Environmentalism

Nuclear Power: Celebrating 50 Years of Catastrophic Failure

|

Writing for CNN today, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Harvey Wasserman share some thoughts about nuclear power (Note: Don't think about that last sentence too hard. You'll hurt your head or bring on the apocalypse or something). They're worried that the siren song of cheap, clean energy will seduce us once again, when we should be rightfully seduced only by Bonnie's dulcet tones.

These "new" reactors are the same as the old ones, with a few bells and whistles, and a proven 50-year track record of catastrophic failure.

On the brink of winning a green-powered planet, we intend to do all we can to avoid another radioactive dead-end. We hope you will join us

I must have missed the first radioactive dead end for the planet–perhaps it happened before I was born and my parents survived in one of those backyard bunkers? Chernobyl was horrific, to be sure, but I think you need a few more catastrophic failures to get a gen-u-ine "track record" going. Anyway, we should take this warning seriously–it comes from TV's Most Trusted News Source.

Via Fark

NEXT: How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OK, spot the Rowlingism.

  2. It’s quite reasonable in a democracy for citizens to present their views to Congress, particularly on pending legislation. (that essentially is what the CNN commentary is doing). But as someone who works in the nuclear industry (and likes wind turbines too), I’m concerned that there is little understanding of how we actually generate electricity and what the options really are to generate what we need. (And how much do we really need, for that matter?) If you would like an entertaining short course in power generation and nuclear energy in particular (the good AND the bad), see my novel “Rad Decision”. The book is available online at no cost to readers at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com , and is also in paperback at online retailers. (I get no royalties.) The purpose of Rad Decision is not to convince anyone that nuclear is the great energy solution (none exists, in my opinion) but instead to inform people of the real situation on the ground so that they can make more informed decisions. Stewart Brand, the noted environmentalist and founder of “The Whole Earth Catalog” has said: “I’d like to see Rad Decision widely read.”

  3. Chernobyl was horrific, to be sure, but I think you need a few more catastrophic failures to get a gen-u-ine “track record”

    You’re missing the main point about Chernobyl.
    IT CAN’T FUCKING HAPPEN WITH A WESTERN REACTOR!
    Chernobyl is the poster-child of Soviet technology. The accomplished many things in appearing to keep up with the west (Space flight, supersonic flight, nuclear power). These things looked impressive from the outside, but underneath they were pale imitations that worked on a far simpler level of engineering and lacked some basic functionality.

    No nuclear power plant built in Europe or North America could ever melt down like Chernobyl. It’s because we use water to slow down the neutrons instead of graphite so if the reaction stats to run away, the water boils of and the reaction slows down, it’s self regulating.

    You can get a loss of containment, like with three mile island. But that is a MUCH smaller problem.

    You’re title is right on the money. Nuclear power is clean, safe, cheap, with a fifty year track record to prove it.

  4. proven 50-year track record of catastrophic failure

    Well, they could be talking about the financial aspect. So far, nuclear power has been anything but cheap.

  5. It’s a little known fact that Graham Nash has a doctorate in nuclear engineering.

  6. Right, we must crush nuclear power now! Let’s keep going with coal, which is um, clean, safe, cheap, humane–everything that nuclear isn’t!

  7. What’s a Rowlingism, dude?

  8. Shut the fuck up, Donny! You’re out of your element!

  9. Bonnie Raitt once showed up in my town (Missoula MT) to protest some salvage logging operations she knew ABSOLUTELY FUCKING ZERO about.
    So she can put that grimy, old, fat mouth right around my penile stump and suck until I blow my man-sap all over that firestorm she calls a head of hair.

  10. They didn’t get Bono, so the issue must not be important.

  11. Warren beat me to it. A Chernoble like accident could never happen here.

  12. For a long,safe track record see United States Navy.Unless,of course your on the receiving end.

  13. What do these greenies want for a clean environment? Wind, solar, and hydro just can’t supply all our electrical needs. Nuclear is the way to go for generating electricity. These people also don’t realize all the safety precautions that nuclear plants have making the chances of serious accidents in the Western world very slim.

  14. So far, nuclear power has been anything but cheap.

    I would certainly be a lot more enthusiastic about nuclear power if it weren’t for the massive subsidies it seems to need.

    That said, it willbe a long time before I pay any attention to pronouncements on the issue from the likes of those folks.

    One of the few episode of Bill Maher’s show (on ABC) had Graham Nash on it and by coincidence the subject was nuke power. Clueless does not even begin to describe him.

  15. Gee, a commentary on nuclear power by a group of people with 1 vocal cord and 2 brain-cells amongst them.

    sheesh, the things that get attention…

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  16. “What do these greenies want for a clean environment?”

    Genocide.

  17. A chemist and three musicians writing about the safety of nuclear power. Might as well listen to a physicist and three sculptors pontificating about the merits of genetic engineering. I will give their CNN piece all the credence it deserves.

  18. Isn’t it the case that Three Mile Island could have been far worse than what eventually happened?

    Isaac Bartram,

    Basically no country that uses nuclear power as a mainstay (by that I mean it being the primary source of electricity generation) does so without either heavy subsidization or outright government ownership.

    ____________________________________

    Then there is the long-term waste issue.

  19. What do these greenies want for a clean environment?

    Actually a lot of them don’t want anything. I personally have a friend who believes it is too harmful to the Earth for everyone in the world to have a US-style standard of living.

    It is simply staggering to sit across from an otherwise perfectly lovely person and hear her say essentially that she believes the mass of the Earth’s population needs to be kept in abject poverty for the good of the planet.

    I hope one of her more rational green friends straightens her out eventually. It certainly does no good for me to say a word.

  20. “Then there is the long-term waste issue.”

    Only because laws were passed in the 70’s (pols were pressed by anti-nuke groups) that make reprocessing illegal. Japan, France and other countries reprocess spent fuel. It’s a form of recycling.

    http://www.nei.org/

  21. S of S

    Exactly.

  22. S of S:

    Doesn’t France have the most experience with Nuclear power? what are some of the issues and solutions there?

    Long term waste seems to be a huge potential problem…

    and what in the US isn’t fucking subsidized? Roads, air travel, farming, mining, panties.. (damn what a giveaway)…
    so objecting on those grounds kinda opens the door for objectemifyication of everything!

    Shirley – hilarious!

  23. I believe France gets 80% of its electricity from Nuclear power

  24. Listen, fellas, if you’re not a rock star, why would you even bother to weigh in on the engineering of a nuclear plant?

  25. When, oh when will these musicians start using solar to power their amps and musical equipement?

  26. Vicki,

    Reprocessing in Japan and France have not been all that successful from what I’ve read on the subject. I reconsulted wikipedia and I was correct in remembering that a major issue is simply that it is more costly.

  27. “I reconsulted wikipedia”

    You do realize that wikipedia’s IQ is 100, don’t you?

  28. I’m not sure it needs to be subsidized anymore than farming or pro sports.That’s the way the industry has been developed.

  29. VM,

    Well, on the disposal front they have created facilities one can access in the futurei if some new technology allows for more const-effective reprocessing, etc. I don’t think that Yucca Mountain allows for that.

