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As the rescue efforts at the Fukushima plant continue to stumble and fumble along, the discussion about nuclear energy has been in full swing around the globe. The week after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Swiss government suspended plans to replace and build new nuclear plants pending a safety review. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a three month moratorium on last year’s decision to extend the life of the country's 17 nuclear power stations and ordered a temporary shutdown of several of its older plants. Even China, with some 26 nuclear reactors under construction a country far from skittish when it comes to generously placing its energy eggs into the nuclear basket, suspended approval for all new nuclear power plants until the government can issue revised safety rules.


Der Spiegel, 3/14/11: Fukushima, March, 12th 2011, 3.36 pm - The End of the Nuclear Age

To be sure, these decisions did not go unchallenged. In Germany’s case, Angela Merkel’s reversal was called an embarrassment, a ploy to placate voters, and was awarded the World Championship of Hysteria. Short of accusing her of a lack of those oft-cited oval testosterone-laden parts of the male anatomy, Merkel’s move to review safety procedures in German nuclear plants was being caricatured by much of the more manly international press as that of an “Angsthase,” a fear bunny. One article entitled Germany Cripples Itself with Nuclear Angst by Spiegel Online editor David Crossland, an Englishman born in Germany, accused Merkel of pandering to irrational fears and even went as far as psychoanalyzing Germans as an “inward-looking, shelter-seeking forest nation, with a tendency toward the parochial.”

Chancellor Merkel's center right CDU party then got hammered at the polls last Sunday in the state of Baden-Württemberg, not for deciding to shut down 7 plants, but for the appearance of political opportunism. In conservative Baden-Württemberg, the Green Party, the only political party that has consistently and unequivocally favored a phase-out of nuclear power since its inception over 30 years ago, took 24.2% of the vote and knocked the CDU out of power for the first time in 58 years, making Winfried Kretschmann the first Green prime minister in the state.

So what is it about us Germans and our irrational fear of nukes? What makes us so wimpy that we would stage a 45 kilometer-long handholding protest of a perfectly well-functioning nuclear plant? Why are my people — heralded the world over for their impeccable engineering skills — so fickle when it comes to trusting our own ingenuity with nuclear power?


There are, of course, the usual explanations. The psychological scars of a devastating war, with its lingering lessons from our grandparents that if you play with fire you’ll get burned. Being at the epicenter of the Cold War, Cruise Missiles and Pershing II's pointed at us, one false alarm or trigger-happy Superpower-leader away from annihilation. And yes, Chernobyl, the little accident that could have only happened to those negligent and tech-challenged Russians but sent a radioactive cloud our way nonetheless. I was 18 at the time, but it feels like it was just yesterday. Sure, walking off the field in the middle of your soccer game because of radioactive rain is memorable. And naturally, sitting in the basement with your teenage buddies, pondering a slow and creeping decay of your body, leaves a lasting impression. But that’s not the whole story.

Supporters of nuclear power often cite any number of things that kill many more people than nuclear plants as evidence of our irrationality: Smoking, air pollution, walking, eating greasy food, earthquakes, tsunamis, you name it. It’s the same line of reasoning that often comes up when someone is uneasy about getting on an airplane. We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t you know that you’re x times more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash?” From a cut and dry Vegas-style odds-on perspective, this kind of statistical risk assessment makes sense, and one would think that we über-stoic Germans should be much more freaked out every time we get in our Porsches and BMWs than by our statistically safe reactors. But we’re not. Instead of quitting our deadly driving habit, we speed down the Autobahn at 180 km/h, and the only time we get a sinking feeling in our stomach is when we fly past the roadside reactors at Biblis or Neckarwestheim.


Nuclear Plant in Neckarwestheim

On a personal level it has to do with control. You obviously don’t have to be German to relate to the idea that there is something reassuring to have your own hands on the steering wheel, no matter how bad your odds are. It also helps to have a basic understanding of the technology you’re using, and the risks inherent in it. While the consequences of technical malfunction or human error in a car accident can be deadly, the impact, albeit tragic, is quick and local. In an airplane, the unknowns — at least from a layman’s perspective — are much greater, and the stakes much higher. Who among us has never wondered during turbulence how many flight hours the captain has logged and whether everyone on the plane maintenance crew did their job diligently? However, nothing seems as removed from our personal reach and knowledge with as broad of a potential threat on all of our lives as nuclear technology, whether it’s used for energy or weapons.  

As the ongoing tragedy in Japan shows, when it comes to nuclear reactors and their potential dangers, we’re completely in the dark. With each passing day, the roofless buildings reveal themselves to be labyrinths of ever more tangled complexity. Explosions aren’t this disaster’s climax but conduits for potentially more worrisome chain reactions. Sizzling cocktails of Uranium, Cesium, Plutonium and other -ums are competing for most insidious element, until we learn about mixed oxides, or mox. Spent fuel rods, stored in pools outside the unbreakable (until it breaks) containment shell, turn out to be just as radioactive as the active ones. Experts know what’s happening until they don’t. Radiation levels are low until they’re higher. Japanese officials say 20 kilometers is safe, Americans say 50. One day the alert level is closer to Three Mile Island, the next it’s closer to Chernobyl. Did Chernobyl kill 56 or 985,000 people? A week into the disaster, authorities were anticipating months of radioactive releases. Or was it years? Wait, what’s the half-life of Cesium-137 and Strontium-90? You get the impression that being rational is not enough in order to grasp what’s actually going on at Fukushima Dai-ichi. You have to be a nuclear physicist, and even they seem to be making it up as they go.


The Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant - Bulgaria 2001, photo courtesy Ed Kashi / VII

So yes, my fear of nukes is irrational, because for it to be rational I would have to be able to calculate the exact outcome of a worst case scenario. Let’s say all of the 11,125 spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima Dai-ichi were to melt down. What consequences would that carry, rationally speaking? The truth seems to be that nobody really knows how all these different links in this highly convoluted and explosive chain are going to react. How long have the fuel rods been exposed? How big are the aftershocks? Are there cracks in the pools? Are the emergency workers stuffing the right holes? Which way is the wind blowing?

To be fair, nothing in life beside our impermanence is certain. But with nukes, to extrapolate from early 21st century philosopher Donald Rumsfeld, the unknown unknowns are on steroids. It is true, as many proponents of nuclear energy point out, that the same can be said about other sources of energy like coal and oil, with their creeping side effects of pollution and climate change. And I agree. With ice caps melting and sea levels rising, getting into an accident is increasingly looking like one of the more inconsequential risks of driving our cars. But rather than pitting one insanity against another, wouldn’t the most sensible thing be to call the bluff on our collectively adopted myth that we can keep borrowing ever more energy from our planet through increasingly complex methods to feed an economic system based on perpetual growth?

This is where the German teenager’s irrational fear of being invaded by an invisible, odorless radioactive cloud from distant Ukraine morphs into the sober realization that the cheap and easy energy emperor wears no clothes. What’s crazy is not my people’s atom phobia but the idea that our planet could sustain our irrational model of constant growth and consumption. There’s an understanding that the tears are shed for much more than one’s own little skin, that the roots of the pain go much deeper than mere self-preservation. For when examined, the fear of nukes bears a message that’s as straight and direct as it gets: The pursuit of unlimited energy, mobility and prosperity is the real illusion.



crossposted at A World of Words

Originally posted to Nuclear Free DK on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by oo, J Town, and Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tips and flames (152+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchylafemme, rb137, passionateprotagonist, Lucy2009, JeffW, JekyllnHyde, JanF, skillet, copymark, the fan man, gchaucer2, Julie Gulden, TBug, retrograde, trashablanca, Patric Juillet, mikolo, DerAmi, kimoconnor, Meteor Blades, LeftOverAmerica, cka, Joieau, mahakali overdrive, Lawrence, Gooserock, Jim P, p gorden lippy, enhydra lutris, Amber6541, jeanette0605, jennifer poole, Terranova0, pateTX, Bluerall, Adept2u, bnasley, 4kedtongue, aoeu, DRo, jan4insight, BachFan, sullivanst, Eric K, enemy of the people, millwood, marsanges, FrankSpoke, billmosby, esquimaux, ricklewsive, Drama Queen, Wee Mama, joe joe, KenBee, Dartagnan, damfino, Linda Wood, CherryTheTart, toys, ohmyheck, Satya1, Loonesta, AdamR510, artmartin, Regina in a Sears Kit House, possum, greenbastard, badger, gmoke, amk for obama, bibble, PsychoSavannah, ALifeLessFrightening, dirkster42, DWG, suspiciousmind, An Affirming Flame, shaggies2009, drnononono, goinsouth, kurious, peraspera, swarf, MackInTheBox, melfunction, mikeconwell, elziax, matador, NoMoJoe, Shockwave, foucaultspendulum, shaharazade, middleagedhousewife, Just Bob, Mislead, etbnc, pvmuse, letsgetreal, MidwestTreeHugger, plan9pub, monkeybrainpolitics, Statusquomustgo, politik, Tinfoil Hat, Thutmose V, geomoo, yet another liberal, eeff, Prognosticator, docmidwest, Funkygal, high uintas, Detlef, Got a Grip, beanbagfrog, mamamedusa, Jantman, jarbyus, SaraBeth, kafkananda, LSmith, Earth Ling, RandomNonviolence, splashy, roses, Pinko Elephant, supercereal, SeaTurtle, MsGrin, LeftOfYou, KayCeSF, Jose Bidenio, princesspat, wonmug, there but for fortune, mrkvica, miriam, theano, davidwalters, Larsstephens, ratcityreprobate, jck, LamontCranston, BoiseBlue, IM, fidel, Mnemosyne, JVolvo, dabug, fritzi56, Agathena
  •  Never have liked nuclear energy..... (30+ / 0-)

    ....and Fukushima has done nothing to change my mind!   lol

    Nothing hysterical about not wanting your energy to be from a source that seems to be difficult to understand or contain when it's generating station goes haywire or is damaged in some way. The potential harm to the enviornment and human beings is so immense and potentially catastrophic. It really does seem like playing with fire.

