "5 years" nonsense, but it would be incorrect to say that Hanford had no effect on the surrounding populace.

    http://www.doh.wa.gov/hanford/publications/health/mon3.htm

  • ||

    Can you cite where the report says anything about the effects on the populace? I can't see anything about that.

  • oaktownadam||

    Well, the effects are controversial.

    At first, the CDC denied that there were any health effects from the plant, with the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study.

    That study was met with shock and derision from the many people who grew up in the area and developed thyroid disease later in life.
    http://www.wagingpeace.org/art.....errors.htm

    But in 2006, CDC released a new study which concluded that there was an increased risk of thyroid disease from the Iodine-131 releases:
    http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hanford/docs/New Hanford.pdf

    So the science really hasn't been settled yet.

    However, the fact that so much radiation was released into the environment (documented in the link I posted) points to health effects in the population, even if the CDC's epidemological studies can't find a strong enough correlation for a conclusive result.

    The site is still one of the largest superfund sites in the country, and is one of the most contaminated places on earth.

    Oh, and FUCK YOU Reason, for only letting me post 2 links in a comment. How am I supposed to back up my assertions properly?

  • oaktownadam||

    Oh, and PS: None of what I'm posting should be taken as evidence that I am anti-nuke.

    As was observed by other commenters, there is a big difference between a weapons lab on the cutting edge of nuclear science (especially in the early years) and a commercial power plant.

    Also, it should be noted that the military is exempt from EPA regulations anyway.

  • ||

    Since when is the military exempt from EPA regulations? I need to upchannel that news cause were wasting a lot of time, money an effort then.

  • ||

    1. Still not a power plant.

    2. Still a groundbreaking research/production facility.

    After shit like this, we cleaned up our act real fast and conducted our exploration of nuclear science much more carefully.

    So it has no relation whatsoever to modern nuclear power.

  • ||

    sry oak, i was already being an ass before i saw your disclaimer. disregard my ass-y-ness.

  • ||

    Within five years of the start up of the Hanford reactor, the cancer death rate in the City was up by 58%. The same is true of other reactors; Of course, the Industry will always spin it somehow.

    Bullshit.

    Normally I'd be more polite but I'm just not in the mood to argue with anti-nuke liars like you, young earth creationists or holistic medicine yahoos either.

  • zoltan||

    My ancestors rode on a dinosaur!

  • DADIODADDY||

    that's one big fat fucking lie right there

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Hanford started up mid World War II. Are you saying that by 1948, there was a 58% increase in deaths by cancer.

    Could you cite your source for this info?

  • Old Mexican||

    On the other side of the debate we have Al Gore, who criticizes “the grossly unacceptable economics of the present generation of reactors.”

    Translation: I don't own any stock in nuclear plants, only in carbon credit rackets.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +1

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I don't for a minute buy Gore's argument that nuclear power is too expensive but I would like to see some analyisis of costs between the current type nuclear power plants we have in this country and breeder reactor power plants that we could be building.

    I would expect that they would be cheaper since they generate more fuel than they use.

  • Kroneborge||

    I'm not against nuclear, but long term if you look at the cost curves, nuclear keeps getting more expensive, solar less.

    From what I've heard solar should be coal as the lowest price leader somehwere between 2015-2025.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    You can't create a "cost curve" for costs that haven't happened yet.

    You are engaging in pure speculation.

  • Chad||

    No, it is not "pure speculation". It ias based on cost-curves of similar products as they scale, as well as the fundamental costs of materials, labor, and equipment, which are not unpredictable.

    Roughly, one can expect prices to drop by 20% each time you double the scale of your product. This diminishes as very large scales because instead of making your factories and equipment bigger, you instead are forced to just replicate factories.

  • ||

    If solar get get super-efficient, it makes a damned lot of sense. Especially if batteries (or their equivalent) also can get super-efficient. But that's a couple big ifs.

  • ||

    "From what I've heard solar should be coal as the lowest price leader somehwere between 2015-2025."
    I find this *very* hard to believe, given the extremely small specific output of Photo-voltaics, not to mention the real estate required.
    Where'd you get the guess?

  • ||

    From what I've heard solar should be coal as the lowest price leader somehwere between 2015-2025

    He means "once we tax the fuck out of coal, solar will be cheaper than coal".

