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Let me preface this diary with the following:

As a kid in the 70s, we had a copy of the No Nukes LP and it was pretty popular in my home. My parents were very adamantly anti-nuclear power and the Three Mile Island accident in '79 did little to change their (or mine) minds. The horror of the Chernobyl disaster in '86 seemed only to further confirm the fears of those opposed to nuclear power.  

I went all the way to Nevada to protest nuclear weapons testing when I was still in high school. It's hard to relate to anyone under the age of about 25 or so the very real fear many of us had in the 80s about what seemed to be the very real possibility of the world ending in a nuclear holocaust in our lifetimes. Of course, in our minds, the distinction between nuclear weapons and nuclear power was murky at best. What with Reagan, Andropov, SS-20s, the MX, the Minuteman, the Peacekeepers and Pershings - the idea the idea that my classmates and I had that we would never see age 30 (a very punk rock viewpoint to hold at the time, and at 16, I was all about the punk rock.) was pretty common.

More on the flip...

I'm still not entirely at ease with the notion of nuclear power. However, in the past few years my attitude has softened somewhat.

Check out this article from this month's Wired magazine:

Nuclear Now!
How clean, green atomic energy can stop global warming
By Peter Schwartz and Spencer Reis

....  In the years since, we've searched for alternatives, pouring billions of dollars into windmills, solar panels, and biofuels. We've designed fantastically efficient lightbulbs, air conditioners, and refrigerators. We've built enough gas-fired generators to bankrupt California. But mainly, each year we hack 400 million more tons of coal out of Earth's crust than we did a quarter century before, light it on fire, and shoot the proceeds into the atmosphere.

The consequences aren't pretty. Burning coal and other fossil fuels is driving climate change, which is blamed for everything from western forest fires and Florida hurricanes to melting polar ice sheets and flooded Himalayan hamlets. On top of that, coal-burning electric power plants have fouled the air with enough heavy metals and other noxious pollutants to cause 15,000 premature deaths annually in the US alone, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study. Believe it or not, a coal-fired plant releases 100 times more radioactive material than an equivalent nuclear reactor - right into the air, too, not into some carefully guarded storage site. (And, by the way, more than 5,200 Chinese coal miners perished in accidents last year.)

Burning hydrocarbons is a luxury that a planet with 6 billion energy-hungry souls can't afford. There's only one sane, practical alternative: nuclear power.

We now know that the risks of splitting atoms pale beside the dreadful toll exacted by fossil fuels. Radiation containment, waste disposal, and nuclear weapons proliferation are manageable problems in a way that global warming is not. Unlike the usual green alternatives - water, wind, solar, and biomass - nuclear energy is here, now, in industrial quantities. Sure, nuke plants are expensive to build - upward of $2 billion apiece - but they start to look cheap when you factor in the true cost to people and the planet of burning fossil fuels. And nuclear is our best hope for cleanly and efficiently generating hydrogen, which would end our other ugly hydrocarbon addiction - dependence on gasoline and diesel for transport.

Some of the world's most thoughtful greens have discovered the logic of nuclear power, including Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, and Britain's Bishop Hugh Montefiore, a longtime board member of Friends of the Earth. Western Europe is quietly backing away from planned nuclear phaseouts. Finland has ordered a big reactor specifically to meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. China's new nuke plants - 26 by 2025 - are part of a desperate effort at smog control.

OK, you say, I'm listening. Good. There's more.

That's not nearly enough. We should be shooting to match France, which gets 77 percent of its electricity from nukes. It's past time for a decisive leap out of the hydrocarbon era, time to send King Coal and, soon after, Big Oil shambling off to their well-deserved final resting places - maybe on a nostalgic old steam locomotive.
<snip>
By contrast, nuclear power is thriving around the world despite decades of obituaries. Belgium derives 58 percent of its electricity from nukes, Sweden 45 percent, South Korea 40, Switzerland 37 percent, Japan 31 percent, Spain 27 percent, and the UK 23 percent. Turkey plans to build three plants over the next several years. South Korea has eight more reactors coming, Japan 13, China at least 20. France, where nukes generate more than three-quarters of the country's electricity, is privatizing a third of its state-owned nuclear energy group, Areva, to deal with the rush of new business.

