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  •  Yes they do (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    typically include decommissioning and dismantling costs.

    Compared to oil and coal, regulations have at least attempted to make the nuclear industry responsible for the externalities of power generation.

    The aging of the current producers in the nuclear industry is a concern.

    However, we have had decades to improve designs and build safer, more efficient reactors. One reason this hasn't occurred is because obstruction from the very same people who are now critical about the current status the old plants.

    Unsurprisingly, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the relatively mortality rates between nuclear and all other power generation (including renewable), lifetime CO2 emissions, the level of government subsidy, and the ability to provide the 24/7/365 power necessary for certain aspects of our society.

    I'm a big renewable fan, I have solar (subsidized to the tune of ~100%) on my roof. But recent diaries suggesting that we could achieve high penetration (>50%) of renewable power and  maintain a modern society I think are unreasonably optimistic.

    Feeding people takes energy, health care takes energy, maintaining a high speed information network like the internet takes energy, industry takes energy. There are gains to be made with efficiency, but if we actually want our society to care for the old and sick, feed the poor, provide jobs for those who want to work, and provide shelter for all with a reasonable standard of living, this will take energy, and lots of it.

    •  You mean, the perfectly safe designs of the 50's (3+ / 0-)
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      Jim P, cynndara, RiveroftheWest

      weren't perfectly safe?

      And the perfectly safe designs of the 60's weren't perfectly safe?

      And the perfectly safe designs of the 70's...

      You know, it's starting to seem like there's trend there.

      "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

      by JesseCW on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:16:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please don't insert words (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        like 'perfectly' into any discussion about any energy source. And please don't pretend that I wrote them.

        Nuclear is safer than any other source of energy though wind comes close. Solar is about 10 times more deadly than nuclear.

        How you ask? People fall off roofs.

        What about hydro? Dams break, one in China killed 171k people. Do I hear people trying to shutdown and remove the Hoover Dam? Or does that not count because it didn't happen in the US which, so far, only has about 1000 people killed from dam failures?

        If you want energy, you will pay for it with lives. Of course, not having energy costs even more lives. So, if you want the most energy for the fewest lives lost, it's nuclear hands down.

        •  Please stop pretending that cancer clusters (0+ / 0-)

          don't exist down wind from many nuclear plants.

          Please stop pretending that floods render land unusable for millennia.

          If you're going to claim that windfarms are more dangerous than nuclear power plants, you're going to have to come with evidence above and beyond your fascination with them.

          Asserting again and again that there is no alternative does not actually add up to an argument.

          "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

          by JesseCW on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 12:10:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm worried about deaths that actually occur (1+ / 0-)
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            every year from every energy source. Why aren't you?

            People build stuff, including wind farms. During the process of construction accidents happen, people die from falls, from mechanical accidents, from electrical accidents.

            But wind isn't so bad, as I said, wind is about on par with nuclear, only about 4 times more lethal:


            Clusters, be they cancer, other disease, or really any phenomenon, occur naturally all of the time. Confirmation bias will cause people to link these to nuclear plants if any happen to be in the area. However:



            Do you have scientifically reviewed studies that show an actual connection? I hope I'm not the only one who is asked to provide evidence around here.

            •  So all we have to do is completely ignore (0+ / 0-)

              the long term death toll caused by Nuclear, and bam, Nuclear is safe.

              That's some neat shit.

              The IAEA is tasked with promoting Nuclear Power.  That's what they do.  You're effectively resorting to defending smoking by going to The Institute of Tobacco Science.

              What you've got deals only with childhood lukemia, not with any other form of cancer.

              The thyroid cancer cluster down wind of Indian Point, for example, is well attested.


              The Nuke Booster club gets more and more like the RKBA crew daily.

              "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

              by JesseCW on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 12:27:09 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Of course not (1+ / 0-)
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                roll in the long term cost of nuclear as well. We're trying to do it right now for the fossil fuels, that's what the whole climate debate is about.

                The IAEA reports are generated by scientists, just like the reports on climate change. Sure, they would like to see nuclear power used responsibly just like climate scientists would probably like to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

                However, it seems like you are using the same tactics as the climate deniers by accusing bias without evidence.