  • ||

    taxing the fuck out of coal:

    Mrs. Coal: "Cmon honey, lets do it!"

    Coal: "I just don't have it in me. I've been slaving all day and look at this *thrusts pay stub at Mrs. Coal* my fica withholding went up AGAIN!"

    Mrs. Coal: "it's alright, tall dark and lumpy, c'mere...."

    *cue devo's "workin in a coal mine" *

  • jester||

    I am so tired. How long can this go on?

  • ManikMonkee||

    "I find this *very* hard to believe, given the extremely small specific output of Photo-voltaics, not to mention the real estate required"

    I'm "pro-carbon" because of the CO2 mitigating poverty line. Any country where living standards are bearable has a big carbon footprint

    But saying that alternative energy is important and will one day be essential
    Solar energy isn't just photovoltaics,

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

    this type of solar is pretty cost effective

  • Sam Grove||

    Solar has a huge footprint which is of some concern to various environmentalists and NIMBYites.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Nuclear goes up because of unnecessary expenses and the 100000+ page safety reports. It takes years just to get through the hippy hearings.

  • ||

    Since ther is no such thing as Anthropomorphic Global Warming outside the minds of the One World propaganda machine, who cares what the Green Monsters are fighting about.

  • Kroneborge||

    Even if you believe that, the Supreme court and EPA don't. Thus you should be very concered about the solutions.

  • ||

    Copenhagen has crumbled to dust and Teddy Kennedy's seat went Republican. Do you really believe the EPA dares to raise taxes on Energy?

  • oaktownadam||

    If Obama starts acting like a lame duck, who knows what he'll do?

    Having the EPA make policy without an act of Congress is the least of what he would be capable of.

  • ||

    http://obrag.org/?p=2564

    These scientists say that the leukemia stats. near nuclear power plants are statistically significant.

  • ||

    Couple of problems with that:
    1) Did they measure any increase in radiation in those areas? I didn't see any so what's the mechanism to cause the increase?
    2) This was published more than a year ago, and I've seen it published no where else, nor have I seen any followup by them or others.
    3) "Its authors are [...] both members of the Radiation and Public Health Project (www.radiation.org)", indicating more than a chance of bias.
    4) And it was published in a peer-reviewed journal...........
    (as a letter to the editor). Looks like they can't get it published.

  • ||

    Once again: The people who work in nuclear plants live near them.

  • ||

    Oh yeah. My point being that working in a plant is more dangerous than just living in the general area of one. So, an increase in leukemia amongst nuclear plant workers surprises me as much as increase in lung cancer in an asbestos factory.

  • ||

    Uh, the problem is that the article says nothing about the people who might work in the plant; it's about TEH CHIDRUN! (0-19 yo).

  • ||

    oh SHIT! i didn't know it was about them!

    SCREW SCIENCE!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    When I visited a nuclear power plant, I was told that it was just as safe as anywhere else, radiation wise.

    They could have been biased, but I doubt it.

  • ||

    ...or the loss of limbs on an oil rig, or severe burns in a steel plant, etc etc etc

  • ||

    Healthwise, I'd rather have a nuke plant in my back yard than a gas station on the corner.

  • ||

    Like on the simpsons, where the fence backs up to their yard?

    That's fine, but don't go running a bare reactor in your backyard. No matter how great a jungle-gym it makes for the kids.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I want a gas station on my corner. It would be more convenient than the one that is a half mile away. FUCKING ZONING TURDS.

    Nuclear power generating station would be cool too. Even a coal power generating station. I love that industrial shit.

  • Rude Dog||

    The problem with nuclear fuel waste is that we are not recycling it. Power plant uranium is on average 3% to 5% enriched U235. Is it cheap and easy to re-enrich spent fuel rod uranium? Probably not. Would it be cheaper than digging mines, refining dirt and storing spent rods safely away from humans for hundreds of thousands of years? Probably, if the world was not so anti-nuke as to prevent such a venture.

    Next lets look at the cost of building and maintaining a nuke plant. To date, every civilian nuke plant is a one-off custom build. No two are alike. Everything is custom made, with a whole new set of specs and parameters that must be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Operation, maintenance and testing is not standard between plants. The military on the other hand standardized on a few plant designs (i.e. S5W, A4W). These are standardized designs. If U.S. civilian power plants adopted a standardized plan how much more cost effective would they be to design, build run and maintain?