    The GOP needs to get with the program in this country and start contruibuting to find SAFE alternatives to keeping us powered-up.

    I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

    by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:49:18 AM PDT

    •  Don't hold your breath! (12+ / 0-)
      The GOP needs to get with the program in this country and start contruibuting to find SAFE alternatives to keeping us powered-up.

      You could faint, fall over, hurt yourself, and then start voting Republican!

      Seriously, safety checks are not a bad thing. Panic is.

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:52:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  hilarious comment (16+ / 0-)

        I agree, panic is not an option anyway. Nuclear plants aren't going to go away any time soon, but I believe it's also important to think a few generations ahead.

        •  In the long run public acceptance (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JekyllnHyde, Lucy2009

          will be critical. In the short run, however, we don't always get it right. If technological factors were all that mattered, Beta would have easily eclipsed VHS, and Apple would have swamped Microsoft. Nuclear fission will someday seem no more reasonable than the one-time dominance of VHS or Windows.

          There are just 10 kinds of people; those who know binary and those who don't.

          by RudiB on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:46:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sure. But how about just not building any new (15+ / 0-)


          I don't for a second believe that there aren't other solutions. Problem is that richie rich who owns the nuclear plants doesn't want other options promoted, developed and sure as shit not implemented.

          So while I agree that his comment was funny, particularly about voting for Republicans!!  Gawd...the horror of it.....  I don't think it's panic to want a safer form of energy, do you?

          I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

          by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:50:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not at all, Lucy (5+ / 0-)

            I absolutely agree with you that we have to really push ourselves out of our conventional thinking minds. But I think in order to make that kind of a transformation we all have to work together as well, and sometimes I find humor to be a good way to meet each other on a human level.

            •   :) Sorry I'm prickly pear on this! (4+ / 0-)

              I got rather brutally trashed for expressing my opinions on Fukushima last week, so I'm cautious now.    lol

              I agree, humor is WONDERFUL!!!!      :)     :)

              I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

              by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:20:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  it can get pretty heated (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lucy2009, mamamedusa, Terranova0

                I've definitely gotten my ass kicked on this issue. But it's also been a great lesson to listen to and try to learn from many different people and opinions. I actually feel like the nuclear debate has become much more civil and constructive around here since I first waded into one a couple of years ago, and it's a tribute to all sides. In some ways, Fukushima is bringing out the best in everyone, as we can agree that nuclear — just like most others – not a 100% black and white issue.

                •  Good points. The more info you have on a (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  topic the easier it is to come to accurate conclusions about the choices to be made surrounding it.

                  I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                  by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:15:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Coal and natural gas are the enemies of nuclear (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Recall, Lucy2009, Klaus, ebohlman, mamamedusa

            They are also the enemies of renewables. They have the most to lose if the status quo changes or carbon limits are introduced. If we're going to discuss how the powers that be behind the curtain move, you might wonder if nuclear and renewables are the true allies against fossil fuels, since they have so many overlapping interests.

            •  Hummm...... not sure about all of that..... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mamamedusa, Earth Ling

              I'm not really a fan of coal, nuclear, oil.....    lol    so what does that leave!!  

              I would need to do some serious homework on the issue, to give a emphatic reply as to what I think would be the best way to go on energy production.

              However, I sure would love to see GREEN alternatives explored heavily....and invested in and researched heavily. The Greener/safer the better in my book. With that said... I could see that Green might not handle the heavy load that we as consumers demand. I should think that there will someday (if we don't kill ourselves off as a species first!) be a very high tech/safe/secure mode of energy generation. Maybe that will be nuclear????  

              I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

              by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:21:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Fossil fuels don't need your fandom. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Klaus, mamamedusa

                All they want is for you to focus your efforts on killing off something else. That's all they need to succeed.

                •  I'd like to see all three killed-off as much as (4+ / 0-)


                  But like I just said above.....I don't know about the feasability of that considering our love of energy consumption for just about everything these days.

                  I have to maintain, that I would like to see investment and serious research into other forms of energy generation aside from the big 3.

                  I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                  by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:35:47 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes, you can answer the easy question. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    Do you have an answer for the tricky one? Fossil fuels or nuclear, which do we get rid of first?

                    •  How about both simultaneously? (10+ / 0-)

                      Start by not building any more coal-fired OR nuclear power plants.  Reduce the number of natural-gas-fired plants planned for construction.  Work to develop Negawatts and Micropower.  Establish a new Civilian Conservation Corps dedicated to energy conservation on a local level.  Divert maybe just a tiny bit of money from funding the War in Libya and the War on Afghanistan to green energy R&D.

                      Have policymakers read the very credible and thoroughly researched recent report which persuasively argues that humanity could convert to solar/wind/biofuels within 25 years; work to elect politicians who understand this AND see it as a priority; pursue those policies necessary to achieve this; and simultaneously work toward decommissioning existing carbonfuel AND nuclear power plants.

                      •  I haven't seen a convincing case for micropower (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        it seems the most efficient way to generate heat or spin a generator is to GO BIG. Has this changed? I'm not trying to be snarky, I just don't see the appeal.

                        Although, do you take nuclear and fossil plants offline at a 1:1 ratio? If the entire goal of the enterprise is to minimize GHG emissions, this seems dangerously silly. You do have to make a choice. There is simply no way around it.

                        •  Here's a Nuclear Information Research Service (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          paper on the topic of micro power and negawatts vs. nuclear:


                          •  I don't consider nirs credible (0+ / 0-)

                            I'll look into the topic later..

                          •  Here's a link to a FERC ruling (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            mamamedusa, kafkananda

                            which appears to determine that "negawatts" can demand the same market prices as megawatts of generated electricity.  


                            So, FERC is clearly interested.

                            And, as to NIRS, I guess we will have to disagree, as I find them much more credible than industry-sponsored groups.

                          •  Lovins is pushing this idea of distributed (0+ / 0-)

                            micropower. I just don't understand why it's a good idea. It's not more efficient than larger plants at generating electricity, and it doesn't solve the issue of intermittent renewables (it exacerbates the problem.) His idea appears to be that if you couple micropower and cogeneration (e.g. a thermal power source -- he tries to hide it, but he is implying a natural gas turbine) it makes more sense than a grid, because you get process heating. This isn't new, a few places use district heating with waste heat from their power plants, but I think the applications are extremely limited (otherwise it would already be routine.)

                            But the writing in the article you linked is just terrible, so maybe I just don't understand what he's trying to say. No sources, either, just assertions.

                            (Note: I didn't say anything about conservation. Efficiency is by definition good! It has nothing to do with what source you're using to generate power. But efficiency isn't going to replace the coal power plants in China.)

                          •  In some ways, I'd like to see a "pure" market, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Earth Ling

                            without any subsidies, in the energy realm.  I do NOT pretend to know what that would favor, but it would be interesting to see fossil fuels and nuclear power and solar and wind and "negawatts" competing head-to-head.  Of course, a "pure" market might not be suited to factor in externalities, but...

                            I think Lovins also pushes the micropower concept because he leans libertarian in some ways, and favors decentralization in general.  I've seen it argued that the localization of power generation facilitates greater local economic development, as well.  I like the idea of technological diversity in generating energy, and I think the micropower concept would facilitate such diversity.  I would also be interested to find out whether micropower would provide a security benefit through the decentralization of power generation sources.

                          •  I generally lean libertarian as well (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            mamamedusa, citisven

                            I also happen to live near the coast in an area prone to Hurricanes and flooding. Ground zero for climate change in the USA! So I have a particular interest in pricing the external cost of CO2 into the coal and natural gas plants that generate 80% of the electricity that flows into my house (even though I use a "100% wind" plan, that's the wholesale market...) But it's not something that is possible in a free market, because the majority of the costs fall on people outside of the market (see how much success people in South America have suing our oil companies for environmental damage.) The Government will have to set a price, and that means they are picking the winners and the losers in the market. It may be justified, but it means there is lots of ink spilled arguing about it.

                            Anyway, I have to head out for the night. It was nice talking to you.

                          •  Likewise! (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            You definitely provided me with some food for thought.

                      •  You're evading the question. (0+ / 0-)

                        Which do we get rid of first?

                      •  Care to share? (0+ / 0-)

                        What "very credible and thoroughly researched recent report"?

                        We must drive the special interests out of politics.… There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will neither be a short not an easy task, but it can be done. -- Teddy Roosevelt

                        by NoMoJoe on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:19:36 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  You bet (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          pvmuse, kafkananda

                          The study was commissioned by the Institute for Policy Research and Development.  The summary is at this link:


                          At the bottom of that article, there is a link to the full study in pdf format.

                        •  Here's another, by Jacobson and Delucchi (5+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          mamamedusa, kafkananda, Earth Ling, splashy, IM


                          I find this quote from the study particularly interesting:

                          Further, nuclear energy results in up to 25 times more carbon
                          emissions than wind energy, in part due to the emissions from uranium refining and transport and
                          reactor construction and in part due to the longer time required to permit and construct a nuclear
                          plant compared with a wind farm , resulting in greater emissions from the fossil-fuel electricity
                          sector during this period (Koomey and Hultman, 2007; Sovacool, 2008; Jacobson, 2009).
                          •  debatable (0+ / 0-)

                            You have to build models to come up with those numbers, and the sources and assumptions you use are open to debate. I've read the papers he cites and self-cites, which includes things like hypothetical nuclear war in the cost of commercial nuclear power and the cities burning in the CO2 calculation.