The last US nuke plant to be built was ordered in 1973, yet nuclear power is growing here as well. With clever engineering and smart management, nukes have steadily increased their share of generating capacity in the US. The 103 reactors operating in the US pump out electricity at more than 90 percent of capacity, up from 60 percent when Three Mile Island made headlines. That increase is the equivalent of adding 40 new reactors, without bothering anyone's backyard or spewing any more carbon into the air.
<snip>
Safer plants, more sensible regulation, and even a helping hand from Congress - all are on the way. What's still missing is a place to put radioactive waste. By law, US companies that generate nuclear power pay the Feds a tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour to dispose of their spent fuel. The fund - currently $24 billion and counting - is supposed to finance a permanent waste repository, the ill-fated Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Two decades ago when the payments started, opening day was scheduled for January 31, 1998. But the Nevada facility remains embroiled in hearings, debates, and studies, and waste is piling up at 30-odd sites around the country.
<snip>
But throwing waste into a black hole at Yucca Mountain isn't such a great idea anyway. For one thing, in coming decades we might devise better disposal methods, such as corrosion-proof containers that can withstand millennia of heat and moisture. For another, used nuclear fuel can be recycled as a source for the production of more energy. Either way, it's clear that the whole waste disposal problem has been misconstrued. We don't need a million-year solution. A hundred years will do just fine - long enough to let the stuff cool down and allow us to decide what to do with it.
<snip>
A handful of new US plants will be a fine start, but the real goal has to be dethroning King Coal and - until something better comes along - pushing nuclear power out front as the world's default energy source. Kicking carbon cold turkey won't be easy, but it can be done. Four crucial steps can help increase the momentum: Regulate carbon emissions, revamp the fuel cycle, rekindle innovation in nuclear technology, and, finally, replace gasoline with hydrogen.
<snip>
Here's a fun fact: Spent nuclear fuel - the stuff intended for permanent disposal at Yucca Mountain - retains 95 percent of its energy content. Imagine what Toyota could do for fuel efficiency if 95 percent of the average car's gasoline passed through the engine and out the tailpipe. In France, Japan, and Britain, nuclear engineers do the sensible thing: recycle. Alone among the nuclear powers, the US doesn't, for reasons that have nothing to do with nuclear power.
<snip>
Other proposals would create a global nuclear fuel company, possibly under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This company would collect, reprocess, and distribute fuel to every nation in the world, thus keeping potential bomb fixings out of circulation.
<snip>
Replace gasoline with hydrogen. If a single change could truly ignite nuclear power, it's the grab bag of technologies and wishful schemes traveling under the rubric of the hydrogen economy. Leaving behind petroleum is as important to the planet's future as eliminating coal. The hitch is that it takes energy to extract hydrogen from substances like methane and water. Where will it come from?

Today, the most common energy source for producing hydrogen is natural gas, followed by oil. It's conceivable that renewables could do it in limited quantities. By the luck of physics, though, two things nuclear reactors do best - generate both electricity and very high temperatures - are exactly what it takes to produce hydrogen most efficiently. Last November, the DOE's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory showed how a single next-gen nuke could produce the hydrogen equivalent of 400,000 gallons of gasoline every day. Nuclear energy's potential for freeing us not only from coal but also oil holds the promise of a bright green future for the US and the world at large.
<snip>
The more seriously you take the idea of global warming, the more seriously you have to take nuclear power. Clean coal, solar-powered roof tiles, wind farms in North Dakota - they're all pie in the emissions-free sky. Sure, give them a shot. But zero-carbon reactors are here and now. We know we can build them. Their price tag is no mystery. They fit into the existing electric grid without a hitch. Flannel-shirted environmentalists who fight these realities run the risk of ending up with as much soot on their hands as the slickest coal-mining CEO.

There's obviously a lot to discuss here about a number of subjects. One thing that seems to be stifling any reasoned discussion here in the US is the ingrained, reflexive negative reaction many folks have to any subject containing the word "nuclear".  A sidebar to the Wired story discusses this very topic.

I have plenty of questions and concerns myself. I'll admit that I don't think I would be terribly thrilled to live next to a nuclear plant. I also have profound concerns about safety and the storage of the waste produced by such plants. What I'm pretty certain about however, is that it's time to do something. And I think a reasoned discussion and exploration of nuclear power is a fine place to start. The article cited above will hopefully convince you of this as well.

Where does nuclear power fit in to the future of energy generation and consumption of this country and that of the rest of the world?

Originally posted to lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 09:55 PM PST.

Poll

Is it time to start thinking seriously about nuclear power?

56%14 votes
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24%6 votes
4%1 votes
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| 25 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  oh, (none)
    and if it's time to actually have this discussion, i promise we can also make a concerted effort to teach the chimpster to properly pronounce it as well. like billboards and all.

    Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

    by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 09:56:41 PM PST

    •  Think about this (4.00)
      If we represent 30,000 years, the halflife of plutonium, by the length of a football field, one year would be equal to 1/8th of an inch.

