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View Diary: A skeptic's view of nuclear energy (by DeAnander) (39 comments)

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  •  My own position on the above (14+ / 0-)

    For Nuclear Power:

    a) Nuclear power is "unlimited" —  in the limited sense allowed by De of "for the next couple hundred years" - agree

    b) Nuclear power is "carbon neutral" — It's hard to know exactly the cost of building the plant - studies seem biased either way. I'll say I mildly agree.

    c) Nuclear power is "safe" — strongly agree. Its track record over the past 40 years is incomparably better than all other power generation options, for the same TWh.
    c1) Nuclear power is "safer to build than to import" — mildly agree in that it is hypocritical to be against nuclear but import nuclear energy from the neighbors.

    d) Nuclear power can replace almost every application of fossil power — agree: electric transportation, even of the private kind, is very much possible. Water desalination also comes to mind. Agri-use is too small at this point to matter.
    d1) Nuclear power can provide a reliable energy baseline: strongly agree: it already does.

    e) Nuclear power is more cost-effective than renewables: this is a hard one, but the French experience does suggest that nuclear is cheaper than everything else when financed, owned and run by the State. So agree

    f) New fission reactors solve the problems of "old, bad" designs. I don't know, would not want to bet on it. So disagree.

    g) New developments are just around the corner that will make nuclear energy even more efficient and safe — disagree: as above disagree

    h) Just because incompentent nations or companies have built lousy plants doesn't mean that nuclear power cannot be managed properly — agree.

    i) There is no reason to fear nuclear accidents or technology more than other industrial process or externalised cost — agree. There is an irrational fear of nuclear accidents. Coal deaths, like road deaths, are more undestandable and somehow less feared, it would seem.

    j) The nuclear industry has been held back over the last 20 years by unfair fear, prejudice and activism — mildly agree.

    :: ::

    A) The energy and climate situation is dire and some urgent remedial action is needed — true, but nuclear should not be the first option to pursue. It is the best of the not politically impossible options.

    B) Nuclear energy is the only practical alternative to fossil fuels — mildly agree. For now, nuclear is the least bad of the full baseload options.

    C) Opponents of nuclear energy are scientifically illiterate, superstitious or ideologically biased — mildly agree

    D) Quality of life is strongly correlated with per capita power consumption — this needs to be changed. This is a higher priority than doing more nuclear.

    E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology — I'll say I mildly agree, for my son.

    Conclusion: I am French.

    Against nuclear power:

    a) Nuclear power is not safe — disagree: the track record is excellent, and the only really bad accident, Chernobyl, came from a terrible design and pretty bad safety procedures. Compared to the dozens of failed dams, the hundreds of thousands of feaths from coal mining and burining, and the wars for oil&gas, it is magnificently safe. Renewables are likely to do better, though.

    a1) Nuclear waste management is an unsolved problem and waste is toxic "forever" — disagree. What's dangerous is not big, and what's bulky is not dangerous.

    a2) Uranium mining is associated with poor worker safety, contamination of water sources, etc — This has improved significantly, I understand. Still, agree.

    a3) Safety is sacrificed to efficiency, accidents happen and then they are covered up — disagree. Nuclear energy is certainly supervised much more thna other dangerous industries.

    a4) No private insurer will insure a nuclear plant; if nuclear power were safe it would be possible to insure it — agree This is State risk.

    a5) Nuclear power is a stalking horse for the nuclear weapons industry — I understand it depends on the technology chosen.

    b) The public does not trust the reassurances of nuclear scientists and industry spokespeople, and rightly so — disagree the public does not trust any industry anymore. So it's not really relevant

    c) Uranium mining is a politically dirty business — disagree it's a small part of the overall costs, so not sure how this is relevant. Should the mobile phone industry be blamed for Zaire's mess (for the coltan?)

    d) Nuclear power is centralised, high/heavy technology, difficult to understand, and makes power consumers into helpless clients — agree, but that's what makes it a great candidate for State-run, cost effective business. As to helpless clients, this sounds luddite.

    e) Nuclear power is coupled to national security, nonproliferation, and other risks which inspire or require rigorous security which is inherently secretive and undemocratic — disagree security need not be undemocratic. Just regulated by tough rules, which can be explicit.

    f) Radiation is undetectable without specialized equipment and people cannot tell if they are being exposed, having to rely on the word of (untrusted) authorities — agree, but tell me how this is different from most chemical or biological contamination.

    g) The health effects of radiation are insidious, as they can take years to develop and may include genetic damage which does not become visible until gestation and birth of children — disagree thetrackrecord - long term - is noxw available. The worst incidents took place in the early years, and their consequences are still hotly debated.

    f) Uranium is no more an infinite resource than fossil fuel — true, but it is more abundant for now, and what about thorium?

    g) Nuclear power is not cost-effective and benefits from hidden subsidies — disagree French studies point to excellent prices with full cost accounting. This is linked to full State funding and running the industry.

    g1) Old nuclear plants are very expensive to repurpose of clean up — agree, but this seems true of any old plant.

    g2) Nuclear power plants are costly to build, require expert personnel to operate, and have high complexity and high failure costs, all of which is expensive — disagree Only the cost per kWh is relevant, not per plant.

    h) Simple, cheaper, cleaner and less scary options than nuclear power include conservation, renewable energy and localised energy production — strongly agree

    i) Nuclear power is not a nimble solution for urgent problems (such as climate change or peak oil) as it takes 10 to 15 years to bring a nuclear power plant online. — agree

    j) Public protests have not been a decisive factor in holding nuclear power back, but rather inadequate return on investment and unmanageable risks — disagree There has been a pall against nuclear. Referenda in several countries. Widespread hostility.

    k) New miracle technologies either fail to deliver on their promises or incur significant externalities — agree All technologies will have negative side effects when used on a larger scale. (So will wind, most likely)

    :: ::

    A) The infinite growth predicated by economics is a myth, it is environmentally and socially unsustainable and does not guarantee progress — agree Not specific to nuclear.