                I linked the report, you can feel free to critique it as you like. Do you have a similar criticism for the Guardian article?

                As I said, clusters always occur. It takes more than just a co-localization of a cluster and a nuclear plant to substantiate a link, that's why you need to do wider surveys.

                But you might even be right. Perhaps that plant has accidental releases of radiation that caused this cluster. If so, it should be fixed or shut down. However, given the general lack of clusters and nuclear plants it seems there is nothing inherent in the generation of nuclear power that causes danger to the local population.

          •  Of course they do. (0+ / 0-)
            Please stop pretending that cancer clusters (0+ / 0-)
            don't exist down wind from many nuclear plants.
            They also exist upwind of those same nuclear plants.
        •  Fewest lives (0+ / 0-)

          in the short-term, immediately attributable.  But when you start moving out a half-century or so, you get into all the excess cancers that can't be definitively traced to a single exposure.  Nevertheless medical archaeologists have established that cancer was VIRTUALLY UNKNOWN in the ancient world, and not just because people didn't often grow quite as old as they do now.

          Let's just say that a lot of the figures on excess deaths from nuclear power are less than certain, shall we?  The initial cover-ups were massive, and have effectively prevented reliable statistics from being developed.  Supply-chain injuries are rarely linked to the reactors which feed on them.  AND WE CANNOT GET RID OF THE WASTE.  The half-lives of some portions of nuclear waste are effectively eternal when it comes to the attention-span of the American public.  Four empires will rise and fall before the contamination has diminished to anywhere near healthy levels.

          If you absolutely have to have nuclear power, then you'd better start building a moon base, because that's the only safe place to put it.

          •  Supply chain (0+ / 0-)

            deaths are included in all of the energy comparisons.

            Do you have a link to the incidence of cancer in ancient times? This one seems to suggest links that have nothing to do with nuclear power:


            You may not realize it, and I wouldn't necessarily expect you to, but there are ways to get rid of waste. You can burn it in fast reactors, you can use a hybrid fusion-fission design, you can use accelerators to transmute it (very inefficient but possible). You basically need a source of very high energy neutrons compared to the thermal neutron population in conventional reactors.

            To say that we cannot get rid of waste (especially in all caps) just demonstrates that you aren't aware of the science involved. Which is fine, but I would be careful about such absolute statements if I were you.

            Right now, it's the US policy to not reprocess because of proliferation. That means we, as a matter of policy, don't deal with waste. It's not a fundamental physical impossibility, it's a question of priorities, funding, and technological development. It can be done, and there is ongoing research, albeit at a very low funded level, do figure out the best way to do it.

            •  Okay. (0+ / 0-)

              Actually, my source on the cancer was an article in BBC about a week ago about a particular medical archaeologist and his expertise in examining mummies, linked from the recent flurry over the discovery of Richard III.  My own bet for the rise in cancer is a combination of increased radiation exposure with massive abuse of toxic chemicals, especially hormonal regulators.  There's a lot going on there.

              As for getting rid of waste, it's not that we can't do it technically.  I've been aware that we could use it in fast breeders, turning "waste" into "fuel" before going back to a "cooler" variety of waste, since I was in high school.  The problem is that the US decided not to do that when I was in high school, and pretty much closed the door on that avenue.  Of course small amounts could be transmuted in accelerators, but you're talking VERY small amounts, and the energy cost would eat up any gain from nuclear energy production and then some.  When I said we can't get rid of it, I didn't mean technically.  Technical problems are the LEAST important barrier.  Political, social, and economic issues render the substantive technical issues insurmountable.

              Certainly I don't think the concern about weapons proliferation was misplaced.  What we've got here is a level of power that homo sapiens simply can't be trusted with.  Sure, it's wonderful power, but we have proven ourselves incapable of dealing with the dangers ethically and effectively.  Human greed, ambition, and competition are all powerful incentives for people put in charge of such power to risk other people's lives, and people who GET in charge of such things are almost always particularly vulnerable to their temptations.  Only a saint can be trusted with nuclear power decisions, we haven't got many of them, and they aren't attracted to fields where they can be tapped for the work.

              •  And yet (1+ / 0-)
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                even with all the greed and corner cutting that I'm sure goes on in some nuclear facilities. The record here in the US is unmatched compared to any other power generating capability.