                          •  Show me a nice, neutral study (4+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            mamamedusa, Earth Ling, citisven, IM

                            (if such thing even exists) that makes a conclusive case against the possibility of powering the world with renewables by, say, 2050.  Every study in the area of future energy policy is (a) going to make assumptions and use models and (b) is debatable.

                            Pro-nuclear studies don't take into account the artificial methods used to reduce the cost of producing electricity via nuclear, and heavily discount the clear and potential externalities associated with nuclear power; AND make completely unproven assumptions concerning storage of waste.

                          •  I don't think it's impossible (0+ / 0-)

                            But likewise I'm tired of handwaving about HVDC transmission, smart grids, and storage. I'm 100% for renewables as much as I'm for the nuclear status quo and possible expansion. My concern is carbon in the atmosphere, I am technology neutral. Some systems have been already been proven to work on the scale necessary, others show promise but are having difficulty with scalability. Both renewables and nuclear have problems with speed of scale up, and availability of certain metals. Whatever gets us there. Alot of people working in this field have particular ideological axes to grind and pet technologies, and I too would like to see everyone acknowledge the huge amounts of uncertainty involved in all of their projections (you don't see this in press releases.) It points to a "try everything" approach, not trying to come up with new metrics to depress the statistics of things you don't like.

                      •  My thoughts exactly....... (4+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        drnononono, kafkananda, citisven, IM

                        There should be a sane, sensible, safe solution to this situation.

                        I don't think it has to be an either or.

                        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                        by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:53:52 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  If it were to be feasible, I'd like to (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      mamamedusa, citisven

                      see a gradual decline in the useage of both.  Concurrent with the development of safer/cleaner/greener replacement energy sources. That would be ideal.

                      I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                      by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:45:34 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  If we can ever figure out practical (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lucy2009, IM

                fusion (as opposed to fission) reactors, we could be in good shape, but that has been 50 years off for the past 50 years...

                •  I think that money makers of the big 3 (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  have two problems with changes and alternatives.....  

                  Firstly, they don't want to invest in change because that's expensive and they have something they can make BIG money with NOW!!

                  Secondly, they don't want Green alternatives to be found and wildly successful because then they'll be out of the loop on the money.

                  I don't know about this fusion business, but if they can make it SAFE, SAFE, SAFE, I would be open to the idea.  

                  I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                  by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:39:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't think this line of thinking is productive (5+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Recall, Geek of all trades, Klaus, citisven, IM

                    If renewables become wildly profitable, or the regulatory environment shifts dramatically, you'll simply see the big traditional energy companies buying up renewable power companies, and making their money that way. There's no need to ascribe evil motivations -- they are trying to make money, and if the way to make money changes, they will eventually follow the green. How do we show them a path they'll be willing to take?

                    •  I want Green energy. (0+ / 0-)

                      I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                      by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:02:12 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Yes, and people are going to make alot of money (0+ / 0-)

                        providing you with green energy. Is there something wrong with that? In 100 years, if we are getting 100% of our energy from companies selling renewable electricity, will there be a renewable energy mafia conspiracy keeping new technologies under thumb?

                        •  You are probably right. Including the last (0+ / 0-)

                          two sentences!  

                          However, I would rather have them getting rich off of energy sources that were kinder to the environment and human bodies. Wouldn't you?

                          One can hope that eventually we will also have fair taxation policies with big energy companies, to even the field a bit.

                          Do you not believe that big companies buy up promising new sources of producing energy and/or other products and then shelf those ideas so they can keep their monopolies going? Do you honestly believe that we have capitalism at it's finest in the U.S.?

                          I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                          by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:43:49 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Not if any home or business owner (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Lucy2009, citisven

                          owns his own solar panels equipment generating energy for themselves and selling the surplus energy generated back into the grid.

                          Solar and wind could become the only form of energy that actually can be owned by individuals and compete well against corporate ownership of larger solar energy plants.

                          You need to decentralize and make sure individual owners generate and sell their own energy. We all own the sun and the wind. We can own the energy generating equipment, and we could be independent from corporcrats.

                  •  GE is the second largest wind power company (6+ / 0-)

                    in the world. If big corporations hate alternatives, they have a odd way of showing it.

                  •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

                    the power companies are longer sighted then many other industries. Nuclear power is spending money over a decade for 5 decades of future profits. Other power plants are years to construct too, and there is a lot of money spent in oil prospecting to find sites to drill in years from now.

    •  Question (5+ / 0-)

      What would your thoughts on subcritical nuclear be?

      Subcritical nuclear means that the nuclear reaction cannot sustain itself.  It doesn't even require fissile fuels.  Subcritical reactors can, for example, burn nuclear waste.

      In a normal nuclear reactor, the fission of one atom of U235 releases a large number of neutrons which in turn can fission more atoms of U235 in a chain reaction.  In a subcritical reactor, some or all of the neutrons needed to sustain the reaction come from an outside source -- generally "spallation". Spallation means "accelerating a particle to really high speeds and then slamming it into a target so it shatters into subatomic debris".  So, obviously, if you ever stop your accelerator, there's no source (or an insufficient source, depending on what your fuel is) of neutrons for fission.

      Would you support subcritical fission reactors?  What about fusion reactors, which are also "passive" in that you have to do an awful lot to make the reaction occur and which are likewise not waste-accumulative?  You can actually combine them both and use the waste neutrons from fusion to cause subcritical fission, helping improve the economics of both kinds of reactors.

      •  You need a neutron source (4+ / 0-)

        it's an extraordinarily complex solution to the problem of uncontrolled criticality excursions, which has never been a problem in any sane reactor. The control rods at TMI and Fukushima were fully inserted, the reactor was subcritical at the time of the tsunami. It was the decay heat that fucked everything in both instances. If we're looking for cheap fixes for LWRs, passive cooling of decay heat is what is needed.

      •  Nuclear waste lasts 500,000 years (7+ / 0-)

        No way to make it "safe", unless by "safe" you mean contributing huge dollars to the fat-cats at GE and other nuke builders.

        Plutonium tends to make big explosions, not something we should be promoting in a rapidly changing world.   Who's finger will be on the Pakistan nuke trigger once another friedman unit passes?  Who predicted the mid-east unrest?

        Rosanne Cash and the Dixie Chicks- telling it like it is.

        by MD patriot on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:22:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  All of the long lived fission products are burnabl (5+ / 0-)

          e as fuels. You get rid of them by hitting them with neutrons. There's already tens of thousands of tons of highly enriched Uranium and Plutonium, in America and many other countries, as a consequence of actions in the Cold War. There's only one way to get rid of it.

          Also, any country that wants to build a nuclear weapon can do it. With or without power generating reactors. That's been proven time and time again.

          •  Is this true? Then why isn't done? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I am assuming it is because it costs more than the producers want to pay.

            I would be interested in knowing generally what the technology would be.

            I have wondered about the heat/energy in the "spent fuel" rods.  They have to be cooled, so there is obviously heat left, but maybe not enough to turn a steam turbine of the design currently in use.

            Thank you.

            •  Because coal is cheap. (3+ / 0-)

              And people are far more willing to put up with it than nuclear.

            •  Alot of these discussions we're having (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Klaus, mrkvica

              about the relative merits of each energy technology make strong assumptions about the price stability of fossil fuels. I think that's a pretty shaky proposition. There's increasing demand and decreasing supply. Eventually there will be carbon pricing with teeth. These changes will have interesting effects on the relative mix of energy sources we utilize in the future. I think we'll all pay more, but renewables and nuclear will increase in attractiveness to what I like to call legacy sources.

            •  Yes, a mixture of cost and immature tech (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Regina in a Sears Kit House

              The world chose slow reactors for a variety of reasons early on in the development process, and this begot much more research into slow reactors than fast reactors.  Subcritical reactors are generally a subset of fast reactors, and are thus even less researched.  Any immature tech tends to cost a lot more.  

              Early on when people were looking at what tech paths to choose, there was a lot of appeal to criticality in a reactor -- you get your neutrons for free, after all.  And slow neutron reactors had an extra appeal -- in reactors designed to reach criticality, the rate of reaction changes slower in a slow reactor than in a fast reactor, theoretically giving you time to respond with things like control rods (critical fast reactors have to rely on the pure physics properties of the materials, such as doppler broadening, to control the rate of reaction).  But this advantage of slow reactors, IMHO, is a false sense of security, because it's just another thing that can occasionally screw up during your operation of the reactor.  And anyways, a good subcritical fast reactor can't even come close to sustaining itself without the external neutron source, so it's all a moot point anyway.  A subcritical reactor can literally be just a particle accelerator aimed at a big natural heap of pitchblende.  Obviously that pitchblende isn't going to meltdown or explode under any circumstance and is only going to react when your particle accelerator is involved; if it could do so without an accelerator, it would have done so long, long ago.

              In theory (and now we're getting into my own, non-peer-reviewed work, so take this with a grain of salt), one could create a subcritical reactor that doesn't work on thorium/uranium/transuranic elements at all.  If you can yield enough energy per fission to justify the spallation cost, you don't need your fuel to yield any neutrons at all.  Being able to target lighter elements gives you even greater control over what your daughter products are.  Furthermore, it may even be possible to do a slow subcritical reactor, using a beryllium neutron multiplier, to transmute metastable isotopes (things like Ca-48) to ones that will undergo safe, aneutronic decay chains (not all radioactivity is created equal!) -- basically, a forced RTG.  The ideal reactor would be one in which all initial reactions are driven by external input, all radiation apart from your driver is alpha, beta, or low-energy gamma, and the decay chains do not take unduly long to complete.  But you have to be sure you can get enough energy out of the full sequence of decay chains to justify the cost of the spallation neutrons.  My research on the plausibility of these concepts has been hampered by poor access to the software needed to simulate it, however.

      • that's a question! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, mamamedusa

        So here's the deal. I know shit all about nuclear energy. Aside from the obvious that it's potentially catastrophically dangerous to all living creatures on earth. That's enough to make me not interested in it, as it currently stands.