    One benefit of the French system is that every plant is the same – from an economics standpoint I’m sure you see how useful that is. Furthermore, the experience at one plant informs the knowledge base for all plants. With so many varieties of plants in the U.S. American plants don’t get the economic or safety advantages of the French system.

  30. Vicki,

    Well, I’ve read about these objections independently in academic journals, but I am pretty sure most folks don’t have access to them.

  31. Guys,

    I don’t think any of us r qualified to talk about the safety of these Targets.

    I’m not completely convinced that the INDIAN POINT reactor in NY State can’t be used as a NUCLEAR BOMB by terrorist to wipe out NYC.

  32. Vicki,

    And of course you are more than welcome to provide some opposing resources which demonstrates that I am wrong.

  33. VM,

    BTW, the French work through generations of plants. As I understand it the current generation about to come online is supposed to be more effecient, less costly to build, safer, etc.

  34. “And of course you are more than welcome to provide some opposing resources which demonstrates that I am wrong.”

    I provided a link…

  35. I think having the Nuclear Targets within the USA for terrorist (or any of our enemies…and boy is the list growing) to use as weapons against us is not a good idea.

    But, it’s a very macho thing to do. Look, for the last 50 years…no one has attempted it.

    It’s about as macho as Guiliani keeping the NYC Terror Headquarters in the World Trade Center.

  36. Vicki,

    That is NEI’s mainpage.

    Anyway, this is from a news release from that site:

    WASHINGTON-The nuclear energy industry supports continued research into more efficient and proliferation-resistant technologies to reprocess used nuclear fuel. But the industry sees significant challenges – economic and otherwise – to overcome before reprocessing can be developed in the United States, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s chief nuclear officer, Marvin Fertel, told a congressional panel today.

    Even if the ban on reprocessing were lifted again, the practice is not economically viable at this time because the cost of nuclear fuel from reprocessing is considerably more expensive than new fuel production, and cost reductions in disposal are not yet evident.

    http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/reprocessingresearch/

  37. As a side note, I just googled “dam collapse” and came up with a dozen instances that happened in just the past ten years that killed people.

    Granted, they were mostly tailings and irrigation dams. If, as CNNs ‘expert commentators’ say, nuclear power has a record of catastrophic failure, when are they going to speak out against the dam building industry?

  38. Reprocessing really only makes sense if you intend to use the separated fuel promptly. In the 70s, the idea was that fast breeders would be available in the near future to use the plutonium from the reprocessed fuel. This was deemed necessary because it was believed that mineable uranium would become scarce in the near-future, so the breeder reactors would become necessary. Since new sources or uranium ore have been found and we have no breeder reactors, reprocessing makes no financial sense. On the other hand, there’s no technical reason the complete fuel assemblies can’t be placed in retrievable sources and either reprocessed or placed in a geological repository at some point in the future. I personally think that a secure, interim storage facility should be built on the site of one of the Cold War nuclear labs in lieu of attempting to bury the fuel assemblies in Yucca Mtn. or reprocessing it.

  39. Vicki,

    What is your response to the language that I just quoted?

  40. Oops, I meant “storage,” not “sources.”

  41. Why not pebble bed nuclear power plants?

  42. Vikki –

    where should we look? I looked under “reprocess spent fuel” and got a bunch of Press releases.

    Or – where do we find the criticism about the laws in Japan and France? (and wiki can be 100 IQ, but how is a nuclear power lobbying organization any higher IQ rated?)

    thanks S of S!
    hier is a link to a French company that does reprocessing, btw.

  43. Alice Bowie

    The only way to have a nuclear explosion at a nuclear power plant is to drop a nuclear bomb on it.

    The presence of the moderator – water, heavy water, sodium or graphite – prevents a super-critical reaction. IIRC, Chernobyl was a steam explosion caused by a fire in the core. The fire and explosion dispersed the nuclear fuel, causing the cloud of radioactive particles.

  44. So, is nuclear power too expensive to exist without government subsidies?

    I’m not in the camp that looks at it as an evil doomsday device, but if the only safe way to dispose of nuclear waste (recycle it) adds to the expense, does that make it even less viable as a financially independent source of energy?

    As for my favorite alternative energy source, I’ll continue to preach on about plasma gasification.

  45. Funniest bit:

    “Meanwhile, a cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee reactor has simply collapsed, spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water into the Earth.”

    OMG! HOT! WATER! On the soil!

    An interesting MIT review of Nuclear Power’s costs and (american) prospects can be found here:

    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

  46. man-sap

    Never heard that one before.

  47. KenK,

    Partly because a full-scale model has never (to my knowledge) been built. There are a lot of unknowns with that technology and thus risk. Who wants to risk a lot of money on such? There are also some technical objections, but I ain’t remotely qualified to deal with those.

  48. If only we could power the world with smugness…

  49. dbcooper,

    Yeah, I read that study a few years ago. Quite useful. As I recall they are quite skeptical about the future use of nuclear power.

  50. So, the Greens aren’t demanding a new government program to replace C02 spewing coal and oil burning plants with Nuclear plants?

    Makes me doubt their sincerity regarding global warming and the cures for it.

  51. The MIT study has actually become quite dated now- the explosion of natural gas prices has made that source of energy far less attractive, and the increasing prospect of carbon caps have made nuclear a far surer bet. “Clean coal” technology is still in the experimental phase. Hence the reason why new reactors are actually being ordered now. The utilities aren’t stupid- they clearly think nuclear plants are worth their massive capital costs.

  52. Timothy:

    my BATIN activities can light up a small city for 16 hours!

  53. I worry about the long-term waste issue, the terrorist-attack issue, and the release-issue.

    But I worry about global warming and air pollution a lot more.

    Here’s the sales pitch if I were running for president:

    “I propose we engage in an Apollo Program to get our economy off of fossil fuels completely in 30 years. We should do everything we can to insure that as much of our power demand as possible is met through renewables like wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and other clean, renewable sources. But it is likely that, at least initially, we will have to incorporate some number of new nuclear power plants into the mix. I understand and share the concerns many people have about the disposal of nuclear waste, but given everything we know about our energy and environmental problems, we need to recognize that the pollution produced by the combusion of fossil fuels is a far, far greater threat to our well-being and health.”

  54. Isn’t it the case that Three Mile Island could have been far worse than what eventually happened?

    When TMI went red I was living in Lebanon, PA, about thirty miles downwind.

    I note that I, and the rest of my family, are still living.

    The biggest problem at the plant was the lack of a media person to explain what was happening. I remember tuning in one night and listening to the person the news reporter was interiewing say, “Well, I’m the janitor at TMI. What’s going on inside the reactor is that…”

    It’s the only national disaster we’ve ever had where no one was injured, and no outside private property was damaged.

    Unfortunately it did shut down nuclear power plant construction for lo these many decades.

    Ironically during the weeks TMI occupied the front page, buried inside one of the PA newspapers was a story about a natural gas facility that blew, killing several people. But of course that was routine. Look at recent coal mine news.

    Then there is the long-term waste issue.

    Compare the difficulty of disposing of a few cubic yards of concrete-encased fuel to disposing of mountains (literally) of sulphur scrubbed out of coal plants.

    All you need for the nuclear fuel is a good-sized cave out in the desert somewhere.