      So you take Chernobyl. In one day, actually one hour but we'll say one day, a great big spot the size Great Britain on our tiny little planet Earth became contaminated all the way into the future for the next 30,000 years. If you wanted to get down knees and find that day on our football field, you couldn't because that would equal 1/4000 of an inch. So, you would need to bring your high powered microscope.

      Consider, we've created these "time shadows", black areas of death that project into the future, all over the planet. If neanderthals 30,000 years ago had left this shit in their caves, spelunkers would be cursing the neanderthals to this day.

      So who's going to be cursing us? Let's say each generation of humans occurs every 25 years. Just for simplicity.

      On this scale, your

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children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children will have to live with every single drop of radioactive material we contaminate the planet with. That's 1,200 generations of children that won't be able to play at Chernobyl or the Hanford Nuclear Plant or Three Mile Island or the literally thousands of contaminated sites we know about and the countless others we don't without severe risk of illness.

      Now give them all names.

      •  Hanford (4.00)
        I worked with nu-ku-lar waste at Hanford for a little over 1.5 years on a student internship, in the early 1990's.

        What I want to know is why the DOE keeps sending me these bright red postcards saying "FREE MEDICAL EXAM FOR FORMER HANFORD WORKERS!"

        Hmm.

        That's a semi-rhetorical question, by the way.

        Of course I know why they're offering the exam.  My thyroid doesn't work anymore, but what's the point of telling them?

        Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell

        by Page van der Linden on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 12:28:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow (none)
          I'm sorry to hear that man. Your nick obviously has a significance I wasn't aware of.
          •  Yes, that's how I got that nickname. (none)
            It was a very interesting job.  Plutonium chemistry is pretty cool, from a nerd point of view.  However, the safety standards (if you can call them that) SUCKED at Hanford.

            Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell

            by Page van der Linden on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:21:45 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  ouch. n/t (none)

          Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

          by lipris on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 12:39:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Page (none)
          Jesus, that's terrible. I'm really sorry to hear that.

          Do you really think there's no point in telling them?

          If you're willing to share, what happened to your thyroid? Did you ingest something at Hanford?

          •  I didn't ingest anything (none)
            That would have been REALLY bad.

            I don't know what the hell happened.  I just know that my thyroid stopped working right at the end of my Hanford adventure.

            It's hypothyroidism, which is treatable with synthetic thyroid hormones.  It's a pain in the butt sometimes, when things get out of balance, but it's managable.

            I just don't trust them;  they told me that my dosimeter readings were normal (i.e. no significant beta/gamma exposure, as in iodine isotopes).  It could have been something else, but who knows.

            Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell

            by Page van der Linden on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:24:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  But (none)
              Plenty of people have hypothyroidism.  Most have never been near a nuclear facility in their lives.  It's not cool to suggest to people who don't understand either the illness or the health physics that your problem has been caused by occupatonal exposure to radionuclides, radioiodines or whatever.  Page, as an intern, what training did you get in radiation protection? How much do you know about the stochastic and non-stochastic effects of exposure to ionizing radiation?  Have you ever heard of the concept of radiation hormesis?  It could be argued that your very brief exposure to very low levels of radiation was actually beneficial to your immune system, you know. (I will not try to make that case, I'm just throwing the concept, for which there is evidence, out there.) I am curious about the environment you worked in.  Was there detectable loose contamination on surfaces or suspended in the air, or was occupational exposure more generalized gamma fields and beta radiation fixed to equipment?  I'm curious.  In the interests of full disclosure, I have worked in CANDU nuclear power plants for 24 years.  I have a lifetime occupational exposure of about 5 Rem ( sorry, I don't think in Seiverts), 1 Rem of which is internal tritium (TDO) exposure, and my health is very good, knock on wood (taps head).  I spend zero time tying any health worries I may have to my occupational exposure.

              The true barbarian is he who thinks everything barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.--William Hazlitt

              by peterborocanuck on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 04:17:24 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  PS DOE (none)
                is sending you those cards because they need the statistical data from we nuclear energy workers to refine the risk models with respect to stochastic health effects.  Cheers.

                The true barbarian is he who thinks everything barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.--William Hazlitt

                by peterborocanuck on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 04:19:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  i understand (none)
        that we're talking about nasty stuff that's nasty for one hell of a long time. but, what about the alternative? can we keep burning carbons just to toast bread or get those movies back to blockbuster forever? if so, do we have 30,000 years? all i know is that the status quo is most certainly not sustainable  and furthermore, that the persistence of that status quo is speeding the day when we find ourselves in quite a pickle, so to speak, and may find our options to be even fewer than those we have today. what i want to know is, if not nuclear, then what? and when? i don't have the luxury that is afforded the fuckwits running the country who believe they are to be 'raptured' any day now. i'm a sinner and a half. i want to know what can be done about energy consumption, generation and conservation right now. the planet is getting warmer. i think we can all agree on that. how do we meet the energy needs of all those generations of children without baking the globe in the process?

        Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

        by lipris on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 12:54:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well (none)
          I actually believe that future people, those that haven't even been born yet, have just as much right to be as we do. They have just as much right to the planet in it's preserved form as we do. They have just as much right to posterity as we do.

          So, I don't really give a fuck how we, this generation and the next few, solve or don't our energy problems. At least not compared to the rights of the countless generations that will have to live in the shadow of what we do in our own little pathetic anthrospere.

          My hostility is not directed at my fellow man. It's directed at the idea that we somehow are more important than our descendents. Our children. Our own greed and self importance has allowed us to actually harm our own children and their children. I love my children. So get a bike. Walk. And for those that refuse to recognize the importance of future generation, their own children, suicide is a good alternative.

          •  i think we both (none)
            share a concern for the generations that follow. i think where we may part ways is what a planet in its "preserved" form may be. i also don't think we are any more important than our descendants, quite the contrary. i want to have this discussion now precisely for that reason.

            At least not compared to the rights of the countless generations that will have to live in the shadow of what we do in our own little pathetic anthrospere.

            exactly!

            how is it that doing something now about impending climate change, pollution or the very depletion of fossil fuels themselves so bad for them. if anything, the path of inaction you seem to be advocating seems to be punting our problems on to them. (a very bush-like strategy, i might add) i'm not advocating any particular strategy at this point. what interests me is an exploration of what our options are and how we ameliorate some of the problems of our own creation before we kick them a few generations down the road.

            and, yo, i live in brooklyn. i don't own a car, i use mass transit religiously and i walk more in a week than 95% of the people in this country. could i do more? probably. but in the grand scheme of things, i'm doing ok. the suicide bit was a nice touch.

            Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

            by lipris on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 01:33:32 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  sympathy for neanderthals (none)
        I have a great deal of sympathy those people 1200 generations ahead of us. I think it's reasonable to expect they will have some sympathy for us as well.

        If early homo sapiens, 1200 generations ago, had needed to create a dozen Hanfords in order to stave off their own extinction, I think I could explain to my children why they couldn't go play in the desert without too much bitterness.

  •  Just being discussed today (none)
    at Liberal Street Fight.   I left long and detailed arguments in the comments section.
    •  oh wow. (none)
      missed it. thanks for the heads up. off to check it out now....

      Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

      by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 10:03:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Larry, I responded on LSF (4.00)
      and I'll cross-post here:

      Larry,

      I think you're dancing around a few facts :~)

      One makes your argument stronger: spent fuel rods mostly consist of U-238, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion (with a B) years. The other facts, however, are not so good for your argument.

      The design for the old technology nuclear plants was extraordinarily flawed, primarily due to political issues (Adm. Rickover and the nuclear Navy). The new generation of plants are not only intrinsically safe against the dangers of the old design, they will allow for significantly more economical decommissioning. (Btw, were you using constant dollars for your decommission vs. construction cost comparison? Makes a Huge difference. Also, how much electricity was generated during the life of the plant? The construction cost is not the proper metric for comparison; we should be comparing lifetime cost and lifetime economic output.)

      Nuclear power and sustainable power are not mutually exclusive. Hell, I live in San Francisco and I live on renewable (hydroelectric) power(except for the PG&E power grab and all that, but don't get me started). I'd love to have an electric car and cause no polution or climate change at all!

      I personally would much rather live near a nuclear plant (preferably of a new design) than near a fuel refinery or a coal-fired power plant. Chernobyl isn't going to happen here (the Soviets couldn't give two shits for the well being of "the people") and Three Mile Island didn't hurt anyone.

      Nuclear fusion should be a transitional energy source until solar, wind, and fusion take over, with different mixes for different geographic regions.

      •  thanks (none)
        larry, anything to add to this discussion? or what passes for one? hell,maybe this wasn't such a great topic of discussion after all. and to think, i knocked a perfectly great dick joke diary into oblivion for this shite....

        Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

        by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:09:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fusion (none)
        Nuclear fusion should be a transitional energy source until solar, wind, and fusion take over, with different mixes for different geographic regions.

        I take it you mean nuclear fission.  Practical fusion reactors are as yet a pipedream.