                And the new designs are 10-100x better.

                I guess my support for nuclear boils down to the following premises:

                1) unabated global warming is an existential threat to modern civilization

                2) renewable energy has no chance of 100% electric power generation by 2050, 100% by 2100 is even unlikely (20-30% is reasonable, 50% is optimistic by 2050).

                3) the choice between fossil fuel and nuclear for that remaining 50-70% is a choice between the risks involved in modern nuclear designs vs. the near certainty that global warming will kill millions if not billions.

                You can certainly disagree with any one of the above premises, but if you don't, then I don't see how there is any choice other than nuclear.

                Even if you disagree with 2, I still think people studiously ignore the risks associated with renewable generation. For example, the cancer risks and toxicity associated with various chemicals in solar panel production can kill just as easily, if not more so, than radiation exposure.


                Sure, the chemicals should be handled safely...just like the radiation from nuclear plants should all be contained. But, as you point out, sometimes greed or incompetence causes accidents.

                •  Thank-you (1+ / 0-)
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                  for engaging rationally on this.  I realize that we will probably not come to agreement, but simply validating respect for opposing views is a serious problem in today's politics, whether of Right, Left, or Washington Insider.

                  The problem with nuclear power and incompetence or irresponsibility is the catastrophic scale with which things can quickly go wrong.  Screw up while producing solar panels, improperly dispose of wastes, and you have Love Canal.  And that's just on the manufacturing end; there's relatively little opportunity for end-users to harm themselves and others.  Screw up while producing nuclear power, and you have Chernobyl or Fukushima, and a 30-mile diameter hole in the countryside where human habitation and industry is impossible virtually forever.  Risk-benefit analysis recognizes that especial caution is needed in situations where the consequences of an accident are enormous, even when the likelihood is vanishingly small.  

                  As experience has shown, "Blowups Happen".  Not at all often, but when they do, the results are devastating.  Humans are human, so there will always be some risk of human error, such as that which led to Chernobyl.  The world is a chaotic environment, so there are always some risks of unpredictable physical challenges such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Fukushima was the result of literally a "perfect storm".  Nevertheless it was statistically predictable, given that Japan had built fifty reactors in a small island nation situated in the geologically active Pacific Ring Of Fire.

                  Now, 1) unabated warming is an existential threat to human civilization, but it will abate after  it destroys civilization.  Nuclear wastes will not.  They will continue to bleed radiation for the next thousand years, whether humanity extinguishes itself or not.  2) As for renewables being incapable of fulfilling our power needs, see this diary, which spells out details of how wind and solar in combination can do just that -- without even tapping the massive reserves of geothermal energy available under the Yellowstone caldera, which would be my preference.  3) Since alternative means IS available with current technology and an investment in infrastructure, there is no need to select between two flawed means of generation, but 4) you have not mentioned at all the fact that we waste nearly as much energy in this country as we actually use, and there is a LOT of room for conservation, nor the diminished needs of a reduced population, which will most certainly soon be the case as the effects of global climate change are already entrained and will result in significant mortality, while the combined effects of stress, intentional and unintentional hormonal aberration, and toxic chemicals have already demonstrably reduced human fertility and infant and fetal viability around the globe.

                  •  I think we're near the end (0+ / 0-)

                    of the discussion, though I might come up with a diary to lay out the various arguments in more detail.

                    I'll just respond by noting that I had read through the linked diary and the study it discussed and found it a bit unpersuasive in that it didn't take into account the changing weather patterns that we've observed when calculating the ability of renewables to handle power generation (it used years 1999-2003). I've read through several documents from the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) which lays out several options for the US, and the most compelling case looks like ~30% by 2050.

                    The point with risk analysis is that you don't just get to say: screw up and we get a big problem, you have to include the chance of a screwup and multiply it by the result. We've had tons of 'love canals' here in the US, yet with decades of operation, no Fukushimas. So obviously the risk rate does matter. And, once again, the modern designs provide an even lower risk, and less bad result in the event of failure.