    B) It is not physically possible for everyone on earth to lead a first-world lifestyle — I don't know.

    C) Nuclear weapons are utterly morally wrong — disagree.

    D) promises of technological miracles are a case of hubris and carry hidden costs — agree but we are talking about existing technology.

    E) anarchism/libertarianism:

    E1) Authority should be resisted, and large centralised governments or corporations mistrusted — agree but being a French technocrat I trust French technocrats to some extent.

    E2) community/grassroots efforts and local organisation and provision of services should be more highly valued — strongly agree

    E3) government may fall, or policies change, leaving nuclear plants in the wrong hands — disagree If we get to that point nuclear plants will be the least of our worries.

    F) a decent lifestyle for the majority of people could be attained with common sense, reasonable frugality and fairness — agree strongly.

    Conclusion
    I don't see nuclear as bad. It's much, much better than the existing large scale alternatives (on pretty much every metric: cost, pollution, global warming, direct or indirect deaths). It needs to come after a massive effort at conservation and renewable energies.

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Tue May 23, 2006 at 03:37:08 PM PDT

    •  My objection to nuclear power (0+ / 0-)

      ...is that the safety system which failed at Chernobyl is duplicated in every nuclear plant in the world.

      People.

      Rubus Eradicandus Est.

      by Randomfactor on Tue May 23, 2006 at 03:41:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Last line of defense (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sphealey

        and first line of failure.

        But this is true in every industry or activity (including driving, for instance), and it is possible to run each activity/industry in ways that protect more or less against that risk. Chernobyl did not, but other designs do.

        In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
        Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

        by Jerome a Paris on Tue May 23, 2006 at 03:48:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  hmmm, so you don't drive or ride in automobiles? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sphealey, GayHillbilly, djpat, david78209

        ...tongue only partially-in-cheek. :-)

        I would argue that one of the most important lessons of Chernobyl is to compare it with TMI.

        Each plant was operated with approximately equal incompetence on the day they failed.

        But one caused great harm to many thousands of people in a vast surrounding area; while the other caused no measurable harm, even to the people directly on-site.

        -Jay-
      •  Could you provide specifics? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueness

        > is that the safety system which failed at
        > Chernobyl is duplicated in every nuclear
        > plant in the world.

        1. Chernobyl did not have a containment structure.  Every nuclear plant in the West has a containment structure
        1. Chernobyl used Soviet control systems.  While the Soviets built some very good electronics and controls for military purposes, safety was never their strong point.  After the accident the Soviet Union asked Western nuclear plant suppliers and operators for assistance redesigning their plant controls.  
        1. The RBMK design has a positive coefficient of thermal reactivity (leading directly to the steam explosion which shattered the reactor).  No commerical Western design has that characteristic.
        1.  I won't try to defend the "safety culture" of Western nuclear utilities; that is a huge topic.  But having read interviews with Soviet nuclear power authorities about 6 months before Chernobyl (they were trying to open up to the West and consented to some interviews with industry trade pubs), I can say with some confidence that the Western safety culture is 1000x more advanced in thinking that the Soviet one was.

        So I am not sure exactly what you mean.  What safety features do the RBMK reactors share with pressurized lightwater reactors?  With pebble bed reactors, if you want even more safety at the cost of efficiency?

        sPh

    •  nuclear material has an indeterminable life span (0+ / 0-)

      that is my major concern but it is too late. Regardless of what one thinks we have to learn to live around tons of this stuff. Man can't even manage himself that is my bi concern.
        I just wanted to say that I am fond of saying something like this in regards to people trying to be different and not accomodating others.
        In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
         I like to say, in the end we are all the same, dead!

      Repug credo: If you can't Dazzle them with Brilliance Baffle them with Bullshit! http://anaverageamericanpatriot.blogspot.com

      by jmsjoin on Tue May 23, 2006 at 03:48:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You disagree that nuclear WEAPONS are immoral? (0+ / 0-)

      I know you're French and all, but I thought we could all agree that nuclear weapons..if used...are far worse than conventional weapons. Or are you saying that M.A.D. works and therefore the existence of nuclear weapons is not so bad? I can agree with that...nuclear weapons are essentially useless except for mass suicide.

      As for nuclear power, maybe the problem is that it is unsafe for either communists or capitalists to run them, because neither of those systems provides the requisite regulation.

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Tue May 23, 2006 at 04:22:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm particularly fond (0+ / 0-)

      of your Keynes quote placed at the end of that list, Jerome.  Perhaps, in determining the global fuel mix, we could determine which component will kill us on the longest possible timeline.      

    •  Order of priorities makes sense given time scales (0+ / 0-)

      that are involved.  Significant gains could be realized through conservation almost immediately with enough political will.  Renewables a bit longer.  But, adding nuclear capacity has decade-long lead times.  Therefore, it makes sense to maximize what can be done with conservation NOW while agressively building renewable capacity over the next decade, while building nuclear capacity in parallel to at least replace all current fossil-based sources of baseload electricity supply within 20-30 years.  

      The intrinsic nature of Power is such that those who seek it most are least qualified to wield it.

      by mojo workin on Tue May 23, 2006 at 07:01:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jerome (0+ / 0-)

      Sorry for the off topic question, but what do you know/think about HHO gas as a potential alternative energy source.   I came across a news report on it recently and it seemed promising, but haven't had the chance to research it.

      Thanks.

      Democrats - applying common sense to common problems for the common good.

      by Rick Oliver on Tue May 23, 2006 at 08:13:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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