      •  Responding here and there (none)
        Markinsanfran

        The construction cost is not the proper metric for comparison

        Well, I'm not the one that chose that metric, the NRC did; I simply tested their proposition as they had presented it.  I leave it to you to draw your own inferences as to what I found, as you see the numbers are all sourced.

        The time frame in which wind and solar now become fully competitive, if the industrial economies of scale can be developed with a stable REPTC is about as long as it would take just the siting process of a new generation of nuclear reactors.  Back in 1980, they said that solar and wind were about 25 or 30 years off--turns out the experts were pretty much right.  I hated that at the time, I had ridiculous visions of doing it by 1990.  It seemed to never pick up momentum.  But that changed in the late 90s.  Finally we're pretty much there, the fact that a $.018/kWh credit is sufficient to drive gigawatt annual new installation right now means that by 2010 we're home.  Getting those nukes?  2010 will find a whole lot of communities not wanting a nuke.  

        There are other huge advantages in having a decentralized, distributed power production grid.  One reason your bill is so high is that power plants of all kinds have to go down for servicing on a regular schecdule, not to mention emergency shutdowns.  When you have a big 1000MW reactor go down for servicing, you need 1000MW of additional capacity to come online, large backup capacity.  

        Now say you have a 200MW wind farm, consisting of 100 turbines.  Yah, each of those turbines will need annual servicing as well.  But you only have to be able to back up 2MW each time.  

        Additional benefit:  the reindustrialization of America.  Someone's going to fully grasp the potential money to be madde and jobs to be created as this industry begins to break out, and it's right there opn the cusp.  America was the leader inn the wind industry certainly through the 80s, maybe even the early 90s.  But just as the necessary materials science breakthroughs were being made, we took our eye off the ball.  Fossil fuels became relatively cheap again so America stopped looking for a way off the petrojunk.  And the Euros didn't hesitate, the German engineering firm ABB is undoubtedly the world's leading installer of wind turbines.

        Making wind turbines, and also other technologies such as solar furnaces that double as water distillation systems will find ready export markets.  Somebody will be making these things.  These industries will be high value added manufacturing, the kind of jobs that pay well, provide benefits, yknow, the kind we don't get our working class anymore.  We've come near to endangering our world position as manufacturer of anything.  This should be our home run, we're the ones with the greatest potential internal market to build on, we were the leaders in this industry for many years and there are still strong US presences in the industry.

        Further benefit.  The breadbasket is also the windbasket.  Minnesota, Iowa, The Dakotas, Texas have enormous numbers of higly desireable windpower production areas.  Many farmers are finding that by leasing 25 1/2-acre peices scattered over their 1200 acres to a production utility for wind turbines, they can pull in an extra $30-50,000 a year.  Others go the route of outright buying their own, which averaged out covers their own needs and sells a little bit back to the grid.  Either way this creates a second income stream for farmers.  It comes too late for all but the vestiges of the family farm, but the success stories with this repeat over and over.  So this isn't the future, this is now.  And for what's left of the family farm, right now matters.

        I don't know how long you've been around this issue, or what your overall political perspectives are.  I've been involved with or at least tracking these issues for a quarter century, and through that period of time I've always been what you might call a progressive populist.  I need to point some things out that if you're young you may not be aware of, and not to condescend if you know this stuff, but I don't know.  If you're a progressive, you're going to find yourself with some unusual allies in taking a pro-nuclear stand.  First, let's look at the industry.  Who manufactures nuclear plants anyway?  Well, historically there were two main nukemakers, Westinghouse and GE.  Westinghouse built the pressurized water reactor, GE the boiling water reactor.  Now, I don't know if Westinghouse is even in a position to be a player on this anymore.  GE most certainly is.  As is the contractor GE traditionally used to build the plants, Bechtel.

        Oh--let's take a trip down TV memory lane.  In the late 50s and early 60s, GE engaged on a sustained national sales pitch for its reactors. Advertising, lobbying, PR events, the works.  As the sponsor of the popular NBC series Death Valley Days, GE hired the host of the show to go on the rubber chicken circuit around the country selling nuclear reactors.  It was something the fading star took to like a fish to water, and Ronald Reagan found his second act.

        Now I mentioned that Bechtel was the GC to GE on the BWRs while Reagan was out flacking for them.  Curiously enough, two executives of Bechtel were named George Schulz and Caspar Weinberger.    Let's see, so the nuclear industry, GE, Bechtel, NBC, the entire Reagan Administration (it's amazing, even Philip Habib was at Bechtel, it was a breeding ground for Reaganauts.)  Note any patterns here yet?  Damn the only thing missing is Halliburton--although if I'm not mistaken, Halliburton gobbled up the GC that built the Westinghouse plants.

