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  •  comparing apples and oranges (2+ / 0-)
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    Gwennedd, Late Spring

    Nuclear and renewable sources can't be directly compared, and the comparison goes completely off the rails when trying to compare big, centralised nuclear to small home solar.

    Construction costs are incredibly high for a nuclear power plant and it takes many years before you finally get power out of it. If anything goes badly wrong (accident or attack) you can poison a landscape for thousands of years and damage the genetic material of generations.

    Solar power for a home can be installed in a single day at a cost affordable to a home owner. It starts generating power that very day. If anything goes wrong then there is no major calamity because the giant fusion reactor it generates power from (our Sun) is safely 93 million miles away. The additional security of having distributed power instead of putting all your eggs in one basket with centralised power should be obvious to anyone who is not wearing blinders. (Remember the big blackout from the domino-effect shutdown of several nuclear powerplants on the eastern seaboard of USA not so long ago?)

    Nuclear power has amazing potential (especially fusion), but we can't trust people to do it right when the stakes are as high as they unfortunately are. They cut corners on construction or personnel training or safety measures. (Fukishima's warning signs were ignored by staff, and what idiot builds a nuclear power plant in a seismically active zone anyway?) Low level and high level radioactive materials always find their way into military uses. India signed a contract promising to only use Canadian uranium for peaceful purposes and built a nuclear bomb with it anyway. Depleted uranium shells litter warscapes everywhere USA has been and children are contaminated when playing with the curiously heavy pieces of metal. In Afghanistan a worrying analysis has turned up undepleted uranium in the blood of locals which leads some to think USA is using very radioactive rounds in its war there, contaminating not only innocent locals, but their own soldiers.

    Nuclear could be a great technology if we could trust the people involved, but more than half a century of experience shows that we can't. No matter how many good people are involved in nuclear power, there are still far too many who are untrustworthy... making nuclear power, by extension, too dangerous. It is a pity, but it is unavoidable.

    Maybe in a thousand years (coincidentally when some of the radioactive waste has become a little less dangerous) we might have matured to the point where we can be trusted with nuclear power. But not today.

    What dumbfounds me is that those who love centralised power completely ignore the elephant in the room: geothermal power. It's free after building the plant, there's plenty of it for producing baseline power, especially in fault zones, and it doesn't produce toxic waste. WTF?!?

    ----- The brain is the only organ where you'd prefer to be the donor instead of the recipient.

    by miriam e on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 04:20:02 PM PDT

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    •  Taking them one at a time ... (1+ / 0-)
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      Construction costs are high for a nuclear plant, but so is the amount of energy you get out of it. On a Watt-hour basis, nuclear is as cheap as any non-fossil source, and cheaper than many. The "poisoning a landscape for thousands of years" argument is nothing but hype. People are living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone right now (illegally), and are outliving their counterparts who accepted relocation. Birds captured by ornithologists in the zone show the lowest levels of DNA damage in the areas with the highest background radiation, due to the hormesis effect. The area around Fukushima could be repopulated right now except for the unhealthy level of irrational fear.

      As I said elsewhere, distributed power is great if you're already a landowner with enough capital to install it. But if you're poor and urban, it's an additional expense that is yet-another mechanism that moves wealth from the poor to the well-off. That's not a progressive value. We're already seeing this in Germany where a renewable-heavy grid is driving up retail electricity prices by large amounts -- costs neatly avoided by the landowning rich, and falling heavily on the urban poor.

      Fukushima's warning signs were known by staff and ignored by government bureaucrats, who delayed a critical depressurization by hours against the advice of engineers. If they had not, it's likely that all three meltdowns would have been avoided.

      Regarding military uses, the military uses solar power too. Should we therefore ban solar? The whole argument falls into absurdity when examined closely. And undepleted uranium in anyone's blood almost certainly comes from the soil, not from any military device.

      Regarding the alleged "danger" of nuclear power, Chernobyl killed about 60 people. Three Mile Island killed zero, and Fukushima killed zero. Or rather I should say Fukushima killed zero from radiation, but about 2000 died from the fear of radiation, in the mostly unnecessary evacuation. On a levelized basis, nuclear power is one of the safest forms of power there is.