    It is simply staggering to sit across from an otherwise perfectly lovely person and hear her say essentially that she believes the mass of the Earth’s population needs to be kept in abject poverty for the good of the planet.

    I don’t know what your experience is, nor do I know of any studies, but anecdotally I’ve noticed that most people who espouse this particular solution have never been more than a hundred yards or so from a paved road. As a Hunter Education instructor I spend a lot of time explaining things like, “No. All the male deer aren’t shot by hunters. You don’t see deer with antlers in the spring because they’ve all fallen off.”

    I hope one of her more rational green friends straightens her out eventually.

    Unfortunately both of the rational greens are busy.

  55. Timothy | October 12, 2007, 5:25pm | #

    If only we could power the world with smugness…

    …then this website would be a real money-maker.

    😉

  56. VM,

    Yes, but it has to be a VERY small city.

  57. Thanks for the update Sovietologist.

  58. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water spilled into the earth would have a pretty significant local effect, actually.

    As in, massive fish kill it it entered a stream. Cooking the microbes in the soil. That sort of thing.

  59. IMHO, nuclear power is sufficiently safe for large scale use. Due to my breating habit, I’d rather have a nuke plant for a neighbor than a coal fired one. Yucca mountains are just fine for nuclear waste. There is NO PERFECT DISPOSAL SITE FOR ANY KIND OF WASTE. If you’re concerned about human caused global warming and don’t support the large scale use of fission power, I really don’t know what to say to you. As a rational environmentalist, I get so angry with the fear mongers preaching the end is nigh, I want to scream SHUT THE FUCK UP! YOU’RE NOT GODDAM HELPING! Nuclear energy is safe, and emits no CO2. How fucking hard is this folks? Let’s do it. The chicken littles will find something else to obsess about.

  60. Joe, I like your Apollo Program suggestion.

    You took a lot of heat in the Nobel Prize/AGW thread. Sometimes I have wondered if you were some kind of sophisticated troll. Now I know you are not.

  61. much of the anti-nuclear (and environmentalist ) base has a strong strain of ludditism inspired by too much rousseau and patchouli oil. they are also, generally speaking, loathe to admit they were wrong about nuclear energy. speaking of the “catastrophic failure” of nuclear energy is absurd when one compares the amount of nuclear related death/injuries in the US vs. coal, oil, natural gas, etc.

    really, and many have admitted this, these people don’t WANT a clean, safe, etc. source of electricity that is cheap because they don’t like modern industrialized society. they want a return to “nature”, since they have a totally warped view of man and a ‘state of nature’ as peaceful, in harmony with nature, etc. etc. it’s like the noble savage myth on crack.

  62. Make that “breathing habit”. Grr, Stupid fingers.

  63. When TMI went red I was living in Lebanon, PA, about thirty miles downwind.

    I note that I, and the rest of my family, are still living.

    Does this answer my question? The real and substatiated fear was that the fuel would leak out of the bottom of the facility and hit the water table, at which point it would have started to create radioactive geysers of water spouting out of the ground.

    Anyway, the biggest problem with TMI was that the guys working on site weren’t prepared for the incident that took place.

    All you need for the nuclear fuel is a good-sized cave out in the desert somewhere.

    Maybe. Personally I think a far better option if you are going to bury it and forget it (which I think is a bad idea – the French have the better solution IMHO) is to bore deep, narrow holes into the ground and send it to the bottom of them.

  64. whit,

    One doesn’t have to be anti-nuclear to see that nuclear power comes with a number of significant economic and technical obstacles, etc.

    LarryA,

    BTW, for the most economics explains the lack of facility expansion from the 1970s onward. WPPS is a pretty good example of what I am talking about.

  65. whit,

    I think it’s a generational thing. Those three are well passed their sell-by date.

    About TMI, that was Jimmy Carter’s finest hour. America (eventually) got to see the liberal, environmentalist former nucular engineer standing right next to the cooling towers o’ doom, telling them they had nothing to fear. Can you imagine if, instead, we had George Bush with his My Pet Goat stare making that statement?

  66. we had George Bush with his My Pet Goat stare making that statement?

    You mean the George Bush who was not seen again until 8 PM that night?

  67. I’ve been seeing ( what I believe to be) a nuclear energy company commercial on TV from time to time. It’s pretty surreal, as it’s animated, and they’re playing “Funkytown” in the background.

    Full disclosure: I quit using drugs many years ago, so that’s not it.

  68. “One doesn’t have to be anti-nuclear to see that nuclear power comes with a number of significant economic and technical obstacles, etc. ”

    of course, but that is an entirely different thing than claiming a “50 year record of catastrophic failure”

    frankly, i can think of few, if any, technologies of any importance that do not have “significant economic and technological obstacles” especially when they are newer.

    a simple (and useful) metric is to compare the # of injuries/deaths per kilowatt hour produced to any other source of energy. that certainly doesn’t support the myth of “catastrophic failure”.

    there are thousands upon thousands of people, for example, who have had their lives significantly shortened and/or ended by black lung disease.

    now, there is AN argument that even though the track record of nuclear power is excellent (which it is), that there is a small risk of an extremely dangerous event, that doesn’t exist mostly in other forms of power production.

    that is at least a rational argument, even though it has never happened in the US, or ANY industrialized nation that uses nuclear power (and note that the USSR was pretty frigging far from an industrialized nation compared to any western nation that actually values worker safety, etc.).

    but one doesn’t expect rational arguments from nuclear power from histrionic ninnies like bonnie rait, graham nash, etc.

    the same people who criticize nancy reagan for (the simplistic) “just say no” campaign, have a even more simplistic and completely fantastic (catastrophic failure, etc.) approach to nuclear power.

    as for jackson browne. any woman in a relationship from him is far more at risk of death or serious injury from him, than they would ever be from nuclear power 🙂

  69. frankly, i can think of few, if any, technologies of any importance that do not have “significant economic and technological obstacles” especially when they are newer.

    And a lot of those technologies failed.

  70. One important point tangentially related to nuclear power plant safety.

    Remember this? And yet we still have these all over the USA.

  71. OK, what Warren said in the third post. Didn’t bother to read the rest. Anyone who takes his marching orders from a pop musician deserves to fry. If only they could, given the relatively (and dare I say “spectacularly”) safe history of western nuke technology. Big shoutout to the late, great Petr Beckmann, who took on the antinuke priests when “China Syndrome” was the buzzword with all the cool and brainless Hollywood types and even-stupider “normal” Americans, who ate up the propaganda like so much chicken chow mein.

  72. Ah, here it is.

  73. As some one with 19 years as an instrumentation technician in the nuclear generation field I have seen many BWRs and PWRs in operation. I just wanted to say that after hearing about Al Whore’s Nobel Peace Prize, I felt kinda like this: LET THE BASTARDS
    FREEZE IN THE DARK!
    Then I went back to work.

  74. The real and substatiated fear was that the fuel would leak out of the bottom of the facility and hit the water table, at which point it would have started to create radioactive geysers of water spouting out of the ground.

    That isn’t even close to a real and substantiated fear.

    A reactor shuts down virtually immediately, so the only heat is decay heat. That’s a small fraction of the full power.