                    Call me selfish, but if humanity extinguishes itself, I don't much care if the resulting animals have to deal with higher radiation levels or toxic sludge. My goal is to preferable prevent the extinguishing of humanity in the first place. And if renewables aren't the answer, then nuclear has to be.

                    Geothermal contains its own risks, and the risk of inducing earthquakes is not to be taken lightly. Given that the super caldera under Yellowstone is prime for explosion over the next 100k years or so, I would prefer not to start poking at it. Talk about something that would make Fukushima look like a sunny day at the beach, if Yellowstone blows, we are royally screwed.

                    I'm fully on board with conservation and improved efficiency. However, modern life, with its medicine, food, shelter, and luxury, takes a boatload of energy. There's no getting around that. And if our goal is to raise the rest of the world up to similar levels of medical and economic safety, we're going to need more and more energy.

                    Finally, if we ever do find a way to reverse the effects of power production, suck the CO2 back out of the atmosphere, that too will likely take a significant amount of energy.

                    •  Geothermal does have its risks (0+ / 0-)

                      as anyone who's seen Santorini can testify.  But there's little likelihood that cautious, respectful, completely passive tapping of the caldera would cause it to blow anytime sooner than it's going to anyway, and active use would involve active monitoring that might actually give us an earlier head's up on that problem.

                      As for the energy-intensiveness of modern life, yes and no.  It doesn't need to be nearly as intensive as it is.  Just think of all the power wasted running lighting displays for useless advertising, which makes it harder to concentrate on road hazards or sleep at night.  A lot of energy conservation measures would actually result in an improved general quality of life, and a lot of the elements of "modern" lifestyles should be avoided by those who have yet to adopt them, not imitated.

                  •  Please don't buy into the sad industry talking (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:


                    Repeating them over and over doesn't make them "reasonable".

                    They are simply, completely, totally dishonest.

                    There is no private insurance available for Nuclear plants.  That's because they aren't safe.

                    "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

                    by JesseCW on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:06:14 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Political issues meaning opposition from the left. (0+ / 0-)
                Political, social, and economic issues render the substantive technical issues insurmountable.
                •  I was rather thinking (0+ / 0-)

                  about the link between fast breeders and nuclear proliferation, and thus the risks of nuclear wars, i.e., intentional creation of what happened in Chernobyl by accident.  I'm afraid that's another area in which humanity just can't trust itself.

      •  So well put and summarized. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'll be using that bit of history next time I hear how wonderful the new reactor designs are.

        Reminds me, for some reason, of the sales pitch heard on a tv on that old Firesign Theater record: "This is as good as new. No, it's much much better than new!"

        Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

        by Jim P on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:43:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When you do (0+ / 0-)

          please include a list of fatalities from all other energy sources over the same time period.

          •  Please refer to the energy accidents (3+ / 0-)

            which made large areas of a nation uninhabitable for decades or generations without higher risk to health the next time you repeat the stupid and transparent lies about nuclear safety.

            Oh, and what's the degree of embrittlement of the containment vessels around cores these days? Maybe you could tell us that, and whether the measurements were taken on top of the containment or from the inside.

            The deaths, if you give up bigotry against Slavs, pretending they can't count, number at least 1,000,000.

            Like the Soviets with Chernobyl, the Japanese government is suppressing reports consistently these days. As many doctor and hospital chiefs in Japan have publicly stated.

            Of course you realize that it's impossible to prove that any given isotope has found its way into any particular body and been the proximate cause of any particular disease or death.

            You know that.

            And you also know that no safe limit of radiation has ever been established. In fact, over the decades, what was once taken as the minimum has been reduced repeatedly, and by orders of magnitude.

            You also likely know that it has been established, and for decades, than even miniscule amounts of radiation exposure can cause thyroid problems, heart disease, immune system disorders, cancers, etc etc. Especially in children.

            So why you make the -- indisputably -- intellectually dishonest assertion that nukes don't lead to deaths... ? Well, you can't. Not while being honest.

            Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

            by Jim P on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 12:19:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  The perfect is the enemy of the good. nt (0+ / 0-)
      •  And the power too cheap to meter never was. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RandomNonviolence, JesseCW

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:11:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Fukushima is still happening, as is (4+ / 0-)

      Chernobyl. Wait another 40 or 60 years to see what the human costs are. We know for a fact that nearly 40% of children in the area show growths on their thyroid, when the percentage in Nagasaki just a few years ago was less than half a percent.