      Geothermal is great, but the geology that can support geothermal is not widely available. (The same is true of hydro.) So we need more than that.

      We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

      by Keith Pickering on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 06:17:09 PM PDT

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      •  cherry-picking (0+ / 0-)

        When you say that people living in the Chernobyl area are outliving those who have relocated, you neglect to mention that those who have stayed are generally old, that the incidence of radiation-linked cancers among young people in "lightly" contaminated areas has risen, and that any people who are moved forcibly -- refugees -- tend to end up with bad health problems. None of this is any kind of vindication for nuclear power. It is another indictment of it.

        Chernobyl killed about 60 people immediately. How do you assess the increased incidence of cancers? Leukaemia and thyroid cancers in particular have increased, and I think I recall reading that bone cancers have too, though I'm less sure of that.

        The genetic damage to birds? Well, I can't comment on it because I don't know about it, but I'll find out more. I suspect it will be due to unexpected side-effects, such as those prone to die from radiation do so, leaving those that are more resistant, or that their predators die more easily from the radiation, giving them an easier life. Again, I doubt it will belittle the dangers of radiation.

        We have half a century of knowledge of the medical effects of nuclear radiation. No amount of hand-waving and fringe-cases will change the fact that it is dangerous.

        When you say the bureaucrats ignored the safety warnings at Fukishima, that doesn't make it safe -- it actually proves my point. In any case, if you look at the investigations you'll see both bureaucrats and the workers, almost everybody, ignored the safety warnings. The event was virtually guaranteed to happen. People can't be trusted to operate nuclear power plants. And I just know you'll point to other nuclear plants that have that have been operated safely, but that doesn't affect my point. The big problem with nuclear power is that all you need is a few that are unsafe and you have thousands or millions of people at risk, not only immediately, but potentially for centuries.

        When you say there were no deaths from Fukishima, again you are focussing on immediate deaths. Radiation tends not to work that way (unless used in a bomb). Also it is a bit silly to say everybody ran away from the scary radiation, thus avoiding getting contaminated, proving that the radiation is actually safe. It kind of damns your own argument.

        Have you heard the much-publicised complaints from the German nuclear industry that wind power has reduced the cost of energy below the point where nuclear plants can make a profit? That stands at odds to your suggestion that sustainable sources have raised the price of energy there. In the USA energy prices appear to be low, but that's because the government hands out massive subsidies and tax-breaks to fossil fuels and nuclear. The real costs are hidden. If there was a level playing field sustainable sources would trump all unsustainable sources, including nuclear. Wind power is already cheaper than coal, even with coal's prop-up from the public purse.

        Your point about the military using solar power is a mislead. The military don't leave solar panels scattered over regions, giving generations of children leukaemia. The military can't use solar panels to level an entire city in an instant. Here, I can prove your point is a mislead: which would you prefer al Qaeda to have? Solar panels or enriched radioactive material?

        Again, you can fob this off and wave it aside as hysteria, but the fact is, we have a mountain of undeniable medical knowledge about the dangers of radiation. We also have other ways of getting energy that are sustainable and involve no risk of radiation. Why would you opt for putting people at risk when you don't need to?

        I can understand the geek love for gadgets. I am just such a geek, and I do think the concepts behind nuclear power are very cool. But I don't let it override my sense of danger when I see how history has proven over and over again that people intentionally or unintentionally misuse it and turn it into a very risky technology.

        We waste most of the energy we generate. We seem to believe we have a right to waste truly lunatic amounts of energy and all other resources. If we used sane and sensible efficiency measures we could have all the energy we need, and more, from sustainable sources. There would be no question of bothering with nuclear power. If we could curb our irrational desire to waste colossal amounts of everything it would mean we wouldn't be running into problems with all our resources.

        ----- The brain is the only organ where you'd prefer to be the donor instead of the recipient.

        by miriam e on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 06:04:33 PM PDT

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    •  So many dead miners. (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know why the potential of massive death rates that have never happened overrides the enormous number of actually dead miners that are still being blown up on a monthly basis to mine fossil fuels.  Fukushima was probably not half the disaster to the local sea life that Deepwater was, and will be for generations.

      Currently reading: * People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities * The 5th Discipline * It's All About Work

      by Aramis Wyler on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 09:50:57 AM PDT

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