    The fuel did not even melt through the reactor vessel. (It would be virtually impossible to do unless the fuel went back to critical, i.e., self-sustaining fission.)

    And even if the fuel did melt through the reactor vessel, it would fall into a huge mass of water in the reactor containment. It would have to re-form into a critical (self-sustaining nuclear fission reaction) mass to continue to melt down through the containment floor.

    The only real substantiated concern would be if the reactor containment failed (even partially). The containment for TMI is designed for 60 pounds per square inch (psi). The maximum pressure during the accident was a brief spike to 30 psi. That was probably due to a hydrogen explosion (hydrogen generated by very hot conditions inside the reactor recombining with the oxygen in the containment building).

    Here’s a decent explanation of the time-line of events:

    Explanation of TMI accident

  75. I don’t think concern about nuclear power was irrational in the 70s. Well, not all of it, anyway.

    But times have changed.

  76. I know that our economy is heavily invested in the use of fossil fuels. i.e. the internal combustion engine. We are never going to get off fossil fuels until we run out. The only real incentive to get to those alternative means of production, we have to use up all the oil.
    Therefore, I am doing my part by using as much gas as possbile. I am running out tommorrow and buying a big v-8 Toyata Tundra. I am going to drive in circles out front in 1st gear. I am going to leave my lights on and replace all my flourescents with old – fashion high energy use tungten lamps. I figure the sooner we run out of oil the better. I am doing my part, will you?

    I have spoken, you may now return to your normal day-to-day activities.

  77. Fission’s so 20th century. Everyone knows that fusion is just twenty years away.

  78. Anyway, the biggest problem with TMI was that the guys working on site weren’t prepared for the incident that took place.

    Now, that *is* true. But in their defense, the reactor measurements would be very puzzling, unless one understood that there was a small but continuous leak from the reactor coolant system (from the PORV…the power-operated relief valve).

    Reactor operators were trained to think that the water level in the pressurizer was important…that too high a level meant too much fluid in the system. But in this particular case, the level stayed high even though there was too LITTLE fluid in the system. In fact, it stayed high precisely BECAUSE there was too little fluid in the system (and the coolant temperature was getting very high).

    Here is a more detailed review of the design of B&W (Babcock and Wilcox) reactor systems:

    B&W reactor systems

    Mark Bahner (B&W Nuclear Power Generation Division, 1982-1985)

  79. Everyone knows that fusion is just twenty years away.

    Again?

  80. Fission’s so 20th century. Everyone knows that fusion is just twenty years away.

    Fusion will probably never be commercial via building the huge and expensive ITER (International Tokamak Experimental Reactor) for the next decade (or more), at a cost of $10 billion (or more)…and then engaging in 30 years of *research* on the stupid thing.

    On the other hand, a set of technology prizes costing less than $5 billion (if they are all collected) could be designed such that they lead to commercial fusion in less than 20 years. (If they all collected. If they aren’t collected, fusion wouldn’t be commercial…but the cost would also be far less than $5 billion.)

  81. well, i used to play Three Mile Island on the old Apple II and it was pretty hard to keep the reactor from melting down, especially when I was distracted by sally jane in her skirt and the computer room monitor was checking the computers to see if we were playing games so…

    clearly, nuclear power is unsafe :l

  82. whit

    May I suggest you avoid mazes with coins lying on the floor?

  83. Twenty years from the day we get flying cars.

  84. An anecdote about the current economics of nuke power:

    Last week, I heard NAVSEA (08) speak on several topics and one was the CG(X) program. He said the lifecycle cost of a nuclear version is greater than the gas-turbine version at current energy prices (IIRC, on the order of 20-30%). However, if energy prices continue on their current upward trendline, then the nuclear variant becomes cheaper.

  85. The approach of flying cars and fusion power are the original Friedman Units.

  86. I think the outcome of TMI demonstrated that even when the people running the plant don’t have a clue what to do, the engineering involved in the plant did its job and a catastrophe was averted.

    Whenever you’re evaluating the viability of a certain direction, you have to do a risk analysis, weighing the consequence of certain failures to the likelihood of them. We COULD worry about the consequence of a nuclear meltdown, but if we mitigate the likelihood to somewhere on the order of 1/100000 years, then we should feel pretty confident about the usefulness of it. We can always sit around and argue about what would happen IF the meteor struck, but it doesn’t help the conversation. People let emotion get in the way of sound judgement when it comes to looking at risks too much and it leads to poor decision making.

    Nuclear power is the future and so we better comes to terms with it. Yes, there is potential for accidents, terrorism and natural disasters, but I bet, if looked at in comparison to the risks of waiting until other forms of energy spiral out of control, we’ll be very disappointed with the results.

  87. With so many varieties of plants in the U.S. American plants don’t get the economic or safety advantages of the French system.

    Hmm, this could be argued either way. I would think that a diversity of technology would help ferret out what didn’t work and what was economically unfeasible.

  88. Other people have covered most of the aspects of TMI, save one.

    Three Mile Island’s damaged reactor did melt-down. When they shut down primary flow to the reactor*, they drew a hydrogen bubble in the reactor vessel. the hydrogen acted as an insulator, allowing temperatures in the pressure vesel to climb from the decay heat. The temperature was high enough that there was melting of the fuel elements and sagging of structural supports within the pressure vessel.

    this condition was allowed to last for hours until the incoming shift supervisor was being briefed on plant conditions and figured out what all the bizarre instrument readings were describing. he convinced the people on watch to restart the pumps.

    the TMI accident was about as bad an accident as you could expect from that design.

    With that being said, I am suspicious of nuclear power’s viability. Essentially, the liability involved in a catastrophic accident is so high that most insurers are not willing to take the risk. for that reason I think that Apollo type programs are actually a bad idea. The governemnt is far less risk averse than private industry. The wisest course of action is to allow companies to build reactors if they want, but not to subsidize them on iota. This will compell them to come up with designs which canbe aduequately insured and still turn a profit. Under the present scheme a safer power plant does not save the operator any money on liability insurance, so there is little incentive to improve safety (the government picks up the tab). If they had to bear the full costs of the risk and pollution control, then incremental improvements would benefit their bottom line.

    *The reason why TMI operators shut down coolant flow to the reactor was because primary pressure had dropped below the minimum operating pressure of the main coolant pumps. Below this minimum pressure, operating these pumps would cause cavitation, pockets of near vacuum within the pump where the water would boil into little bubbles of steam. These bubbles collapse as they move out of the low pressure region, and as they collapse, they create a shock wave that damages the pump.

    So, basically to protect their multi-million pumps from being damaged, they trashed their hundreds-of-millions of dollars’ worth reactor.

  89. Joe, lots of things were less rational in the 70s.

    I’d love to see if nuclear power could be economically competitive in the absence of subsidies. I have some knowledge of the engineering involved, due to having worked at a DOE site, but not really of the economics of a power reactor. Anyone have a concise analysis of the financials of the industry?

    Incidently, there are lots of good waste disposal plans, but their main consequence will probably be to delay the time when reprocessing does become economically viable. Really we are just increasing the cost of “mining” the waste, right?