      And thyroid trouble is just one of the symptoms, from one or two isotopes, which attacks the health of people. Tokyo doctors, for instance, report dramatic increases in nose-bleeds, diarrhea, hair loss, and other symptoms of radiation poisoning.

      I know it's the convention with pro-nuke sources to imply that Slavic doctors, scientists, heads of governmental health agencies, and statisticians are just too fucking stupid to count, but they've got the number dead from Chernobyl at over one million. And that was years ago.

      As Der Spiegel noted 7 years ago, the guy at the IAEA claiming there were no rise in birth defects from radiation had Soviet, Belarus, and Ukrainian statistics in his hand before he told that, still repeated, lie.

      We're to think that the Japanese professionals are also very stupid, or just lying. Which is something career nuke guys would never do, right?

      If the calculations routinely include decomissioning costs, how is it that utilities find themselves without the money to actually pay for decommissioning?

      Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

      by Jim P on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:39:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The scientific basis for the estimate of 1 million (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        deaths is rather shoddy. For a thorough review of that particular work, see:

        The UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists) estimate it closer to 30k, though again that's based off a LNT model.

        If people really believed in the LNT model, they wouldn't live in Denver, take airplane flights, or eat bananas. All of which provide a higher dose than the worldwide effect of Chernobyl.

        But in any case, you're right about Chernobyl. It was a bad design and scientists had warned about the reactor even before the accident happened. That's why it's important to continue to make designs safer, even if the current design in the US makes solar power look like the killing fields.

        Does the dam failure in China mean you are against hydro, or do you trust that our dams are safer?

        •  Yup. It was just a bad design. Our designs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          could never produce a disaster on a similar scale.

          That's what we were told for over 20 years...until Fukushima.

          "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

          by JesseCW on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 12:11:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And it didn't. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The radiation release from Chernobyl was much higher.

            And you know what. Our designs in the US are even safer than Fukushima. And you know what again? Modern designs are even safer than our current designs.

            And you know what else? During those 20 years, hundreds of thousands of people died from fossil fuel plants. And we're still building them.

            I put those deaths and the hundred thousands to come, as well as the pain from global warming, on all the people who shut down nuclear construction 20-30 years ago.

            Now, are you going to tell me that the Hoover Dam could never fail like the one in China?

            •  And you know what? Many of our plants use (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              exactly the same designs as Fukushima.  You know why?

              GE sold the Japanese those designs, and they sold them here too.

              Why do you keep talking about Fukushima in the past tense?  It's not over.  Corium is still hot, and still burning downward.

              When you get down to arguing that Fukushima just wasn't all that bad, you know you've lost, right?

              I mean, that has to register for you.

              "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

              by JesseCW on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 12:34:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not all that bad? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I said it wasn't as bad as Chernobyl. It was still bad.

                And no, our designs are not the exact same as Fukushima because our backup generators are located differently. They would not have been flooded by a tsunami, and would have been able to keep the cooling pumps, no accident.

                But again, if you want even safer designs, then build the modern plants. Sure, the mortality rate is low, but the modern plants will drive it even lower. The reason we have aging plants with an outdated design is manyfold. But one of the reason is people who can't be bothered to do a serious comparison with the deaths and risks of the other options.

                Why is it only me that has to recognize the death and damage from nuclear.

                Hydro: 170k dead from a dam in China

                What would happen if the Hoover dam broke?

                Why aren't you anti-hydro? Why doesn't that 'register' for you?

                Are the people dying during the construction of wind and solar less meaningful to you? Do their deaths register at all?

                The hundreds of thousands dying yearly from fossil fuel they register?

                Why is it only nuclear deaths that must 'register'?

      •  I know it's the convention with anti-nuke (0+ / 0-)
        I know it's the convention with pro-nuke sources to imply that Slavic doctors, scientists, heads of governmental health agencies, and statisticians are just too fucking stupid to count, but they've got the number dead from Chernobyl at over one million. And that was years ago.
        ... advocates to pretend like a million is a really huge number, but fossil fuels kill twice as many people every single year.

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