    Now lets look at the human cost of power plants. Which kills more people coal or uranium? Looking for death statistics I see hard numbers for coal miners in various countries. China by itself has 20,000 deaths a year from coal mining. When looking for the number of deaths due to uranium mining, I'm sure that there are direct deaths, but most of the numbers are statistical extrapolations based on supposed radiation exposures of future accumulations of cancer deaths, radiation exposure, etc. Nobody seems to differentiate between "coal kills people up front" and "uranium may kill by causing cancer 20 years from now".

    I could go on, but lets net it out. People hate nuclear because it is used to make bombs. They understand that people die in coal mining, but "its not me so who cares"? Do they care that coal plants emit the same or MORE radiation than nuke plants? No. Do they take into account that strip mining for coal will destroy millions of acres of land in someone else s back yard? Not unless it's their back yard. Do they want to investigate making nuke plants cheaper, more efficient and safer to run? No. They have been preconditioned by the notion that uranium = bomb = death.

    Is nuclear power a trouble free savior? No. But it deserves a fair shake to state its case.

  • ||

    If U.S. civilian power plants adopted a standardized plan how much more cost effective would they be to design, build run and maintain?

    Time for an open source nuclear plant design :)

  • Sam Grove||

    Additionally, coal fired plants inject trace radioactive materials into the atmosphere causing more radiation exposure than nuclear plants.
    google search results

  • Sam Grove||

    Also, coal fired plants emit enough radioactive materials to qualify as "dirtier" than nuclear plants.

    Search google for coal+radioactive elements.

  • jester||

    The Caderache plant saved Provence from the likes of Peter Mayle wanna-bes and invading Brits. There are real French people living in Provence.

  • RCTL||

    Can't read the article - gobbling a knob now.

  • IceTrey||

    There already exists a safe cheap and easy source of neclear power, Thorium. There is enough Thorium to last for thousands of years. Since it is almost completely "burned" it leaves less waste and that waste is only active for 300 years not thousands. Why aren't the enviros getting behind Thorium? Google ,thorium power, you will be astounded.

  • ||

    From and Economist article (12/09)
    "However, unlike fissile uranium, natural thorium must be “seeded” with external neutrons in order to get it to fission."
    I hope there's some real physicists here; where do the seeding neutrons come from?
    Sounds to me like if you had some ham, you could have some ham and eggs, if you had some eggs.

  • IceTrey||

    The thorium is dissolved in fluoride salts and circulated around a small amount of uranium.

  • ExLoony||

    There are several kinds of thorium reactor. The ones which are "slot in replacements" for today's Uranium based machines, with familiar technology and same footprint, require neutron seeds and burn a fraction of enriched Uranium.

    The ones which would be considerably more compact and run hotter (better thermal efficiency so less heat dumped into rivers) use flouride salts and no Uranium. However, the chemistry of these is pretty corrosive and so no-one yet knows how to build them except in experimental setups. They have been shown to work.

    In principle there is much more thorium fuel than U and because it is a lighter nucleus with a different mode of fission it happens to generate waste nucleotides which are either fast decaying or completely stable. And at no point in the cycle is there anything you can make a bomb with.

    Oh, and the flouride system is self regulating since if it runs hot the salt expands, reducing the burn rate. But conversely it is pretty much permanently running so it is a nearly constant baseline.

  • ||

    This:
    "And at no point in the cycle is there anything you can make a bomb with."
    Would be because of this?:
    "Oh, and the flouride system is self regulating since if it runs hot the salt expands, reducing the burn rate."

  • ||

    I'm all for the thorium fuel cycle.

    But "at no point in the cycle is there anything you can make a bomb with." is false.

    All the cycles i've read about involve the thorium being bred in the reactor to U233. U233 CAN be used in bombs.

    BUT, there's also a lot of U232 mixed in, which has a very short halflife and decays with some very energetic gamma rays. Makes handling your bomb material severely hazardous. And the gamma emissions make it comparatively easy to detect at a distance.

    So yes, you could make a bomb with materials taken from the thorium cycle, but you're gonna have a hell of a time sneaking that shit to your lab. And its gonna kill your technicians before you get your bomb put together.