        I read your comment, and have some very light/fluffy/vague understanding of what you are asking me!   lol    With that in mind....I would need ALOT more information and education on the subject.

        My general thoughts would be that we need to have a massive think tank of smarties (with no hidden agendas, and funded equally by a general pot of moeny that comes from governments)from around the planet to pow wow on how the hell we are going to keep ourselves powered as effectively, cheaply, and safely as possible. I should think it will take a variety of methods, and I'm sure they will all have pitfalls. I would not rule out nuclear if there were scientifically sound conclusions that it wouldn't potentially kill LOTS of living creatures if something went haywire.

        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

        by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:32:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Look at Chernobyl, look at Bikini Atoll. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aside from the obvious that it's potentially catastrophically dangerous to all living creatures on earth. That's enough to make me not interested in it, as it currently stands.

          Nature handles nuclear disasters better than you would think.

          •  Sorry, I don't believe that to be true. (8+ / 0-)

            I saw something on one of the PBS stations several years back about Chernobyl. They were interviewing women in the area and talking about their fertility issues and the deformities that their babies are born with. This is years after Chernobyl happened, btw.  Babies born with their stomachs and brains outside their bodies, with stumpy arms and no eyeballs. Just seriously weird shit. People with unusual and unusually high levels of cancers and thus early deaths.

            I wouldn't use that as an example of a success story.

            I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

            by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:12:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nature, not humanity. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              •  OK. I don't know if that's true or not, but (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                even if it were...... what about the humans? I love nature, animals, sea life and plants. But to be honest, it's the folks that I really worry about when I think of nuclear disasters.

                Still not a selling point for me.     :)

                I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:30:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Humanity is why we need to build them safe. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  •  If we are to build them, is #1. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mamamedusa, Earth Ling

                    I still think we should not be building them.

                    I've yet to hear anything convincing on this thread. You don't explain your position, or sell your ideas convincingly. It's almost more adversarial than informational.

                    Why are you gung-ho about nuclear?

                    I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                    by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:58:23 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm the type of guy that feels safe flying, (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Lucy2009, citisven

                      but is paranoid when he drives. I guess I just have an emotional connection to the numbers in a way that most people don't.

                      I support nuclear power because global warming scares the everloving crap out of me. I don't have the words to describe it because we've never had any need to describe something like it before. It drives me nuts that people keep speaking about it like it's just another environmental problem. It isn't. It's bigger, it's more subtle, and it's far more dangerous than anything we've ever dealt with.

                      •  Oh, I see. Well that makes sense, then! (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        Statistically you are safer flying!  Of course, I feel safer driving!   lol   But it doesn't stop me from flying. I just say a little prayer (though not religious) everytime we take-off.   :)

                        I have a friend who is a manager in the Earth Sciences Dept at JPL. Your fear about global warming is not misplaced, and I happen to share that fear with you.

                        I don't know if it's possible to Green our way out of this mess. I'd like to think so. We are awfully brilliant as a species when we really decide to get something done. However, I am open to all ideas....including nuclear. I'm just not convinced that we can't do it better and safer than nuclear. But.....maybe as I read more about the issue I'll change my mind????

                        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

                        by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 04:45:14 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  The entire FSU was an environmental disaster (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Klaus, Lucy2009
    •  Never have liked it either. I do understand... (9+ / 0-)

      ...the logic of the arguments for nuclear energy, and the need for alternative to fossil fuels.

      OTOH, when things go wrong--like at Fukushima, at Chernobyl, at TMI, etc, the consequences can be long-term and widespread, crossing borders, and waterways.  

      As long as fallible human beings are in charge of planning, maintaining and monitoring something so potentially risky to other human beings; and as long as reports like the following reveal safety issues still to be resolved, and as long as nature continues to happen, there's always going to be at least some degree of risk of incidents at nuclear power plants.  Just last week, a report released by the NRC's Inspector General reported that:   More than a quarter of U.S. nuclear plant operators have failed to properly tell regulators about equipment defects that could imperil reactor safety...

      Government watchdogs have raised alarms before about defective parts at nuclear plants. In 1990, the Government Accountability Office released a report saying that utilities had installed counterfeit or substandard parts at about 64 percent of the country’s plants.

      When the issues were raised in 1990, Rather than force the
      plants to determine if the faulty equipment had been installed,

      ...the NRC modified its procurement procedures to allow for the questionable parts. It lowered its parts standards and abandoned routine inspections of reactors--an in an effort (anti-nuclear activist) Comley says, to avoid forcing the industry to spend the millions it would cost to close and properly inspect the plants....

      Maybe I'm just a bit too cynical but as long as the government(s) that assure people of the safety of nuclear power plants is (/are) the same governments that fail to address some of the ongoing safety issues at those plants, I'm not feeling as reassured by their reassurances as I'd like to be.

  •  Thanks, citisven (12+ / 0-)

    Awesome photo at the bottom of the diary.

    Republished you in the:
    J Town Babbling Brook

    Burble Burble

    Much of life is knowing what to Google
    (and blogging at BPI Campus)

    by JanF on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:55:59 AM PDT

  •  Wow. (17+ / 0-)

    Your writing is always special, but this is by far the best I've read on the subject.  Your last paragraph is particularly poignant.  

    I hope lots of people have a chance to see this.  Thank you! :)

  •  Thank you for personalizing risk perception in (20+ / 0-)

    a way anyone can understand. We understand the risk of smoking and either smoke anyway or enact laws to prevent second hand smoking, or both. We want safe cars, but speed and drive recklessly as well as have laws to help prevent the same. We think we understand the dangers (we don't, or at least we're not regularly told what they are) from coal combustion, but have a very different visceral reaction to nuclear power. Perhaps it is a holdover from the specter of nuclear war, perhaps it is the unknown of worst case scenarios, the unknown unknowns as you've said. I don't have an answer, just a lot of questions at this point.

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”, Theodore Roosevelt

    by the fan man on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:07:00 AM PDT

    •  yes, thanks citisven (11+ / 0-)

      I wonder if German's have a healthier distrust for government authority, than Americans do, as a result of WWII?

      My generation was brought up on rapid anti-communism, combined with Superman myths, that our country, and government was an embodiment of the most fundementally good forces, on the planet.

      And, who could we trust more than the American government, and author authrities to protect us from lurking evil.

      I remember as a child seeing this cute little cartoon charactor named Ready Kilowatt reassuring us about how save civilian nuclear power was.

      I was part of a minority counter-culture of the 60s and 70s that rejected such mythology, and even was one of the protesters at the Seabrook Nuclear power plant in the late 70s.  

      But, we always knew we were in a marginalize minority.

      Now, even average citizens are starting to suspect that these issues go beyond even simple dichotamies like good versus evil, or trust of authorities, but the possibilities that with nuclear disasters, and the BP disasters we may be testing our human ability to collectively manage complexity.

      Thanks for a thought provoking diary.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:35:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's a complicated question, HoundDog (11+ / 0-)

        and probably doesn't have a straight answer. For example, Germans have much more trust in their Government in certain areas like health care, education, social services etc. And not that people enjoy paying taxes there, but I think there's much more of a general acceptance that your tax money will be used by the government for worthwhile causes, and so people don't usually throw the kinds of fits Americans do over every miniscule tax hike. On the other hand I think you're right, when it comes to the more transpersonal and transnational issues, people are a lot more skeptical, and our history probably play a big part in that. That whole idea of big language to promise greatness and bigness, whether it's freedom, huge energy reservoirs or Hollywood endings, just doesn't fly as well over there. Once bitten, twice shy.

        •  Nuclear energy is a technology that is a victim of (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linda Wood, kafkananda

          its own hype, "clean, safe, cheap". That's what any good promoter does for their product, but when the wheels come off, or people get to see the whole picture, they are of course forever skeptical. I believe there was also a psychic need to harness such a terrible power for good ala the "Atoms for Peace" project.

          “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”, Theodore Roosevelt

          by the fan man on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:23:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm anti-nuke (24+ / 0-)

    but not necessarily for all of the reasons you provide.  I can all refer to US nukes.  They are exhorbitently expensive to construct (and then add the cost of the uranium to mine, refine, make the rods, maintain, store after "spent."  They cause thermal pollution and have been responsible for many aquatic kills.  They have a relatively short lifespan -- and then, after they are decommissioned, they remain a visual blight.

    There is not one form of energy which is safe.  Yes, I've heard the arguments re: wind turbines -- they have to utilize 100s of pounds of rare earths -- China controls 95% of the market are are notorious polluters with these highly toxic elements.  Solar is terrific -- but not a panacea in areas of the country where sunshine is limited.  Desert solar facilities are fantastic -- as long as a legitimate environmental impact assessment has been conducted.

    There are viable combinations of energy sources which do not include nukes, coal or oil.  I'm waiting for our government to present those options.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:08:26 AM PDT

    •  you're right (16+ / 0-)

      there is not one silver bullet solution to our problems, and never will be. I think of it like an ecology of solutions, weighing all the different options we have and also be mindful that different sources of energy work better in different places. But the one thing in my opinion we can't do is to think that we can just keep growing and consuming more. If we don't at least find ways to scale back gradually, I doubt there will be any energy solution for our continued ravenous hunger for growth.

      •  that hunger will soon be manifesting itself in the (6+ / 0-)

        middle east and africa...some emerging issues there.

      •  I tipped and rec'd (9+ / 0-)

        your diary enthusiastically because I love your writing style and legitimate arguments.  I've often been pegged as a nuke shill -- in response to my mantric demand for facts rather than hysteria.  Fear is not necessarily hysteria.  I've had my fair share of fear when I represented former workers at nuclear plants regarding lax controls and worker safety.

        " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

        by gchaucer2 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:13:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We aren't growing, but the world is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        skillet, Klaus

        And they will find ways to produce the energy they need

      •  So here's a meta question: Stewart Brand (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood

        recently said, "We've become as gods, there's no retreat, we better get good at it" while Bill McKibben has taken up EF Schumacher's banner "Small is Beautiful". Which way folks?

        “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”, Theodore Roosevelt

        by the fan man on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:15:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Small means the future of democracy is assured. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Earth Ling, splashy, mrkvica

          My favorite anthropologist, the late great Marvin Harris, puts it thusly in the epilogue to his "Cannibals and Kings":

          There already exists the electronic capability for the tracking of individual behavior by centralized networks of surveillance and record-keeping computers.  It is highly probable that the conversion to nuclear energy production will provide precisely those basic material conditions most appropriate for using the power of the computer to establish a new and enduring form of despotism.  Only by decentralizing our basic mode of energy production– by breaking the cartels that monopolize the present system of energy technology– can we restore the ecological and cultural configuration that led to the emergence of political democracy in Europe.

          Clearly, the future will be a mix of nuclear and renewables, but the percentage of the mix will be important.  I believe that over the next two decades, we will see nuclear-dominated societies trending towards authoritarianism; not by any malicious design, but simply as a result of energy being in the hands of too few.

          •  Funny, my anthropology prof thought (0+ / 0-)

            Harris was duplicitous, even as he assigned readings from his books. Regardless, Harris's toe dip into energy and society was the fashion at the time. I used to believe likewise, not any more.

            Back in the sixties Popular Mechanics had articles about home nuclear plants! Sounded great at the time. (Where is my hovercraft anyway?) Whether BP or my local utility leases me solar panels for my roof or my utility sells me wind power from somewhere else is a secondary consideration. Production will be the primary concern.

            “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”, Theodore Roosevelt

            by the fan man on Fri Apr 01, 2011 at 07:52:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Hi gchaucer2. I am impressed and appreciate the (12+ / 0-)

      evolution of your presentation of these other combinations of energy sources.

      The way you do it here, is a big improvement, IMO.  


      Additional, concerns with nukes are the generation of enormous quantities of radioactive waste, for which which we in the US still have no permenent repository for.

      Having large amounts of spent fuel rods, in uncontained spent fuel storage ponds creates a risk of dirty bomb contamination from terrorists.

      But, as you say, we are seeing a wide vareity of technological advances in alternative energy.  

      Just two days, ago, I read about the new marine tital kites, off the cost of England that run 24 hours a day, and maybe supplying enough electricity for a city the size of Bristol by 2020.

      Let's keep on trucking with these new alternatives.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:42:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, HoundDog (7+ / 0-)

        but I think my thoughts have been consistent.  I depend on facts, data and science.  I cannot condone hysteria or gut reactions to a crisis.  I have been anti-nuke since the 1970s and have represented clients who have worked in the industry and raised serious concerns about operations.

        " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

        by gchaucer2 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:16:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I was trying to be delicate about the "T" word. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Earth Ling

          I agreed to support a $250 million prototype, if we could not make it the central headline issue of our comments about conventional nuclear reactors.  

          Or, am I confused in my memory of our exchange last week.  

          Sorry, gchaucer2.  I wasn't trying to be snarky, sanctimonious, or a pain in the neck.  

          Just struggling to get ourselves focused on a high level push for the real, clean alternative energy generation of the future, most of which would be solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, efficiency improvements, and conservation.

          Plus, some smaller scale reseach into other kinds of advanced technologies, that might very well turn out to be important, but could also confuse average folks.  

          Let's keep on trucking.  

          The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by HoundDog on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:15:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  My own experience (11+ / 0-)

      I got a unique experience when I joined the Navy right after Vietnam in that I was enrolled in the US Navy Nuclear Power Program and ended up being an electrician on a nuclear submarine.  We had extensive classroom and prototype practical training in all operations of running a nuclear power plant.  We were trained in physics, thermodynamics, nuclear medicine, electronics, hydraulics, you name it, anything that could affect the operation of those reactors.  

      The science and engineering was amazing and the quality controls were unbelievable.  Leaving school we felt as if nothing could go wrong but once out on the operating submarine we got our taste of the human factor.  I watched the classic Hollywood scenario of a stuck gauge that all of a sudden jumped when someone tapped on it and we discovered our pressurizer was nearly empty.  I watched screw ups that ended up dumping radioactive waste water into harbors.  But I think what gave me the most insight into the real danger was when I watched my fellow crewmen, overworked and ready to head off the boat for liberty, go down their list of valve lineup checks and just mark the sheet saying everything was in order without actually testing.  

      While the engineering might be flawless in theory, human beings are flawed, lazy, engage in speculation, easily rationalize their irresponsible behavior.  In the Navy we had one less motivation too.  It wasn't run for profit.  Fit that into the mix and you have a toxic stew.  

      I left the nuclear Navy about a year before 3 Mile Island and had no surprise at all that incident occurred.  And yet, despite all my experiences, I still believe we shouldn't abandon nuclear energy.  Yeah the risks are there, the waste is a problem, systems imperfect but at this point in our evolution we need diversity in our power sources to survive.  Our goal should be a constant push away from the riskiest and most ecologically damaging forms of energy but we have no choice right now but to utilize it all.  A perfect world doesn't include it.  We're far from that point yet.

      "A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism." -- Carl Sagan

      by artmartin on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:13:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Me too. That's what is interesting, and should be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      invested in and researched.

      Fretting over whether we should get rid of oil or nuclear first is not the point.

      I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

      by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:06:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm less worried about rare earth (0+ / 0-)
  •  A global rise in birth defects and cancer rates, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Drama Queen, woolie, JayBat, Klaus
    So yes, my fear of nukes is irrational, because for it to be rational I would have to be able to calculate the exact outcome of a worst case scenario.

    with local spikes depending on distance and weather conditions. We know what radiation does. It's harmful to our health, but we know much more about how it works than even something like seasonal influenza.

    To be fair, nothing in life beside our impermanence is certain. But with nukes, to extrapolate from early 21st century philosopher Donald Rumsfeld, the unknown unknowns are on steroids. It is true, as many proponents of nuclear energy point out, that the same can be said about other sources of energy like coal and oil, with their creeping side effects of pollution and climate change. And I agree. With ice caps melting and sea levels rising, getting into an accident is increasingly looking like one of the more inconsequential risks of driving our cars. But rather than pitting one insanity against another, wouldn’t the most sensible thing be to call the bluff on our collectively adopted myth that we can keep borrowing ever more energy from our planet through increasingly complex methods to feed an economic system based on perpetual growth?

    No, the sensible thing would be to prioritize solving the largest, most threatening problem, and deal with the other ones after the big one is under control.

    Even if you oppose both, you still have to choose which get phased out first. In the name of safety your country is choosing to stick put coal on the back burner. This is irrational and dangerous.

  •  Excellent work. Again. n/t (11+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:17:16 AM PDT

  •  I like your diary but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, mahakali overdrive

    have a question.  Chernobyl occurred when there was an East and West Germany.  Were you in the East?  The 'cloud' from Chernobyl reached West Germany but only the southeastern part.  You state that Pershing 22's (sic) were aimed at you.  If you mean Pershing IIs, then no they were not aimed at you unless you were a conscript in the East German army at about the Corps army level.

    But, even so, you admit your fears may be irrational in what appears, except for those minor quibbles, to be a very rational diary.

    •  I grew up in Stuttgart, Southwest Germany (15+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure if you can say with 100% certainty that no levels of radioactivity reached my town. As always with nuclear, nobody seems to know for sure. Whether my fear was justified or not, the point of it is that at the time it was very hard to believe anything anyone was saying, considering that nobody even knew about it until I think the Swedes measured radioactivity in the air. As far as the Pershings, yes that's a typo on my end, I'll fix that. While Stuttgart wasn't ground zero for the initial impact, I think it's fair to say that a confrontation between the Soviets and the U.S. would have gravely affected all of Germany. At least that was the perceived atmosphere in which my generation grew up.

      •  radioactivity did reach your town (9+ / 0-)

        None escaped. The levels differed. I was living in Goettingen, further up north, and our rainwater was rattling quite lively on the Geiger counters. You got quite a bit more than we did.

        But at the time no one knew. I was freshly in love then and spent wonderful last april days with my love out in the greens and we wondered whether we should flee to the Bretagne. We put that aside as we realized that that was not safety if the wind wouldnt have it. What we de facto got, was less than would have justified the level of worry, but how could we have known that? Only after the fact - quite a bit, months, a half year - after the fact became the actual pattern of fallout roughly clear, to the average people.

        Those in the south, your way citisven, they got it quite a bit worse and going then further east, towards Austria, thats actually where the second major continental contamination spot was centered. You can look it up on maps now. But then, you couldnt.

        Now they can not either, in Japan. They have quite a bit more live tracking - state organized tracking then we had at the time but still, they´ll not know until long aftterward what really came down. And how long will they have to wait? Those evacuees, they had to flee their area from one day to then next and how long will it be before, or will they ever be able to return? Partly? Those outside that zone, are thea still there because its a manageable risk, or are they still there simply because their removal would be an impossible burden on Japan, in dire straits as it is already? When exactly will they know that for sure?

        And who will call the fears of nuclear power irrational in their face? Or in ours, even though we were far far further off, and had far less contamination?

        Ici s´arrète la loi.

        by marsanges on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:08:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for chiming in, marsanges (4+ / 0-)

          Do you have any links to those maps?

          It's so true, we just didn't know what the hell was going on, and that was a big reason why it was so scary. Especially in those formative years where you're just finding out what's going on in the world, you're just wondering what on earth is going on, who let this happen? Perhaps it was less shocking for the adult world, especially the folks who had lived through WWII and were perhaps a bit more "disaster-hardened." But for our generation it was a really defining event, and whether it ultimately measures up to other horrors of the past, it was our "what the hell are we doing?" moment."