  90. I think the outcome of TMI demonstrated that even when the people running the plant don’t have a clue what to do, the engineering involved in the plant did its job and a catastrophe was averted.

    That is an incredibly harsh and unrealistic assessment of the TMI operators. The whole mentality and training of the nuclear power industry prior to TMI was focused on large reactor coolant system leaks. Unfortunately, the behavior was substantially different with a “small” leak. (“Small” being a relative term…even a couple hundred gallons per minute is “small” compared to a guillotine break of a reactor coolant pipe.)

    The reactor operators expected the level in the pressurizer and the reactor coolant system pressure to go down if the system was leaking. Instead, the level in the pressurizer stayed up, and the reactor coolant system pressure stayed up. So they thought there was plenty of reactor coolant water in the system. But there wasn’t.

    It’s easy in hindsight to say, “Well, they didn’t have a clue what to do,” but that’s a lot like asking why commercial airliners didn’t have reinforced doors on September 11, 2001.

    I’m not intimately familiar with the next-generation reactor designs, such as Westinghouse’s AP1000 (“Advanced Passive” 1000 MW) reactor. But even a casual review indicates that it’s a much better design than the existing pressured-water reactors (like TMI).

    And frankly, the B&W once-through steam generator (OTSG) is inherently problematic from a plant response standpoint. OTSG’s have much less water in the secondary side of the steam generator than Westinghouse plants. That’s good in terms of having fewer leaks in the steam generator, but it also means there’s less water to boil off in the event that feedwater and emergency feedwater get shut off.

  91. IT CAN’T FUCKING HAPPEN WITH A WESTERN REACTOR!

    Well, Barry Commonor said the only reason Chernobyl went ka-blooey is that they emulated the design of decadent, Western capitalist nuke plants.

    No really, he said that…

    And as far as Bonnie Raitt is concerned, the best thing she could do to help the environment is to stop polluting the airwaves with her warmed-over, chicken-shit, Californi-ated faux “blues.” That and put a recyclable paper bag over head…

  92. Three Mile Island’s damaged reactor did melt-down.

    No one (I’m aware of) wrote that it didn’t melt down.

    *The reason why TMI operators shut down coolant flow to the reactor was because primary pressure had dropped below the minimum operating pressure of the main coolant pumps.

    No, that’s not completely correct. Reactor coolant pumps can be operated at very low pressures; conversely, cavitation can occur even with very high reactor coolant system pressures (as occurred during the TMI accident). It’s the combination of pressure and temperature that is the key. The pressure must be sufficiently high, and the temperature sufficiently low, that cavitation doesn’t occur.

    So, basically to protect their multi-million pumps from being damaged, they trashed their hundreds-of-millions of dollars’ worth reactor.

    So you say. How many years of experience do you have as a reactor operator…particularly on B&W plants?

  93. Well, Barry Commoner said the only reason Chernobyl went ka-blooey is that they emulated the design of decadent, Western capitalist nuke plants.

    Yeah, and his degree in biology qualifies him to speak intelligently about nuclear power about like Bonnie Raitt’s degree in African Studies qualifies her to speak intelligently about nuclear power.

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

  94. Here is an accurate description of the events at TMI, from the American Nuclear Society:

    Sequence of events of the accident at TMI

  95. “Anything but cheap.”
    Nothing like a giant lie to start the ball rolling. Let’s see, now, nuclear power costs about 1.72 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s cheaper than anything. You want to talk expensive? How about photovoltaic at 30 cents per kilowatt hour. How about wind, which costs 8 times as much as nuclear power plants in terms of power produced over the lifespan. Want to talk crappy, non-dispatchable power like wind and photovoltaic. Anti-nukes have been almost solely responsible for global warming, yet remain stupidly opposed to the only significant carbon free power we have. The nuclear plants are workhorse, running at above 90% capacity and are so reliable that only one unshceduled shutdown has occurred in the past 10 years. Nuclear plants only provide 14% odf power caapcity, yet produce over 21% of U.S. electricity, which means they are the producer of choice when it comes to relability, low cost and long uptimes – nuclear plants only need refueling every 2 years.
    It’s hilarious listening to the trnasparent lies from the yokels who still believe Three Mile Island was a catastrophe. Soem catastrophe – more people died when the baby carriage ran into the policeman.

  96. I see the rest of the civilized world actually likes nuclear power. 304 new plants are either being built now, or shortly will be.
    You anti-nukes have caused enough global warming – you are obviously having little effect – 32 new U.S. nuclear plants will shortly begin contsruction and you’ll see that 30 years of lies from you anti-nukes will have acheived absolutely nothing. Thank God we don’t have to wait for wind power to help reduce carbon – wind is a total flop – less than 1/2 of 1 percent of US electricity is generated by wind – and wind costs 10 times more than nuclear to build and cannot replace a single coal plant – you see, humans have this odd quirk – they like electricity when the ask for it, not just when the wind happens to blow in the next county. Ha, Ha ha, ha, ha.

  97. I see where the rest of the world is building nuclear plants like crazy. Apparently the qualities of nuclear plants aren’t quite the catastrophe you morons seem to believe. It’s good to see anti-nukes and their pathetically inaccurate and illogical arguments so thoroughly rejected by the entire world. I see China is building the world’s largest nuclear plant – 6,000 megawatts. Let’s see now, the US wind generators produce 33% of their capacity of 11,000 megawatts, or about 3600 megawatts. When they want to. Looks like just one nuclear plant can do twice the work of 7500 wind turbines, that despoil 150,000 acres of our scenic beauty, and actually produce power under control.

  98. Wow, Kerry, Larry & Karen. If you’d like us to believe that you’re actually more than one person, perhaps you should take a writing course and listen up when they discuss “writer’s voice”.

    While you’re there, maybe you should also take a course in reading comprehension. Then you could go back and read over this thread again. You’d actually find that many of the points you made were made by previous posters, and that most of the people here are PRO-nuclear power.

  99. Kerry Beauhrt | October 12, 2007, 11:37pm | #

    “Anything but cheap.”
    Nothing like a giant lie to start the ball rolling.

    Please see the Cato article I linked to earlier:

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n1/reg15n1-rothwell.html

    I am anything but anti-nuclear, but I don’t try to hide from facts that don’t support my position. IIRC, the 1.72 cents/kwh figure you cite is the fuel cost and does not include the amortized capital cost.

    Many of the high costs of nuclear power have to do with what I think is over-regulation. I think nuclear power can be an economical and ecologically friendly form of power generation, particularly if the designs can be standardized and the approval process streamlined. It is totally ridiculous that a company planning to build a nuclear plant has to go through up to 200 review panels*, repeatedly answering the same questions from the same challengers, just to get approval.

    [*The Diablo Canyon power station, as I remember.]

    Fusion power would be nice, of course, but, as several commentators have pointed out above, it seems perpetually to be “20 years in the future”. It will also not be without environmental problems: The reactor chamber will be exposed to a constant flux of neutrons, which will change the isotopes of the materials in the chamber wall, causing some of the materials to become radioactive over time. The emissions from the reaction will also damage the crystalline structure of the metals in the chamber walls, meaning that they will eventually degrade and have to be discarded. These are known, solvable problems, but they mean that fusion power will not be an environmental panacea.