        Unfortunately, those aren't the worst of your friends on the pro-nuke position.  Sorry,  Who is this man?
        Hint:  he has an organization that militantly supports nuclear power; he also believes the Queen of England is a drug dealer.  Victim of persecution.  

        So, those are the advocates of nuclear power, the corporate oligarchy and the Larouchies.  You have to understand there was a reason no more nukes got built after the 70s. The American people chose then that we weren't going further down that energy path, believe me, if the right-wing governments we've had since that time didn't know that, there's be a bright spanking new nuke in a Springfield near you.

        Now, you might say, oh they're safer now.  well, here is what I say to the nuclear industry.  If they're so much safer, then you don't need the protection of the Price-Anderson Act anymore, right?  Let's thnk about the logic of the Price-Anderson Act for a second.  Or wait, let's not, because the only logic is a taxpayer subsidy of potentially enormous degree to an industry that toots its horn about how safe and how economically competitive it is.  Show me the economic theory that would endorse an arrangement like that.  Ludwig von Mises and Karl Marx would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in spitting invective at that mutant.  Show me the economic competitiveness, let them buy their own damn liability insurance like your family doctor does, OK?  I can show you $0.018/kWh from competitiveness with the general market production rate.  I want them to buy the $350 billion insurance policy.  Then let's see how they compete with wind economically!  Ha!

        BTW, I don't believe I got your take on the Price-Anderson Act...  mind addressing it?  As a practical matter it's an admission of at least two lies about nuclear power:  cheap and safe.

        Well, I could go on, but it's getting very late.  I believe my position is well-founded on a number of grounds.

        •  Larry (none)
          Thanks for the excellent comment. I can see that you have given this a lot of thought and study.

          I have been following this issue for about 35 years or so (I don't remember what my position was on this in high school, probably too much sex, drugs, and rock and roll). If you take a look at my comments and diaries you will be able to develop your own opinion, but I would call myself a liberal democrat (cut my political teeth in McGovern's primary campaign).

          I also have some knowledge of the subject from a technical perspective, being a physicist. For quite a while I felt that, on balance, nuclear power plants as they were designed previously were not a good trade-off of risk vs. reward. I actually never thought they were terribly risky in operation; it was more the waste storage issue.

          But I am scared to death now about climate change. What we are talking about is change that is on the cusp of being irreversible. This is here, this is now, this is critical. The nuclear waste problem is a possible problem for the dim distant future (assuming civilization goes into the crapper and we won't figure out a way to handle the problem). But climate change can easily prevent us from ever getting to that future.

          As I said in my post, I look at fission as an interim energy source until solar, wind, and fusion are ready to take over.

          As for the liability issues you raised (price-anderson) I will cover that tomorrow. I need to get some sleep now.

  •  This Diary is Repetitious (none)
    This article has ALREADY been posted and discussed.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/2/7/214634/3062

  •  I have to say that I have always thought (4.00)
    that the conflation of nuclear power and nuclear weapons to be extremely ill-informed and misguided. I suppose we shouldn't drive gasoline-powered cars because napalm exists?

    Nuclear power failed in this country for politial reasons and not for safety or economic reasons. Hopefully the reality-based ommunity is waking up to this.

    Btw, hydrogen will be a wonderful and practical fuel that will power the vast majority of vehicles, but not in my lifetime (I'm 52). However nuclear power can be used right now to make electricity, whih an be used to charge electric and gas-electric hybrids (hybrids that have extra batteries and don't use the gas engine for short trips - not on the market yet). Battery technology will continue to advance and could easily beat hydrogen to the punch.

    The statement above on hydrogen is supported by this report by the National Academy of Engineering. I make my living as a physicist consulting on fuel cell technology so I have a personal economic bias, but it's in favor of hydrogen. My technical judgement is, however, that hydrogen is a long way off and that any meaningful use of fuel cells will involve hydrocarbon fuels.

    In short:

    On weapons: No Nukes!

    On energy:  Go Nukes!

    •  Correction (none)
      when I said "meaningful use of fuel cells" I meant to add "in the next few decades".
    •  like i said above (none)
      i was a kid. oh, and i was smoking lots of dope at the time. it is stupid to conflate the two. but i was not the brightest bulb in the box at age 16.

      Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

      by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 10:15:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No need to appologize (none)
        You are not alone in your (former) opinion. You are a bit unusual in your willingness to learn. I will be very interested to find out your opinion after you have "gone to school" on this subject. There are cogent arguments on both sides.
        •  precisely! (none)
          and that's why i'm here. i want to hear it all. look, i lived for awhile in southern california. i've heard all about how much better air quality is there now, as opposed to 30 years ago. if it's so much better now, i can't imagine what it must have been like then. as far as the quality of the air goes, it's, IMHO, still a shithole. i now live in brooklyn. lord knows how much juice it takes just to drive just the subways in this town everyday. i like the subway. what i want to know is how we maintain what we are already responsible for and provide for the demands that are most certainly sure to come in the cleanest, most efficient way. i wanna know! and i'm all ears.

          Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

          by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:22:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I lived in Orange County (none)
            until 1972 and I can remember days when I went up to LA and ouldn't draw my breath all the way in, it was like there was something blocking me from breathing fully. Yeah, a real shithole. And yeah, technology (the catalytic converter and computer-controlled engine among other things) has improved things hugely, even though the number of miles driven per year there has increased.
  •  Same rosy projections (none)
    in this piece as in any from the Eisenhower days, or even from a Phil Hartman-narrated educational film from the Simpsons.

    Sorry, but I don't buy this now, just as I didn't buy it then. The problems of waste, not just post-reactor but throughout the fuel cycle, are as knotty now as they ever were.

    And while the selling language has been updated, it's still an inherently dangerous set of technologies.

    Finally, while I admit that it may just be the stubborn old fart in me, I'm more inclined to believe the 1982 assessment of Robert Stobaugh and Daniel Yergin in their book, 'Energy Future,' who concluded that we really have no viable way to produce our way out of our dilemna.

    They said then, and I still believe now, that a massive and concerted effort at across the board conservation offers the best hope for a near-term (50 years +/-) resolution to this problem.

    Having said all of this, I don't hold out any hope that we'll actually try to do anything but increase energy production of all kinds. Not that doing so will help, because it won't. There's just too much money at stake for companies to do otherwise.

    This pro-nuclear article is just the same pile of shit that's been trotted out before, just on a lacy new doily for a new audience who may swallow it more willingly that others.

    "...psychopaths have little difficulty infiltrating the domains of...politics, law enforcement, (and) government." Dr. Robert Hare

    by RubDMC on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 10:22:20 PM PST

    •  the rosiness of the projections (none)
      are something i'm somewhat suspicious of as well. that being said, i think that the subject deserves a fair airing. i certainly don't think that R/D into renewables should suffer for this. i think we need to pursue all avenues. if world energy demand is truly going to triple in the next half a century, i think it's prudent that we examine all the options before us. i'm also curious as to the apparent adoption of nuclear power by other large, energy hungry countries (france, brazil, japan, etc) such as ourselves. i am also fiercely in favor of conservation and efficiency as ways to ameliorate the problem of growing energy consumption and the nasty shit such demand pumps in to our air.

      really, i'm all about the discussion. i want to know, from folks who are probably much more informed about such subjects than myself, what they think about nuclear power. if we were having a debate about film editing to save the planet, i would be all bad ass and drop some science. we aren't and i'm here to listen. and i thank you for your input.

      Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

      by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 10:45:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Priorities (none)
    I think we really need to look at other possibilities before committing to new nuclear power plants.

    1.  We need to really think about using less power.  The cleanest power plant is the one that was never built.  There is still a lot that we could do to use less electricity.

    2.  We need to think about getting the most out of renewables.  We haven't even scratched the surface in terms of renewables.  Renewables are more expensive than fossil fuels, but once you've paid for the lawsuits and waste disposal and decommissioning, nuclear power isn't cheap either.

    3.  To the extent that 1 and 2 fall short I am willing to consider nuclear power.  The technology has certainly improved since the dangerous designs of 30 years ago.  In particular there are now designs that have good feedback properties, such as pebble bed reactors.  

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

    Pebble bed reactors may also be able to use recycled Plutonium fuel.  

    Still, there are significant engineering and national security implications of any of these designs which must be taken into account.  That's why I can't support option 3 until we have made a thorough effort to achieve 1 and 2.

    •  agreed (none)
      i think that any strategy that fails to incorporate conservation and increased efficiency, no matter whether it includes nuclear or not, is, in my book, a non starter. while i am recently more inclined to include a nuclear component, i am rather fierce in my insistence that it include conservation, efficiency and renewables. anything else would be just pointless.

      Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

      by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:15:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can I get back to you? (none)
    I just woke up and my brain isn't working.

    One thing, though:  the main concern I have regarding nuclear power is that the waste generated is pretty nasty.

    But, like I said, I'll get back to you.  Frozen brain.

    Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell

    by Page van der Linden on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:15:35 PM PST

    •  absolutely! (none)
      really. i'm kind of a tech-tard. there's a reason that you're a poll option. i'm very intersted in the opinions of folks who know waaay more about such things than i ever will. take you're time. have a cuppa tea. i'm not going anywhere.