      •  I stand corrected on the cloud (3+ / 0-)

        I was living in Pirmasens at the time and my faulty memory of the cloud, as shown on CNN and local TV at the time, superimposed on a map, is hazy at best.  Please see interactive map and click on dates.  The 'cloud' moved over the entirety of West Germany and, after it reached much of France, rotated back over W. Germany.  (Source:  Der Spiegel)

  •  Very thoughtful diary (12+ / 0-)

    While all our current energy sources have pros and cons, nuclear has much more of a potential for huge disaster than any other in my opinion. Thus fear of this choice hardly seems irrational to me!

    I do not understand why the administration and Democratic party in general are not out there screaming about the need to focus more on clean energy alternatives with funding and focus.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

    by kimoconnor on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:20:36 AM PDT

    •  there have been some really good diaries (5+ / 0-)

      the last couple of days about how this administration has been much too timid in laying out a bold vision for a cleaner energy future, and I tend to agree. Obviously, nuclear is going to be part of the package for the foreseeable future, but I think we should at least have more of a discussion on how we're going to get to a long term sustainable energy policy.

      Thanks Kim, hope you're enjoying the sunny day.

    •  what's the simplest answer for administration's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      What we need in the US is a strong green party.  

      We need it badly.

      The best way to get there (and to get much more than mere 3 party diversity) is to work for Instant Run Off Voting and/or Range Voting.

      Someone upthread made a great comment about not trusting the choices offered us by the usual suspects "Do you want to freeze in the dark?  No? Well you better take our nuclear power then!".

      The same is true of our corrupt parties.  "You better vote for the less corrupt Dems otherwise you'll get Republicans!"

      Sure - we do have some awesome members, but they are few in number and regardless, our democracy would be dramatically strengthened by breaking this two party duopoly.  (Wall Street / MIC / mis-Fortune 500 own both parties kim).

      Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider! - George Carlin

      by Earth Ling on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 05:51:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Somebody has to lead. (6+ / 0-)

    Germany is surrounded by Nuclear reactors... Poland, France, for instance. So what good does it do to shut down the reactors in Germany? And the grid can bring this energy across the border....

    As I told my wife, somebody has to lead the way. Aufjedenfall.

    This better be good. Because it is not going away.

    by DerAmi on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:24:16 AM PDT

    •  There are no nuke plants in Poland at this time. (7+ / 0-)

      In France, on the other hand.... ugh

      "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

      by Lawrence on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:31:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  France, with extraordinarily low CO2/capita (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BachFan, Recall, polecat, Klaus, Lucy2009
        •  And with the problem of having to import (10+ / 0-)

          electricity each time there is a drought and having no idea what to do with all the nuclear waste that they produce.

          I dread to think what would happen if a French Nuclear Plant blew... basically all of Europe is downwind from France.

          "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

          by Lawrence on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:07:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Is climate change serious? (6+ / 0-)

            France has 50% less CO2 per capita of the Germans. That's unlikely to change any time soon. So, project this 20 years out. How many marginal deaths will result from this difference due to climate change? Risk modeling cuts both ways.

            •  It's a false choice that you're trying to present (12+ / 0-)


              It's not an either/or situation with nukes and coal.

              France actually has great renewables resources... and they've finally started pushing renewables.

              "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

              by Lawrence on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:15:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not a false choice, it's a reality (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Recall, evanaj, Klaus

                in nearly every country in the world to date. A few countries have been blessed with excellent hydroelectric or geothermal power sources. A couple others are experimenting with large scale wind/solar production (e.g. more than 20%). The rest burn fossil fuels or fission atoms.

                •  It's a false choice because it's not (9+ / 0-)

                  the ONLY choice. One of the most important things about citisven's diary is that it helps us to think outside the box of the current assumption that we must have the industrial base that we have, that we must have the need for so much transportation of goods, that we must use industrially produced fuels, that we must consume as much as were do now or more.

                  •  Unless your plan involves instantly stopping (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    evanaj, Klaus, ebohlman

                    our usage of all non-renewables, we're still going to have to prioritize one or the other. Do we get rid of fossil fuels first or do we get rid of nuclear first?

                    It's a choice.

                    It's a real choice.

                    You can face it or not, but it's real either way.

                    •  Do we get rid of (8+ / 0-)

                      wasteful energy usage first? Thats what citisven tried to get at, at the end. Thats also what always needs to be asked.

                      As long as the US allows itself an energy usage per capita five times higher than even western europe, this whole debate is pointless. The US not even has a serious gas tax. A civilized western industrial nation can at least live with 9 dollars a gallon gas, as we in Western Europe demonstrate every day. The US doesnt want to have that out of pure wantonness? then none of them has a right to claim that nuclear energy must be used if fossils should be shut down. Go pay actual energy prices, and then see how much nuclear energy you really need to get by. Go try to use at least a little bit sane and rational structuring in how your society operates with energy, including the renewable energy ressources your country is rich of, and then you can see whether that is really a necessary choice between evils. The entire point of Svens diary was that, at the end. If you want to waste energy as if there´s no tomorrow; then you´ll need nukes and coal and oil and whatever you can get. And you´ll doom the planet (your own offspring included) with it. The true choice is not between nukes and coal but between rabid recklessness (thats what describes much of the West´s behaviour up to now with the US way out in front) and sane planning.

                      we have yet to prove that we can build an industrial society that can provide for our needs for more than one to three generations, leaving behind a deserted wasteland for those unlucky enough to be born later. Doesnt matter so much if it is a nuclear contaminated wasteland or a carbon dioxide desertified wasteland. We are here in the lucky richness that we have only because there weren´t a few generations a bit earlier in history that behaved so as we behave today.

                      Ici s´arrète la loi.

                      by marsanges on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:14:14 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Our "plan" was shoved out the door with Reagan. (8+ / 0-)

                      We could have been well on our way to a post fossil fuel economy (and yes, Carter was pro-nuke as well, having served in the nuclear navy).  Amory Lovins envisioned a hydrogen economy back then generated from solar/wind, combined with increased standards for electrical efficiency of industrial equip and appliances. The need for nukes would have been minimal.

                      After nuclear energy was shown not to be clean, safe or cheap, the next line of promotion was threat: "do you want to freeze in the dark?". Now it's "nuclear or you'll fry". I'd be more inclined to be rational if it wasn't the usual suspects giving us our "options".

                      “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”, Theodore Roosevelt

                      by the fan man on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:27:12 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Modern industrial society (0+ / 0-)

                    Life expectancy: 80 years.

                    •  for now sure, that may prove to be a blip (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Linda Wood, mrkvica

                      considering how quickly and effectively we're poisoning the world and destroying our ecological endowments while calling it "growth".

                      When you spend more from your savings than you earned as interest, do you claim it was income?

                      Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider! - George Carlin

                      by Earth Ling on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 05:54:46 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Those 80-year-olds didn't eat (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      Monsanto engineered toxin loaded products for lunch or drink BPA-laden baby formula. Progress, Ronald Reagan's favorite product when he was a public relations tool for GE, does indeed include the development of medical technology, safety in engineering standards, worker safety regulations, highway safety regulations, truth in advertising, the listing of food product ingredients, and the testing and research necessary for all of that progress. I agree.

                      But the basic premise, FIRST DO NO HARM, underlies the human urge for progress. It doesn't extend our lives to have an unknown secret amount of nuclear waste building up in sites unknown to us at a cost unknown to us and only reported to us when there's a predictable disaster. That's not progress, and it's not extending our life expectancy.

              •  Yes it is. (0+ / 0-)

                Even if we never build anything other than renewable energy sources ever again, we still have to decide which plants to decommission first. To pretend otherwise is dangerous and irresponsible.

            •  The sad reality is that the climate change (0+ / 0-)

              horse is already out of the barn and it can't be recalled.  The heat already stored in the world's oceans guarantees that the ice caps will melt, drowning the areas that more than 50% of the current population of the world call home.

              And that's if we don't burn another stick of wood, another chunk of coal and we all hold our breath for the next 100 years.

              Climate change is a done deal.

              So the issue becomes, imho, that we NOT screw up the remaining areas with nuclear pollution.

              No one is outside the circle of the heart

              by kafkananda on Fri Apr 01, 2011 at 06:30:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Woops... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You are correct, sir! Thanks for the correction. Poland has been planning new reactors. Can't remember now what the status is. I guess I'll have to go read up.

        This better be good. Because it is not going away.

        by DerAmi on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:00:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it's true (8+ / 0-)

      and a lot of Germans including my uncle use the same argument: "The French reactors are just as close to our borders as our own, so why bother."

      Personally, I think it's like any change, someone has to take a lead. And I'm not under the illusion that nuclear power will be completely phased out any time soon, but I do think we at least have to start envisioning alternatives, even if it'll take a long time to make the changes. The one thing I know is that we can't just keep going on exactly the way we have been and expect our many problems to go away.

  •  This is one of the best diaires that I've read on (12+ / 0-)

    DKos in quite some time.

    Vielen Dank!

    I also remember Chernobyl well, Sven, and I'm very angry that we are having to go through this shit again.

    Tipped and recced

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:30:54 AM PDT

  •  groundwater 45 feet down has 10,000 times limit (10+ / 0-)

    of "radioactive iodine," according to April 1 story posted at Kyodo News Agency site (it's 3:29 a.m. Friday April 1 in Japan right now, so this was posted sometime after midnight Japan time). Showing up in western media as I type; AP reporting that the sample was from 45 feet down.