  • ExLoony||

    Looks like the U-232 is sufficiently nasty that even electronics can't survive near it making it hard to design a bomb, at least anything portable. Plus the newer liquid salt cooled designs do not extract the Pr-233 and U-233 like the earlier designs, they just leave it to burn in the core (as near as I can understand the discussions).

    Try here:
    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/lftradsrisks.html

  • ||

    I see we read the wired article. No cheating on Reason with other hipster mags.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    If I understand that right, the same way that uranium is seeded (which to my understanding it is): beam alpha waves (available from the nearest Americium using smoke detector) into aluminum.

  • ||

    Shorter Gore: "If we don't stop global warming, we're ALL GOING TO DIE A HORRIBLE FIERY WATERY HURRICANY DEATH!!! But nuclear power is too expensive for that."

  • ||

    yep

  • Wrong Lumberg||

    How can scaling up a solar power plant from 25 MW to 1000MW (a factor of 40) increase the cost from 150 million to 18 billion (a factor of 120)?

    Maybe the 25MW figure is peak generation instead of average generation, but nuclear plants don't always run at their full capacity either, and they are a lot more expensive to operate.

  • DADIODADDY||

    it's called fuck Rhode Island, you just got covered in solar cells to power the rest of NE & NY

  • Will||

    The gov might suck at a lot of things but with the amount of money that's been poured into nukes, it clearly gives them an unfair advantage even if all subsidies stopped now. You'd have to see after a couple decades of no subsidies which is more viable in a free market. Anyway, in terms of "freedom", the fact is nuclear is inherently a centralized power as much as the federal government is in politics. Decentralization in government and in energy brings more freedom. And there the clear winner is solar and wind. Every residence in the country could be its own power plant. Centralization in a free market isn't the sort of free market that produces innovation and competition. Nukes will always be the business of the worst crony capitalist big money corporations. Anybody with a garage and a few bucks could start up a renewable energy company. If you believe in the free market, then nukes suck. Case closed.

  • j.i.am||

    Nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers work in small decentralized applications. That technical problem has been solved.

    The case is not closed. The tax dollars you, I, and our parents have spent on small military grade nuclear power plants would work just fine in many small and medium sized town electrical power applications.

  • ||

    thorium's better. Fusion is *worse*.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Deuterium-deuterium and deuterium-tritium are worse.

    Helium-3 (available on a Moon near you) is better. But to get to it we would need space exploration and industrial development off-world, which they don't want.

  • ||

    Maybe, but all bets are off once we crack fusion.

  • ||

    Somebody has to mention the late Petr Beckmann's The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear (1976), which examines "...the health hazards of non-nuclear power in accidents, waste disposal, routine emissions, environmental impact, terrorism and sabotage - all explained for laymen. Also a chapter on why the nuclear foes attack the safest form of power generation."

    Excellent work, still quite applicable to the present discussion, and easy to obtain online.

    Dr. Beckmann was a wonderfully colorful character, and I had the pleasure of corresponding with him quite extensively in the years immediately preceding his death.

    If an OuiJa board could be made to work, doubtless we'd still be swapping compliments. Nice guy, and pure poison to the "sham environmentalists."

  • Old Mexican||

    Anyway, who cares? We're about to enter a mini-ice age, anyway:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sci.....-here.html

  • ExLoony||

    Cherry picked locations. See a more comprehensive view here and you see it matches the cherry picking exactly:

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=38419

  • ||

    OM got ya there ExLoony.

    C'mon, he even linked to thedailymail. That shoulda been the big clue that he wasnt serious.

  • ExLoony||

    Give 'em an inch they'll take a mile.

  • Old Mexican||

    Gore notes that in the 1960s the old Atomic Energy Commission predicted that the United States would have 1,000 nuclear power plants operating by 2000. That didn’t happen. Only 104 plants currently operate, generating about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

    Would you say, oh sage one Al Gore, that the reason there are not 1,000 nuclear power plants today is because of the hindrances imposed by corrupt windbags like YOU?

  • jester||

    That sage shit, it's some crazy kinda stuff! Keep it away from the childreeeeeen.....

  • oaktownadam||

    but then there's also the problem of math.....

    if 104 reactors are supplying 20% of the power in the country, why would we need any more than 520 reactors total? (and that assumes that we don't use any hydro or other sources)

  • ||

    why would we need any more than 520 reactors total?