  100. You’d actually find that many of the points you made were made by previous posters,…

    I hope these “points” weren’t being made, because they’re not anywhere near correct:

    I see the rest of the civilized world actually likes nuclear power. 304 new plants are either being built now, or shortly will be.

    Here is a more realistic assessment. There are only 34 reactors currently under construction.

    http://www.uic.com.au/reactors.htm

    32 new U.S. nuclear plants will shortly begin contsruction

    Would you like to bet $20 on that? If 32 U.S. reactors begin construction in the next 5 years, I’ll give you $20. If not, you give me $20? This offer is good for the next two months.

    I see China is building the world’s largest nuclear plant – 6,000 megawatts.

    And where did you see this?

  101. Mark – I said “points” not “facts”. I was referring specifically to the relative eco-friendliness viz. global warming and the ability to produce useful levels of power. I should not have used the word “many”.

    I didn’t bother to thoroughly examine the arguments made, because I believe that the three posts were made by the same person, using different names. That pretty much destroyed any credibility they might have had for me.

  102. Don’t think about that last sentence too hard. You’ll hurt your head or bring on the apocalypse or something

    Thread Winner.

  103. Those countries without the luxury of cheap oil seem to do just fine with nukes. Like the Frogs.

  104. Everyone knows that fusion is just twenty years away.

    fusion was only ten years away thirty years ago.

  105. A far more pressing question is why there is no U Tube vid of the Doob’s doing Dark Eyed Cajun Woman.

  106. Fusion power may be 5 years away or less:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

    It has been funded:

    Bussard Reactor Funded

    The above reactor can burn Deuterium which is very abundant and produces lots of neutrons or it can burn a mixture of Hydrogen and Boron 11 which does not.

    The implication of it is that we will know in 6 to 9 months if the small reactors of that design are feasible.

    If they are we could have fusion plants generating electricity in 10 years or less depending on how much we want to spend to compress the time frame.

    BTW Bussard is not the only thing going on in IEC. There are a few government programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, MIT, the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana among others.

    The Japanese and Australians also have programs.

  107. Let me note that as a former Naval nuke the crystallization problem caused by neutrons is over rated.

    Current fission nuke reactor vessels are designed for a 40 year lifetime at 2,000 psi. Given that a fusion plant operates at 15 psi but that the neutron flux with D-D would be 20X with higher energy neutrons (lower damage than thermal neutrons for a number of technical reasons) the problem is tractable. The same goes for radioactivity. High energy neutrons are not as well absorbed as thermal neutrons. In addition if IEC proves out the plants would be small enough to be economically replaced every couple of years if necessary and you have a non-problem.

    There was a time when Libertarians actually knew the relevant science. It seems that the party was not only numerically and financially decimated after 9/11 but intellectually decimated as well.

    This former Libertarian finds it very sad to see.

  108. Let me note that my 10 year prediction is dependent on a low rate of spending on the technology roll out.

    If the project was Manhattanized a 3 to 4 year roll out is feasible.

  109. Nuclear power is expensive — compared to fossil fuels. Reprocessing is somewhat more expensive, too, with current uranium supply and demand and the federalization of waste disposal. However, compared to all other current non-fossil sources of electricity, nuclear (even with fast neutron and reprocessing systems like the Integral Fast Reactor) is the cheapest that can be scaled to the demand. And compared to the multi-millennium storage requirements of conventional nuclear waste, fast-neutron nuclear and reprocessing produces waste that quickly (matter of decades) becomes less radioactive than the original uranium ore.

  110. Only Michael Pack has mentioned that the U.S. Navy has safely operated hundreds of nuclear reactors in the last fifty years. With the proper training, oversight and regulations, nuclear is safe and clean.

  111. Wow, that Kerry/Larry/Karen thing wasn’t too obvious.

  112. So you say. How many years of experience do you have as a reactor operator…particularly on B&W plants?

    4 years experience on two different Navy nuclear power plants (MARF and A1W). None on the B&W. TMI and Chernobyl were required reading during our training (of course, that was over 10 years ago, so my memory of details is a little fuzzy)…

    No one (I’m aware of) wrote that it didn’t melt down.

    You’re right. But nobody seemed to have explicitly pointed this out. The consensus on those coming from outside the industry with an anti-nuclear bias* was that the operators had dodged a bullet and that it could have been much worse. My contention is that TMI was about as bad an accident as one could reasonably expect. The operators took the positive actions required to cause a melt-down. I just wanted to make it explicitly clear how bad the situation was, and how, despite the severity of the accident, the damage was well-contained within the plant.

    Incidentally, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people saying how unique Chernobyl was. The accident report I read as part of my training was shocking. The reactor was unstable as hell. The design was the product of wanting to use the reactor to both produce plutonium (presumably for bomb-making) and as a power plant. Essentially they wanted to be able to defuel the reactor and refuel it while it was operating. Pretty much every design decision that contributed to the severity of the accident was completely opposite to the design of every reactor in the U.S., France, England etc. You could not get a Chernobyl-type uncontained explosion and fire in a major commercial power plant.

    *I don’t mean ‘bias’ in an insulting manner. I mean it more in the ‘skeptical’ sense of the word.

  113. @ joe | October 12, 2007, 5:42pm:

    a village, actually. well, a few of the huts in the village. um. almost a pen-flashlight bulb?

    *wails. runs off.

  114. Wow, that Kerry/Larry/Karen thing wasn’t too obvious.

    joe – whoever it was was at least smart enough to put down 3 different email providers, but yeah, he (or she)’s going to have to work on it.

  115. Ugh. Speaking of having to work on your writing…

    I feel like I jsut pionted out somenoe’s sppeling erorr.

  116. “joe | October 12, 2007, 9:25pm | #
    Everyone knows that fusion is just twenty years away.

    Again?”

    It’s the Pizza Guy, Sir.

    Baked:
    no worries. that was one of the funnier things that happened! joe probably remembers this – he was engaged in a lively debate with someone who used another handle to agree with whatever point he was making. joe noticed that both people had the same email… heh!

  117. “Hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water spilled into the earth would have a pretty significant local effect, actually.

    As in, massive fish kill it it entered a stream. Cooking the microbes in the soil. That sort of thing.”

    Oooooh. Hundreds of thousands of gallons. So we’re talking about the amount of water in an Olympic-size pool, if not less. A pool that size contains 660,430 gallons (2,500,000 liters). I’m not that worried.

    http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2005/JeffreyGilbert.shtml

  118. Costs: Wind power, over $1.00/KWH
    Coal power, about .06 cents/KWH
    Nuclear power, .02 cents =KWH
    Catholicfundamentalism.com looks at these costs and see them as a way to ascertain how much people are willing to lie for money. At heart, this is a spiritual problem. It exists to help separate those who love their neighbors and want them to have more from those who hate their neighbors and want them to have less.

  119. okay. that’s got to be the freakin’ creepiest web site, evar!!!

  120. There is not a single source solution to powering the future.

    Each technology comes with problems.

    We should be exploring all avenues.

    Regional solutions will vary depending upon regional resources.

    Nuclear (fission), being non-renewable, is not the best long-term solution.