    Groundwater at nuclear plant 'highly' radiation-contaminated: TEPCO
    TOKYO, April 1, Kyodo

    More signs of serious radiation contamination in and near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were detected Thursday, with the latest data finding groundwater containing radioactive iodine 10,000 times the legal threshold and the concentration of radioactive iodine-131 in nearby seawater rising to the highest level yet.

    Radioactive material was confirmed from groundwater for the first time since the March 11 quake and tsunami hit the nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast, knocking out the reactors' key cooling functions. An official of the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said, ''We're aware this is an extremely high figure.''

    The contaminated groundwater was found from around the No. 1 reactor's turbine building, although the radiation level of groundwater is usually so low that it cannot be measured.

    The seawater levels they refer to are the levels 4,385 times the legal limit found in a Weds/30 sample taken near a discharge pipe 330 m south of the plant. We haven't yet heard regarding levels of a Thursday/31 sample.

    •  posted here because I couldn't find the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, mamamedusa

      current live blog, but it looks like yesterday's live blog diary still has commenting going on.

    •  This relates well to the diary because (6+ / 0-)

      one's natural first question is, "how dangerous is this to any humans whether they be nearby or far away?"

      A quick lookup of the isotope says that it has a half life of 8 days.  Well at least that sounds better than one million years.  But what is the likely risk of this in specific terms?

      I think the diarist did a masterful job of relating this reality:

      You get the impression that being rational is not enough in order to grasp what’s actually going on at Fukushima Dai-ichi. You have to be a nuclear physicist, and even they seem to be making it up as they go.

      So yes, my fear of nukes is irrational, because for it to be rational I would have to be able to calculate the exact outcome of a worst case scenario.

      Support working poor and middle class Americans. Stand up and be counted. Find a rally to join.

      by Satya1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:29:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tepco figures mistaken again? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      new Bloomberg story has Tepco now "reviewing" these water tests,

      "Tokyo Electric Power Co. said test results may be incorrect that detected radioactive iodine about 10,000 times the safety limit in underground water at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant....

      "....The company later said those results and others may be wrong and it will re-examine the data."

      We'll see what we hear next.

  •  Did you ever nail it on the head (17+ / 0-)

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much for writing this eloquent piece. It really speaks for me as well. My sense of the German psyche, in general -- having primarily attended a German-based school when I was young, and perhaps have adopted some of these attitudes over time -- is one of great rationalism. A respect for both Science and Philosophy. And part of that rationalism is to be analytical enough to know when you don't know what you are dealing with. To know when to stop, how to set limits and boundaries. These were things I recall were deeply embedded in the collective school psyche. Moreover, there is a sense of order and grace that I respect about German people, such as the ability to come together, hand in hand, and say "No" to something to rationally terrifying, terrible, and ultimately, barbaric.

    Americans have a bit of catching up to do in that Department still. Americans are hard for me to wrap my mind around sometimes. I recall being in Paris and reading a guide book, written in French, about America, and it was describing our character. It said we were a bag of contradictions. It said a bit more than that as well and actually had my husband and I in stitches to see our Country accounted for from an outside point of view.

    Handsomely tipped & rec'd.

    I'm going to drop you that email soon -- it's been a very busy and difficult week, but now it's lovely here and we finally have some good weather, so I'm going to try to work in the park shortly.

  •  Thanks (4+ / 0-)

    for a great diary.

    “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway” ~ Henry Boye~

    by Terranova0 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:46:22 AM PDT

  •  for me, what's always been foremost - the waste. (10+ / 0-)

    Even assuming we can mine, transport, enrich, pelletize, activate and control nuclear fuel more or less safely more or less most of the time, the creepy part is what do you do about waste that remains toxic for many, many generations.

    As my 22 yr old son said in a recent conversation in which he was questioning why we are on this road at all, we started listing all the steps above, and how each one needed to be absolutely over-engineered to avoid tragic consequences, he said, "Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?"

    Even hydro dams can break and sweep away whole towns or cities. But they don't remain silently poisonous for 5,000 years afterward.

    I'm a scientist, and I believe engineers can do amazing things, and do, every day. But the hot potato of what is, for all intents and purposes, the forever engineering challenge of waste containment? There I have a problem.

    The challenge of growth raised in this diary is one that won't go away, either. Each generation has tested the limits of technology as we increase our numbers. We have faced challenges in health, food production and distribution, water, transportation, environmental pollution and destruction. We have met many of them, most of them are never-ending problems requiring constant attention and upgrading and re-thinking.

    And yet, we have, overall, blundered along making a very crooked road to progress much of the time. Nothing is safe, nothing is perfect, but not everything we try will poison 400 generations.

    Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

    by p gorden lippy on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:46:22 AM PDT

    •  good point (4+ / 0-)

      I didn't even include the waste problem, didn't want to make it any longer than it already was. But I'm glad you bring it up, it's a really important piece of the conversation. Thank you.

    •  Scientists know what to do with spent fuel (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it's not a physics or engineering problem, it's a political one.

      •  as long as coal, petroleum and nat gas rule the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        splashy'll always be a political problem.....but.....It Ain't Goin Nowhere.

      •  oh then what (7+ / 0-)

        what will scientists do with the waste in a thousand years?

        though I´m equivocal on nuclear power, and that precisely for the climate change reason, It always struck me as indescribably naive and irrational how one could maintain that we know what to do with waste that´ll be dangerous for thousands of years when we invented electricity just 150 years back, and are staring at a systemic crisis of our technological civilization within this century.

        yeah we may know what to do with the waste for a day (unless it´s a Fukushima day, as has turned out), and after that, we´ll trust the Gods and our lucky stars.

        Ici s´arrète la loi.

        by marsanges on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:59:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We can recycle it and use it again. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayBat, ebohlman

          The reason it's dangerous is because we've barely extracted any of the energy from the fuel.

        •  I've never understood the problem (2+ / 0-)

          When the spent fuel is decayed enough to cool by air convection, why can't it be stored in a warehouse, or some army base in the desert. If our society breaks down to the point where we can't keep a building guarded, there will probably be more pressing issues than the theoretical integrity of a fuel container 10,000 years in the future.

          And anyway, reprocess to separate out the <10% of volume that is fission products, and burn most of that as fuel. The 3% that is left will decay to background in hundreds, not hundreds of thousands, of years. This is the Japanese plan.

      •  BS (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        p gorden lippy, Linda Wood, IM

        Physicists and engineers don't know what to do with spent nuclear fuel.  You can encapsulate it and monitor it indefinitely.  But no one has a permanent solution or even location for disposal.

        And to insist that the public put all of their trust in physicists and engineers is folly, especially in light of what is happening in Japan.

    •  That's my biggest concern. (3+ / 0-)

      We know coal and oil are dangerous and ruining the environment, etc. But with nuclear you seem to have precious little control once things go haywire and the potential for destruction both long term and short term are quite catastrophic.

      I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

      by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:14:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  nicely said, but I hope that one day (0+ / 0-)

      we will understand and strive for technology solutions that mimick nature in that all what is created has to die. I find it ridiculous to believe we have to grow endlessly. Nothing grows endlessly in nature. It grows and dies, and during that process recreates itself. The technological creations of mankind would have to work the same way, they need to have a design that is based on a  cycle of birth and death and recreation.

  •  I rec'd even if I don't completely agree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, citisven, Lucy2009

    If we swap out coal for nuclear, we will not be ahead. When you look at the mortality of coal miners, the vast health damage from living near coal plants, and the destruction of the planet from burning coal through global warming, then I will say we are no better off with coal than nuclear. To the contrary. The only worse natural disaster I could imagine than the 9.0 quake and tsunami would be a meteor strike, and the plants held up pretty well. I doubt there will be hundreds of deaths associated with this nuclear disaster.
    Renewables and usage reduction are the only viable long-term answer.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:57:34 AM PDT

    •  Yes, but those are "others" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, JayBat

      Do you know someone who died in the Massey accident? Or one of the thousands of coal miners who die every year? People are comfortable with coal because the proximal deaths are neatly distant and affect people we don't care about. Now, the tens of thousands who die every year as a result of complications from coal pollution -- we probably know them -- but no one makes the causal leap because there aren't neatly traceable decay signatures to power lawsuits.

  •  i'm not so much afraid of nuclear power (10+ / 0-)

    as i'm afraid of the decision makers' internal conflict between making $$$ and adhering to rigorous engineering/design protocols, safety standards, long term attentiveness to maintenance needs and the foresight needed to protect the plant, surrounding area and society in general from catastrophe.

    I trust scientists and engineers.  Individuals (or groups of) looking for financial profit from science and what's engineered? not so much.  not at all, really.  Heck, the BP mess in the Gulf was relatively low tech/easily preventable and look at the damage that wrought.

    •  Bravo! Stellar diary. (7+ / 0-)

      Du sprichst mir aus dem Herzen!
      I have been pondering the question regarding the limits to growth since the Club of Rome's 1972 study with that title was published ( Add greed to the equation, and you have a very depressing scenario.

      Thanks for daring to go where very few do: Questioning the sanity of continuous growth and consumption. I once asked a Siemens manager who was a student of mine (Business English) if he thought it was possible for capitalism to survive based on the current model of growth into infinity. Needless to say, he was astonished by the question and assured me it would... Sigh.

      PS. I'm an expat and I've been living in Germany for the last 25 years. I remember Chernobyl well, though I was in Hamburg at the time. Not only that, my parents lived about 25 miles from Harrisburg when TMI happened, so I have been very leery of nuclear power for a long time.

      A proud supporting member of Native American Netroots

      by translatorpro on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:18:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Precisely - it's demonstrable that .. (5+ / 0-)

      "systems" which include complex technology and delivering service to consumers can adjust with experience, but the profit motive can't help but shear the edge too close when it comes to nuclear. You can't just keep scr*wing up, and yet, look where we are.