    Their prediction of 1000 reactors was likely based on lower-output tech, or assuming even larger power demands than we ended up using by Y2K.

  • i||

    integral fast reactor. problem solved.

  • jester||

    Unmoved Mover power, motherfucker!

  • Fred||

    Ron,

    Couldn't agree more that the best solution would be to put a revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions, eliminating payroll or income taxes. As Pigouvian tax theory suggests, it's ridiculous to tax things we should want, like job creation. Much better to put a tax on wasting something future generations will need - like fossil fuels.

    Regarding subsidies, at least according to some reputable folks in industry, the level of subsidy involved in various solutions to get an equal total energy output is about $4 for nuclear to $2 for solar to $1 for energy efficiency.

    That doesn't count hidden subsidies like the cost of our global military interventions to keep oil flowing or the Price Anderson Act which shields nuclear plants from liability in the case of severe accidents and puts that immense liability on taxpayers.

    For all the libertarian nuke advocates out there, I'll suggest you follow your purported principles and advocate with Congress that nukes be allowed to compete freely in the market place, without subsidies and without Price Anderson.

    Look behind the curtains and any nuclear advocate that has even the remotest clue about the financial realities of the industry is not a libertarian at all, but just another hack apologist for government corporate collusion of the worst possible kind.

    Those genuine libertarians advocating for nukes are unfortunately completely ignorant of the economic realities of nuclear power

    Fred

    http://emergingconsensus.wordpress.com

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Fred,

    For all the libertarian nuke advocates out there, I'll suggest you follow your purported principles and advocate with Congress that nukes be allowed to compete freely in the market place, without subsidies and without Price Anderson.

    Be a good boy, now, and tell us which Libertarian has advocated for nuclear with subsidies and collusion from government.

    Because nobody here has advocated for that. I dare you find one that said "Yeah, let's have nuclear but with government help because the Market would have never ever allow nuclear plants to be."

  • robc||

    Pigouvian tax theory

    COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE

    Sorry, natural reaction to seeing Pigou mentioned.

  • Chad||

    What is 6.5 billion, squared, divided in half?

    The number of lawsuits that poor Coase would have to sort through to deal with a world-wide pollutant.

  • robc||

    Those genuine libertarians advocating for nukes are unfortunately completely ignorant of the economic realities of nuclear power

    Bullshit. I admittedly havent worked in the field in the last 15 years, but I dont think that makes me even remotely "completely ignorant".

  • ||

    robc, you actually worked in nuclear power before? fuckin-A! Did you ever get to see the core glowing? Any other cool, huge stuff?

    Tell some tales!

  • phocion||

    That's right. Free market nuclear energy should have to exist without subsidies, without Price Anderson... and without the NRC and the heavy-handed government regulation that greatly increases the cost and the time it takes to build plants.

    To truly even the playing field, maybe they ought to be able to spew all their waste directly into the atmosphere like coal does, too.

  • Ric Locke||

    Disingenuous twits like Fred bother the Hell out of me.

    They work their butts off to inject additional costs into nuclear power, then complain that it's too expensive. It would be fascinating to find out how much of the cost of a nuclear plant is "lawyer-proofing" plus the innumerable, minimally useful to irrelevant "precautions" taken to assuage the fears of people whose emotions have been inflamed by the propaganda.

    In fact, the only real difference between a nuke plant and any other power plant is the boiler -- the heat source and the way it's applied. The nuclear version is much more expensive than the fossil-fuel one -- but, in today's plants, everything within the fence has to be nuclear qualified, down to the clock on the wall in the secretary's office.

    A nuke plant probably ought to cost about twice what a fossil-fuel one does, with most of that in the cost of the reactor. Instead it costs anywhere from five to twenty times as much, and the difference isn't in anything related to function, it's spent in order to give Fred something to point at and jeer.

    Regards,
    Ric

  • ||

    Precisely. The cost of building nuclear plants is the responsibility of anti-nuck fucktards. How they get off claiming that nuclear plants are too expensive, when they advocated for the regulations that make them that way is abeyond me.

    I will never take any evironmentalist who is anti nuclear power seriously.

  • Chad||

    Hazel, you make a great point.