    The economic issues are also complicated by the political issues involving nuclear weapons production (c.f., Iran).

    If the government were to subsidize any industry, it would make less sense to do so for nuclear since it is an established technology.

    Greens talk about these things rationally all the time.

    Hippies do not = Greens.

  121. Mark Bahner,

    That isn’t even close to a real and substantiated fear.

    If I recall correctly that was the primary fear that the official reports on the matter discussed. Take it up with them.

  122. With current technology, improved efficiency to reduce energy waste is a cheaper, more readily available, and more plentiful source of energy than nuclear.

    Nuclear power, being a centralized large-scale generation technology (for the most part) seems less promising than distributed power generation. It is a better centralized source, however, than coal, so nuclear should be chosen over coal. It is not, iirc, any lower (much lower?) in carbon emissions than natural gas. Any of you experts have a comparison that would confirm or refute that?

  123. NM,

    Combustion of natural gas produces plenty of CO2 (but less than coal). Nuclear fission produces no CO2.

  124. NM-
    There are several studies about the full lifetime carbon emissions for nuclear power. All of them have found that nuclear was lower than gas, although one found that it was not much lower. That one was based on some questionable assumptions (for instance, that the fuel was enriched using inefficient 1940s technology powered by coal.) This more recent study found that nuclear’s emissions were on the same order as wind and lower than solar:
    http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/pdf/fdm1181.pdf

  125. Polywell may be the answer. It’s the brainchild of the late Robert Bussard, of Bussard ramjet fame and a nuclear physicist par excellence.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606

    Essentially, Polywell fusion reactors create an electric-potential well by trapping electrons with a magnetic field and using them to accelerate ions, which fuse in the center of the device. A certain fusion reaction, p-B11, may actually be able to generate DC current at 3 million volts directly, without the need for a thermal cycle generator. This would probably result in energy costs an order of magnitude lower than today’s, if Bussard was correct.

    Bussard worked under a Navy gag order for 11 years, which ended along with funding in 2005, and got Polywell funded again just a couple months before he passed away. The next several months will see the creation of the last proof-of-concept test device, after which the Polywell team may be funded for an attempt to build a working 100MW polywell reactor for about $200M.

    A team funded by Paul Allen is attempting something very similar.

    http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-9721240-7.html Tri-alpha gets $40M

    More here:

    http://www.talk-polywell.org/bb/index.php?sid=b084a4526dd2f467693d161f6e64fd89

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/IEC_Fusion/

    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=5367&mid=136500#M136500

    http://www.strout.net/info/science/polywell/index.html

  126. VM,

    joe probably remembers this – he was engaged in a lively debate with someone who used another handle to agree with whatever point he was making. joe noticed that both people had the same email… heh!

    The funny part was, the guy who was doing it was posting as “notjoe,” as well as his “real” name, and writing absurd straw man versions of actual rebuttals to his points, before I could write actual rebuttals to his points.

    So, yeah, when I noticed the e-mail address mistake, that was pretty sweet.

  127. If I recall correctly a lot of the cost of opening a nuclear plant is the anti-nuclear tie ups in court.

  128. That, and the fact that it’s the most regulated industry in the country. I remember back in the early ’80s a friend of mine getting a well-paying entry level job at at a Louisiana nuke construction project measuring the thickness of coats of paint on the doors and walls of non-critical structures like control rooms and mess halls.

  129. Sovietologist

    Thanks for the link.

    Scooby,
    I was talking about the complete cycle from ground to light bulb. The fission step is not the whole picture. A large part of the reason that the US is the leading CO2 producers is because we don’t account for the entire cost cycle (including waste and subsequent costs) for oil/coal based energy production. Making the same mistake with the alternatives doesn’t get us anywhere.

  130. Then there is the long-term waste issue.

    Compare the difficulty of disposing of a few cubic yards of concrete-encased fuel to disposing of mountains (literally) of sulphur scrubbed out of coal plants.

    How long does the concrete last before it breaks down? Longer than the half-life of the nuclear waste? Seems like a problem if the ongoing costs of power generation linger on well past the expected life of the company generating those costs.

  131. Using Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island as reason not to build new reactors is like pointing to the Pinto and Edsel as reasons not building a new cars.

  132. UNSAFE AT ANY ISOTOPE!!!

    🙂

  133. Coal mining has killed many thousands of times more workers than nuclear power facilities, even after figuring in the deaths from Chernobyl. And that disaster happened on a type of reactor not used in the U.S. ? and only after its operators deliberately shut down a large number of built-in safety systems as part of an ill-advised drill.

    Chernobyl also occurred in the absence of a free press and under a totalitarian government which didn’t care much about the lives or health of its citizens but was obsessed with catching up to the West at any cost.

    In the worst U.S. incident, Three Mile Island, not a single death was recorded. And after all these years, I’ve never heard of any clustering of radiation-linked diseases in or around the areas where the vented, radioactive steam from the damaged reactor drifted. Compared to fatalities over the centuries due to coal mine cave-ins, explosions and the myriad of slow, awful deaths caused by black lung disease, nuclear power is incredibly safe.

    The reason Three Mile Island was so scary was, for a couple of days, scientists thought a red-hot radioactive “bubble” was brewing, a bubble which could not be reduced and which might eventually cause an explosion. In the end it turned out their math was flawed; the bubble never existed.

    But human memory is selective; no matter how objective we try to be, most of us don’t remember the few minutes of relief so much as the two days of terror that preceded them.

    Accordingly, in the wake of the Three Mile Island incident, some highly-principled people staged a number of confrontational rallies aimed at stopping construction and/or startup of every new or proposed nuclear power plant in the country. When power companies decided it wasn’t worth the bad publicity to even attempt to build any new ones, victory was complete for a hyperventilating confederacy of the easily-spooked.

    Can we blame corporate America for deciding to build, instead of nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants? It’s too bad, since despite all the expensive and highly-effective upgrades in pollution control, worldwide burning of coal still spews tons of toxic heavy metal vapors into the atmosphere annually. Whether or not coal contributes to global warming, the official public record proudly proclaims each medium-sized plant is within state and federal compliance limits as it adds to the air over a dozen pounds of mercury each year. Then there’s the lead, the cadmium, the nickel …

    Still, the decision-makers at the energy companies probably figure the coal-fired plants are not really safer, but people perceive them as safer. And who needs a lot of concerned citizens camping out next to a multi-billion dollar construction site, raising Cain in the media? If perception is reality, it must be safer to build and operate the much more harmful coal-fired plants.

    Of course perception and reality often have gaping, daylight filled gaps between them. But those who buy into the flawed perception/reality diad know what they think and choose to not be confused with facts.

    It’s time for America to learn the facts about all the different energy alternatives, hire some French companies to safely dispose of nuclear waste (no fooling, they’re wizards at it, and have been for decades), and get back on the Sane Train.

    All the facts on global warming aren’t in yet, but if we wait until they are, it could be a little late to fix it. In the immortal words of Taj Mahal, “Let’s go fission!”

  134. prolefeed writes:

    “How long does the concrete last before it breaks down? Longer than the half-life of the nuclear waste? Seems like a problem if the ongoing costs of power generation linger on well past the expected life of the company generating those costs.”