      Left Is Port, Right Is Starboard.

      by lipris on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:25:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bah (none)
    I think you're definitely right-on with the diary. The two main reasons why people are so against nuclear power, in my experience, are A, the uninformed conflation of nuclear weapons with nuclear power ("uhh, they're both nucular, so that's bad! yeah!"), and the pollution issue. The first is silly; the second takes a bit more thought. Yes, the half-life on nuclear waste is a long time, as the spammy histrionics of the earlier poster point out. And that would be a deal-breaker if the alternative were clean. But the alternative is not. Ten Chernobyl accidents wouldn't be as destructive or polluting as the burning of coal and oil has been to our environment. Solar and wind and tidal power are all shiny niche producers, but that's all they are: niche producers. I know, I know, fund them better and they'll be more productive. But that's not a plan the reality-based community can bank on. What you can bank on, if we don't increase the use of nuclear power, is greater and greater reliance upon oil, until it runs out, and coal, which we have several hundred more years of.  Sorry kids, I'll take the option of a bit of nuclear waste stored in a central, insulated location over every person in the country sucking down a pack a day's worth of particulates any time.
  •  Categorization (none)

    New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

    by lilithvf1998 on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 01:10:33 PM PST

  •  What jerks my chain about nukes (none)
    is that nobody who is pro, as well as those who have given up and adopted the big business line is that they think that the waste issue can be swept under the rug. It can't.
    Instead of jumping on the omg it will solve global warming bandwagon, how about taking a good look at alternatives? How about fighting for a sustainable future that doesn't involve half lives?
    Check out some who are struggling, and succeding to make a sustainable future for us
    here.

    And whoever in above thread said "Three Mile Island didn't hurt anybody", that's bullshit. For instance,
    "Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, Dr. Jay Gould, in his meticulously documented 1990 book Deadly Deceit, found that deaths from birth defects were 15-to-35 percent higher than before the accident, and breast cancer deaths 7 percent higher. These increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania."
    Nukewatch
    That's just one.

    Check Google Results 1 - 10 of about 62,400 for Three mile island birth defects.

    I'm sure there are also a number of articles on the farmers who went bankrupt when their herds started aborting, and those who later required c-sections to deliver those 2 headed calves.

    We could slow global warming, if "they" were interested. They are not. Don't join them.

    I may be thinking about taking the Bus, but I'm not taking the Omnibus, no sir, thanks, I'll walk.

    by emmasnacker on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 05:29:52 PM PST

  •  I'm a pragmatic optimist (none)
    Hopefully I'm not so late to the discussion that this modest addition will go unread.

    I, too, found the Wired article interesting and thought-provoking.  I've been doing a lot of research on nuclear power lately, having reached my saturation point on solar, wind, wave and biofuel power reading material.  I've also had a number of highly educational conversations with a recently-retired nuclear power engineer.

    Everyone has certain early influences which shape their worldview, politics, and beliefs regarding science.  Mine were shaped by the pragmatic optimism of "hard" science fiction, in particular the works of Robert A. Heinlein.  While the science of early SF may seem quaint today, it's a window into how differently society perceived the promise and risk of atomic energy.

    I believe in the power of science to improve the human condition.  I believe in the power of engineering to take that science and apply it in ways that benefit people in tangible ways.  (Yes, I separate science and engineering -- I'm an engineer, after all, and I see the need for both.)

    We are long overdue for a renaissance in the development of nuclear energy.  We now understand that the primary challenges to constructing safe nuclear power generators are passive safety and materials engineering.  The primary challenges to ongoing operation are environmental safety and waste processing/disposal.

    I get aggravated when I read opinions which basically say "nuclear power could be safe, but I don't trust the US energy industry to do it safely".  OK, so let's burn coal until we blacken the sky and scorch the earth, right?  I don't want to live in that world.  These are not intractable problems, let's find solutions that we can all live with.

    Renewables are great, but I don't think they're going to constitute the majority of our energy production in the next hundred years.  We have to find other ways to support our civilization, and folks, nuclear power is the best option we have right now.

    If we don't get our shit together and establish energy independence through domestic nuclear power production, conservation, and renewables, the Chinese are going to giggle from the sidelines as the US fades to a shadow of its former greatness.  Nothing against the Chinese, but I like America, and I want to see my country's greatness survive.

    -AG

    I'm a pro-gun, pro-nuclear-power Reform Democrat.
    Anybody got a problem with that?

    by AlphaGeek on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 11:50:04 PM PST

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