    If a group handicaps some plan, then complains that the plan is garbage because it ain't working, aren't they hypocrites? And wouldn't this apply to the entire relationship between conservatives and government?

  • ||

    Al Gore an environmentalist? How am I supposed to take seriously the words of a man who's trying to Winthrope-Valentine the energy market?

  • Old Mexican||

    But what about costs? Brand breezily waves them aside. “We Greens are not economists,” he writes. “We don’t really care about money. Our agenda is to protect the natural environment, not taxpayers or ratepayers.”

    Hey, at least he's being honest about it . . .

    "Money is no object - because it is not our money we're screwing!"

    Jeez!

  • ||

    Our agenda is to protect the natural environment, not taxpayers or ratepayers.

    Funny, I thought people were part of the environment we're trying to protect.

    OHHHHHH, "NATURAL" environment. ie: One without humans.

    Why are we listening to these genocidal nutjobs again?

  • Fred||

    Old Mexican and RobC

    Just saying: even before considering issues and costs like weapons proliferation, the obvious targets and materials that nuclear waste pools offer for terrorists, and long term waste issues that are also pawned off on the government as hidden subsidies, nukes don't have a chance in hell of ever being economically rational solutions without massive direct subsidy and Price Anderson.

    Every other business in the world has to cover its own liability risks and in much of the US, many businesses can't even operate legally without liability insurance. Why is the industry with the largest liability exposure of any exempt from costs every responsible small business has to cover.

    As OM points out, an important detail of Stewart Brand's support is that “We don’t really care about money. Our agenda is to protect the natural environment, not taxpayers or ratepayers.”

    As any real environmentalist knows and as any real libertarian know: nothing can possibly be sustainable unless it is profitable. Nuclear power will never be economically sustainable. Thus even before the issues of toxins, carcinogens and environmental destruction in the mining to waste fuel cycle, it is not a responsible environmental solution of any kind sustainable.

    Waste, weapons proliferation, terrorism and environmental issues aside, new nukes will never be even considered by without massive subsidy and the corrupt protections of Price Anderson - heck of a libertarian solution.

    Nuclear power has no future of any kind in a free market. So figure out what you are really for, free markets or corrupt socialist solutions like nuclear power.

    Fred

    http://emergingconsensus.wordpress.com

  • ||

    You're right, Fred. All the other countries in the world that use large numbers of nucs have had their economies crushed to the ground under the weight of operating them at a net loss for decades.
    Oh, wait...they haven't.

  • Fred||

    FYI,

    Of the 441 reactors in the world as of 2005, 104 were in the US - more than any other country

  • ||

    In other words, only the ones in the US, where they are subjected to the bizarre antics of anti-nuclear fanatics like yourself, and the regulations they have instigated, have suffered. Everywhere they have a sane regulatory environment, they do just fine.

  • ||

    Sad that France has a saner regulatory environment than we do...

  • ||

    "So figure out what you are really for, free markets or corrupt socialist solutions like nuclear power."
    Jeeze, Fred, I'd never favor 'socialist solutions'! Not me!
    Please tell me what 'free market' solution I should favor so I don't lose my libertarian decoder ring!
    (BTW, your "emergingconcensus" web title sounds less like a real resource than one more 'I GOT THE ANSWER!' eye-roller)

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +1

  • Fred||

    TVS

    Yeah, and they are all exemplary bastions of free market libertarian economics, like France.

    Companies like Exelon may claim their nuclear operations be profitable too - after they bought their plants for pennies on the dollar after the nukes bankrupted or nearly bankrupted the utilities that built them.

    Cook the books however you'd like. But no nuclear plant anywhere has ever made remotely rational economic sense from a free market perspective and that isn't going to change any time soon.

  • ||

    "Companies like Exelon may claim their nuclear operations be profitable too - after they bought their plants for pennies on the dollar after the nukes bankrupted or nearly bankrupted the utilities that built them."
    OK, now let's see a bit more detail. The point of a bankruptcy is to revalue assets, so buying cheap at a bankruptcy is no failure.

  • Fred||

    You are absolutely right Ron. Buying assets for pennies on the dollar is perhaps smart for Exelon, especially when the government covers all their risk, waste disposal costs, etc. And perhaps their effort to get the government to pay a huge portion of the costs and cover all the risks on the new plants they hope to build is good for their shareholders also.