    Actually, the low-grade concrete is generally used for low-grade waste; gloves and suits used around radioactivity, paper products, stuff like that. For fuel rods, the French encase the nasty stuff in glass, then wrap it all in lead and steel. These little packages are, for all intents and purposes, safe for eternity unless perhaps you dropped one into an active volcano.

    France gets more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear plants, and I don’t see too many of our Gallic cousins sprouting third eyes or glowing in the dark.

    Of course, a lot of people would argue that radioactivity or something has cause them to become a bit unhinged, but I don’t believe thoser ignorant chicken-suckers.

    Yer buddy,
    Rarmcwa

  135. Allen writes:

    “Using Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island as reason not to build new reactors is like pointing to the Pinto and Edsel as reasons not building a new cars.”

    Hear, hear!

  136. No one expected Enrico Fermi to write and perform a terrific hit song, so why should anyone expect any of these worthies in the arts community to do realistic analysis of a thorny and highly technical problem like this?

    When you get off your patch and into areas where your expertise is small if not utterly lacking, you always take terrible chances, mostly with the truth.

    Righteous anger is not now and never has been a substitute for reason. Although, looking at human history, it becomes readily apparent that not everybody believes this to be the case …

  137. Timothy | October 12, 2007, 5:25pm | #
    If only we could power the world with smugness…

    That power would be too cheap to meter.

  138. On the costs thing- I work at Indian Point, which was purchased by Entergy Nuclear from ConEd in 2001. They are literally printing money with this joint, and are making a fortune in general by running a bunch of nuke plants that local regulated utilities offloaded because they couldn’t run them efficiently. Several other companies such as Duke and Dominion are doing the same.

    Now capital construction may be a different matter, but with an economy of scale and pre-NRC approved designs, the ridiculous overruns and costly litigations of the 80s can be avoided.

    By the way, taking my NRC Reactor Operator exam in three weeks, wish me luck.

  139. Finland is currently building its first new nuclear reactor for years. Good news:It will be the safest plant in the world. Bad news: It is hideously expensive, and two years past schedule. Still, no CO2 and lots of kWh, so its the way to go for the future.

  140. Most existing US reactors were either designed in the 1950s or are based on designs developed in the 1950s. In those days the engineers just took existing steam plant designs and substituted the reactor for the boilers. Not surprisingly this is the most expensive way to go about it and mechanically the most complex. Gas turbines work MUCH better with nuclear power in terms of cost and safety.

  141. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/13/AR2007101301071.html

    This link has absolutely nothing to do, at all, with this story, but I am posting it anyway. Why? Because for weeks, this website posted the same old tired bullshit about how people that claimed Iraq was improving were liars peddling vile propaganda. However, given the nature of this site, I expect to see no blog entries at all making corrections. Therefore I will be posting this link in every blog entries comments section. Time to eat crow, assholes.

  142. *BEN STEIN VOICE*
    Wooooooooooooooooooow.

    This single Washington Post editorial undoes everything I’ve ever read or heard about Iraq! I guess the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing that country are just confused about how great things are there.

    */BEN STEIN VOICE*

    “This doesn’t necessarily mean the war is being won.”

    …. did you actually read it?

  143. Note to Katherine: If you believe so much in the wisdom of the market, why won’t private insurance companies cover it without a government-mandated cap on liability?

  144. A classic source is Beckmann’s “The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear” for laymen interested in both the science and politics of nuclear energy. Still relevant years after its publication and a fun read as well.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0911762175/reasonmagazinea-20/

  145. “The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear”

    That is a good book.

  146. Regarding: The “China syndrome” (the ridiculous notion that reactor fuel will melt through the reactor vessel, evaporate all the water in the containment building, melt down through the containment building, and then melt down to the water table):

    I wrote:

    That isn’t even close to a real and substantiated fear.

    Syloson of Samos responds:

    If I recall correctly that was the primary fear that the official reports on the matter discussed.

    You don’t recall correctly. That’s a ridiculous scenario of a *fictional* movie.

    Take it up with them.

    There’s no one to take it up with. Your China Syndrome scenario is completely fictional, and the “officials” to whom you refer don’t exist. There’s no one who actually knows about U.S. fission reactors who thinks that is a credible scenario (nuclear fuel melting down to the water table). I challenge you to come up with a single person who (you think!) supports melting down to the water table as a possibility at TMI (or any U.S. nuclear reactor).

    P.S. Don’t get me wrong…there are very credible scenarios in which molten fuel interacting with water could cause a steam explosion or a hydrogen burn that causes the containment building to be breached, releasing substantial radiation. Such a scenario would almost certainly cause many fatalities.

    But it simply isn’t credible that nuclear fuel would melt through the reactor vessel, fall into the water below the vessel, evaporate all that water, melt through the bottom of the containment building, and melt down into the ground to reach the water table. It would have to remain critical (i.e. having a self-sustaining fission reaction) and compact throughout the entire sequence to generate the energy and temperature needed to get down to the water table. That simply is not going to happen.

  147. “That’s a ridiculous scenario of a *fictional* movie.”

    jeebus. do you, like, talk with that Charlie Brown Teacher’s voice, too? mein gott.

  148. I for one wouldn’t want to live in a country that generated nuclear power from reactors designed by country music singers.

    Nor would I want to listen to Enrico Fermi sing “Achy Breaky Heart” … but only because I prefer rock ‘n’ roll. I’m sure Fermi sang better than folk singers do physics.

    Bonnie Raitt weighs in on nuclear power … does she know the difference between an under-moderated and over-moderated reactor? Does she even know what a “neutron moderator” is?

  149. The real (near) stake in the heart of the US nuclear industry was not Three Mile Island, but Shoreham. This 25 year fight resulted in a perfectly good $6 billion dollar plant being abandoned. Engineering risk you can model and account for, a loopy government is too big of a risk. How can you approve an evacuation plan if you are not permitted to approve the evacuation plan?

    “A key turning point came on Feb. 17, 1983, when the Suffolk Legislature flatly declared in a 15-1 vote that the county could not be safely evacuated. A few minutes before that vote, New York’s newly elected governor, Mario Cuomo, ordered state officials not to approve any LILCO-sponsored evacuation plan.”

    http://www.newsday.com/search/ny-history-hs9shore,0,4295595.story

    As Joe mentioned, things have come a long way from the 1970s, in terms of reliability and risk management. If you are serious (and politically realistic) about global warming, nuclear power has to be part of the package.

    Whit says: “really, and many have admitted this, these people don’t WANT a clean, safe, etc. source of electricity that is cheap because they don’t like modern industrialized society. they want a return to “nature”, since they have a totally warped view of man and a ‘state of nature’ as peaceful, in harmony with nature, etc. etc. it’s like the noble savage myth on crack.”

    This is the big problem, and even a perfect energy source will be opposed by many on these grounds.

  150. What’s funny is that Bailey does this for every IPCC report. In spite of Bailey saying that their projections have been cut in each and every report, their projections are little different from the first report.

    Yes, their “projections” were pseudoscientific rubbish in their third report, and their projections are pseudoscientific rubbish in their fourth report. There are no assessed probabilities for any of the “scenarios,” so the projections are meaningless.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.