    And you are absolutely right that bankruptcy reveals the true value of assets. In the case of nuclear plants, that has been revealed to be a tiny fraction of the costs that utility rate payers were burdened with to build them.

  • ||

    Fred, what I asked for is a bit more detail, not a self-serving rant.
    I g'd Exelon and found various references to both pharms and energy.
    Now, as I mentioned, I'm not willing to lose my ring, but I'd really like some *facts* rather than more innuendo.
    Got 'em?

  • Fred||

    Ron,

    Here's a few links you might want to explore - happy reading. This Reason comment system won't allow more than two links, thus you'll have to put the www at the beginning of some to replace the wuh,wuh,wuh.


    Nuclear Information and Resource Service
    http://www.nirs.org/neconomics/neconomicshome.htm
    (enough reading on nuclear economics to keep you busy for a long time)

    INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT VERMONT LAW SCHOOL
    wuh,wuh,wuh.nirs.org/neconomics/cooperreport_neconomics062009.pdf

    Study finds that it would cost taxpayers and ratepayers $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables.

    Some take aways: overall, the utility industry has invested $125 billion in nuclear power vs $85 Billion direct subsidies by federal government, which doesn't count subsidies from Construction Works in Progress and other rate payer subsidies, plus Price Anderson subsidies, plus assuming taxpayers responsibility for future waste disposal. (Nice free enterprise solution.)

    A Department of Energy study of 75 reactors, found that the average cost overrun from initial cost estimate to reactor startup, was 207%

    Taxpayers for Common Sense
    wuh,wuh,whu.taxpayer.net/search_by_tag.php?action=view&proj_id=1651&tag=nuclear subsidies&type=Project#
    (great summary of nuke subsidies)

    US Government Energy Information Administration Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy Markets 2007
    wuh,wuh,whu.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/index.html

    Nice graphic summary of the report
    wuh,wuh,wuh.grist.org/article/2009-09-22-fossil-fuel-subsidies-dwarf-clean-energy-subsidies-obama-wants/

    Bottom line is that most of the energy subsidies in 2007 went to the coal industry.

    FEDERAL ENERGY SUBSIDIES: NOT ALL TECHNOLOGIES ARE CREATED EQUAL
    wuh,wuh,wuh.repp.org/repp_pubs/pdf/subsidies.pdf

    From 1943 through 1999 Wind, solar and nuclear power received approximately $150 billion in cumulative Federal subsidies over roughly fifty years, some 95% of which supported nuclear power.

    FYI, the United States has more operating nuclear power plants than any other country in the world, with 104 commercial reactors out of 441 worldwide (as of 2005). There hasn't been an actual order for a nuke plant in the US since 1974, though a many ordered previous to that date have been cancelled.

    By comparison, both the solar and wind industries have been growing on average at over 40% annually for a decade.

    Enjoy,

    Fred
    http://emergingconsensus.wordpress.com

  • robc||

    A Department of Energy study of 75 reactors, found that the average cost overrun from initial cost estimate to reactor startup, was 207%

    Mostly due to regulations changing during construction and obstructions and delays caused by protests and court orders.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Yo Fred...2 new orders within the last 6 months...nuke the gay whales

  • Fred||

    Ron,

    Tried to send a detailed response and the Reason Blog System rejected it.

    Here's a couple links to get you started.

    Taxpayers for Common Sense
    wuh,wuh,wuh.taxpayer.net/search_by_tag.php?action=view&proj_id=1651&tag=nuclear subsidies&type=Project

    (for some reason this link gets screwed up by Reason so substitute www for wuh,wuh,wuh - good summary of nuke subsidies)

    Nuclear Information and Resource Service
    http://www.nirs.org/neconomics/neconomicshome.htm
    (lot's of reading to keep you busy)

    Enjoy,

    Fred
    http://emergingconsensus.wordpress.com

  • ||

    NU-CU-LER. It's pronounced NU-CU-LER.

  • ||

    I always seem to post at the ends of stale threads, but wotthehell. Seems like this is a group of energy-aware posters.

    Re wind power, and somewhat off-topic: I've asked the experts at sciam.com twice about this, with no response:

    Wind exists as a way to bring temperature and pressure differences back to equilibrium. Wind turbines remove energy from the wind, converting it into electrical energy instead. This must weaken the force and effectiveness of winds in the paths of turbines, thereby interfering with their restorative effects. Has anyone done any research as to whether really large numbers of wind turbines would have a negative effect on weather and or climate through this mechanism? I'm thinking about pressure differences rising until winds are driven to very high speeds, overwhelming the energy loss to the turbines, but producing terrific storms as they do.

    CB.

  • ||

    I've always wondered the same thing myself. I doubt you could erect enough wind turbines to have a substantial impact on weather patterns on a large scale, but who knows? I imagine they would be useful in altering local effects of wind like reducing soil erosion, but perhaps also harmful in reducing pollination or other wind-dependent phenomena (Im thinking of farms here). I know they do a number on birds however, to the point where the EPA sometimes opposes them.

  • ||

    Oh, and for the record, I am very pro-nuclear. Except there's the Price-Anderson Act to deal with, which tinkers with the risk factors in a very non-Libertarian, non-free-market way.

    CB.

  • robc||

    Get rid of Price-Anderson. Let nuke plants buy insurance if they want or get sued out of existence if they done.

    Problem solved. Requiring insurance is anti-libertarian too.

  • Fred||

    I agree 100% Rob.

    What do you figure the banks will think about lending money for building a nuke plant without Price Anderson?

    After well over half a century of massive subsidies, nuclear power has no future in a free economy.

  • robc||

    I dont see a problem. Actual liabilities needed have been pretty low and safer plant designs lower future liability possibilities.

  • robc||

    People figure the "insurance cost" for Nuke plants way too high.

  • Chad||

    One point against Brand: his land use assumptions are rather specious. His "200 square mile wind farm" means about one generator per forty acres. The generator would take up only about half an acre, and associated roads perhaps a bit more. Only 5-10% of the land would be used by the wind farm; the rest would be available for either nature, or farming and low-density housing.

    His assumptions for the 50-square mile solar plant are also stretched and assume no technological improvement.

    Land use is a real concern, but neither of these technologies requires using valuable land, which blunts the problem quite a bit.

  • Old Mexican||

    His assumptions for the 50-square mile solar plant are also stretched and assume no technological improvement.

    Like, for example, being able to break the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Now that would be a spectacular "technological advancement" in solar light conversion worth living 100 years more to see!

  • Old Mexican||

    Land use is a real concern, but neither of these technologies requires using valuable land, which blunts the problem quite a bit.

    You cannot presume to know which land is valuable. It may not be valuable to you but value is not an objective characteristic of things, despite what your Statist mind wants to make you see or hear.

  • Chad||

    Ok, I'll give you five acres of desert in southern California for your five acres in downtown NYC.

    Quit being an idiot for once.

  • Harpoon||

    "reactor generation of power is an unsafe, expensive process that produces hazardous waste and could contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons"

    Fluid fuel thorium reactors solve all these problems.

  • ||

    Gore points to a new solar plant opened by Florida Power and Light, a 25-megawatt, $150 million facility. Scaling that plant up to generate the amount of power produced by a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant would cost $18 billion.
    Hmmm...
    40 x 25 megawatts = 1000 megawatts
    40 x $150 million = $6 billion
    Where do you get the $18 billion figure?
    Usually scaling up involves economies of scale, i.e. less cost per unit. Why the increased cost per unit for the solar plant?

    p.s. I'm all for nuclear, or anything else that makes economic sense.

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  • ||

    Our first knee-jerk reaction to Obama's recent decision to build the first US nuclear power plant in 30 years was "no more nukes!"

    To some, nuclear power is the face of the future; to others the ticking time bomb of the past. Are the facts that you know three decades out of date? We were surprised to find out ours were.

    Published author and EcoHearth staff writer, Steven Kotler, examines the evolution of nuclear technology and explains the new generation of nuclear power that is cleaner, safer and less vulnerable to terrorist attack in "Meltdown or Mother Lode: The New Truth About Nuclear Power". http://tinyurl.com/yjfheb4

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  • watches||

    One point against Brand: his land use assumptions are rather specious. His "200 square mile wind farm" means about one generator per forty acres. The generator would take up only about half an acre, and associated roads perhaps a bit more. Only 5-10% of the landreplica omega would be used by the wind farm; the rest would be available for either nature, or farming and low-density housing.

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