      Extending the certification of these plants beyond their designed-for lifespan on the request of an industry that has impressed nobody seems to define insane. The recent revelations that the San Onofre, CA plant had battery connections that were "inoperable" for 4 years (NCTimes - San Onofre backup problems) perfectly highlights the inadequacy of the tests performed to insure workable safety procedures. Now maybe the improper connections could have been corrected quickly if needed - or maybe all the components would have welded themselves into a solid mass of metal..

      But any desire to discuss the importance of improving ANYTHING such as the above issue is deflected as being hysterical. Again, insane., where did I leave my torches and villagers?

      by FrankSpoke on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:37:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We can't trust govt to properly regulate much of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, Knarfc, bnasley, Linda Wood

      anything else, why nuclear?  They've proven to have fallen down on the job with regards to that reason to believe it will not continue.

      I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

      by Lucy2009 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:17:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "I trust scientists and engineers" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood

      DON'T!   Their are fallible like everyone else.  Everyone should have a say in our energy future, not just the "experts".  Deference to somebody because of their college degree is just stupid.

      (full disclaimer... I have a b.s. in Nuclear Engineering and have been an engineer in the energy sector my whole career)

    •  Why do you trust scientists and engineers? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood

      They are humans, they can be corrupted, manipulated, pressured, threatened, scared and more like anybody else. Scientists adjust their "science" to appease the hands that feed them like any other human beings fearing for their livelihood. And sometimes they invent something they didn't intend to invent and they realize that not all what their brains has come up with is actually good for humanity.

      I respect scientific research and admire good engineering work. But why I should trust their character anymore than anyone else's, I don't quite understand.

  •  maybe we ought to admit that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood

    after all, it's the Earth and the solar system we don't understand well enough to attempt to master. Not that that's ever stopped us trying to override a system that worked before.


    LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:04:22 PM PDT

  •  Couple of things to remember (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, evanaj

    First, Germany's already in the process of building new coal plants. Yes, they're pretty good on wind too, but decommissioning nuclear in Germany would certainly mean more coal - not least because Germany is also the main source of backup to Denmark's wind.

    Coal kills, plain and simple. It kills not in accidents, but in the pollution it emits in its normal operation. It degrades quality of life for millions that it doesn't kill through chronic respiratory diseases like asthma. In the US, coal pollution is estimated to kill 30,000 people every year.

    So, decommissioning nuclear in Germany is a surefire way of killing more people.

    Second, the crisis in Japan is a complete and utter clusterfuck. It started out with an earthquake ten times stronger than it was previously believed was possible on that fault. The resulting larger-than-thought-possible tsunami struck an aging nuclear plant with a deprecated design with known flaws, maintained by an operator with a track record of safety violations, especially at that plant, who had a manifestly inadequate disaster plan.

    Basically, this is the worst case nuclear accident... and yet, so far, it does not pose a threat to human health outside the evacuation zone.

    And yes, your flight analogy was a good one: flight is the safest and most feared mode of travel; nuclear is the safest and most feared mode of electricity generation.

    •  Thanks for the comment, sullivanst (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood, sullivanst, mamamedusa, IM

      It's definitely a tough issue, and I know they're not taking any of these decisions lightly. I can't see how Germany would just rev up their coal production instead, it's not like they're in denial of the dangers of that. What I'm hoping is that this is really going to help put even more political will behind wind, solar and conservation. There just are no easy answers, as I said in the diary, ultimately we'll also have to face the fact that our entire economic system is unsustainable and we need to scale back our waste and consumption.

      •  In part, it depends (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Recall, Linda Wood

        on the speed with which nuclear is detached from the grid. For one thing, manufacturing capacity of wind equipment is not unlimited, and is heavily utilized already. Obviously, that can be expanded if long-term demand is anticipated (although rare-earth metal supply is not elastic), but no manufacturer would build new plant for a short-term demand spike. But even with an infinite supply of windmills available, you can't just hook up a few GW of equivalent firm capacity to the grid and expect it to work. The variability of wind places much more imposing demands on the delivery infrastructure than does nuclear or coal. There would need to be substantial grid upgrades to accommodate a significant surge in wind penetration.

        Energy production is a really messy business, we really do need to be thinking much, much more about the demand side. Which is just another reason to hate Republicans and their insane love of incandescent lightbulbs.

    •  actually the tsunami was forseen, just not acted (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood, IM


      In 2007 at a nuclear conference in Japan it was shown that a tsunami could absolutely top the sea walls.

      And even more stunning is thatin 1933 there was a tsunami that hit NE Japan that was significantly larger than the one that just happened.  It was diaried here on the DK in the past week to two weeks.  It described an 85 year old man who survived the first one and also survived this one.  

      The man is quite distraught.  Apparently he has spent his life warning about the one in 33, to no avail.

      Other Japanese nuke plants are built on or next to major fault lines.  I recently read a description of one that is carefully sited BETWEEN two fault lines.  I can't find that link easily now, but here's another Japanese reprocessing facility built OVER a major fault line.

      So you need to be a bit more skeptical of these "unforeseeable" disasters.  There will be more in our lifetimes, guaranteed.

      The sooner we decommission nuclear plants, starting with the most insane first, the more "unforeseeable" disasters we'll prevent.

      Yes, coal kills, but it doesn't render vast swaths of land useless.

      Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider! - George Carlin

      by Earth Ling on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 06:20:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Coal kills every single day (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In large numbers. 161 deaths per TWh generated from coal, compared to 0.04 deaths per TWh from nuclear.

        And tell the people of Roane County, Tennessee how coal can't render land useless. That one didn't require a natural disaster.

        It's the pure idiocy of driving drunk without a seatbelt while texting and smoking... but refusing to fly through fear.

        Completely backwards.

  •  Irrational confidence in nuclear safety (7+ / 0-)

    Rational fear since nuclear accidents do happen

  •  Random thoughts... (5+ / 0-)

    I once ascribed a lot of fear of nuclear energy to naming. Nuclear is one transposition away from unclear. Breeders breed suspicion, doubt, contempt, and excess population. Fission sounds like something sizzling away and just seconds from exploding.

    180 kph? When I briefly worked on structural studies at a never-commissioned reactor near Kahl, one of my temporary German colleagues complained that his new 280-Z would not quite make it to 240 kph.

    Have the Germans cut back on smoking much since 1982, do you think? My main responsibility on that job at Kahl was to tend the vibration analyzer which was based on a DEC minicomputer that had a lot of cooling fans in a console about the size of a big steamer trunk. The main effect of that was to draw all the air in the building through the computer console at a rapid pace, and all the cigarette smoke along with it. I smelled like I had been working in a bar all night after a day's work, lol.

    Still, I have fond memories of those 6 weeks all these years later. Germany is a beautiful, interesting country and I'm glad I had the opportunity to spend a pleasant few weeks in spring there.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:23:52 PM PDT

    •  Hamburg at night...down by the docks....loved it! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      •  Exactly. GenRad built it using a VAX (0+ / 0-)

        of some kind. The business end of the system was a 50 HP hydraulic actuator system that could produce spectra containing anything from sub 1 Hz up to about 1 kHz. You could clamp the actuator to a beam in a building and force it with the lower frequency parts of rock music if you wanted to. We used it to investigate mode shapes and frequencies of the concrete containment building of the HDR reactor near Kahl. There was also an instrumented sledge hammer or two for applying impulse loads. The reactor had never been fueled and was being used by a lot of teams from around the world for various kinds of accident and structural research. They had modified the place to become a large scale structural and fluids lab for nuclear power related research.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:07:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks bill (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, mamamedusa, Earth Ling, IM

      Believe it or not, they actually have curbed their smoking a bit. I was shocked to see no-smoking laws being passed in state after state a few years back without major revolts. As a whole, there's definitely still a lot more smokers in Germany than in the U.S., but my feeling is that they're starting to get at least a little bit of "blowback." You know those nasty looks people get here in the U.S. when they light up, even outside.

      •  That's wonderful! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, IM

        I've never been particularly anti-smoking myself, but it's better that way, I think.

        About 20 years after cars began to have pollution controls put on them in the U.S. I began to notice the rare vehicle from an earlier period from its distinctive smell. It's hard to remember now just how much freeways smelled like raw gasoline back in the late 50s and early 60s. Now if you ever smell that while driving it means that either your fuel system has sprung a leak or you should be on the lookout for a vintage early 60s muscle car somewhere nearby.

        The smell of cigarette smoke has become similarly rare, although living as I do in Salt Lake City it was probably not as common here as elsewhere. But even walking around the University of Utah campus you will hardly ever encounter a smoker now, and that wasn't quite so true when I moved here 5 years ago.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:02:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nice summary (5+ / 0-)
    So yes, my fear of nukes is irrational, because for it to be rational I would have to be able to calculate the exact outcome of a worst case scenario.

    Anyone trying to understand this is quickly overwhelmed.  Two days ago I heard an NPR story about a British environmentalist who was supportive of nuclear energy compared to the alternatives.  I listened to his argument and he was using the casino style comparisons you mention, but worse he talked as if the Fukushima event was over and we knew the final outcome and had the list of wounded, sick and dead.  In the end he never once addressed risks and costs of waste.

    This morning, I spent a good deal of time trying to understand what components of radioactive material are the most dangerous and which ones have the longer half lives.  I haven't got a f***ing clue

    I'm not ready to throw out nuclear energy yet, particularly since any new plants would have 40+ years of design improvements built in.  But questions linger, and "trust us" is not a good enough answer any more.  The hubris of the British environmentalist was that he thought he knew 99% of the facts relevant to making a rational decision.  We need to approach these problems with a lot more humility about what we know and humility about what we think we don't know.

    Support working poor and middle class Americans. Stand up and be counted. Find a rally to join.

    by Satya1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:42:12 PM PDT

    •  I agree with you Satya1 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Satya1, mamamedusa, IM

      It's not a matter of all or nothing. But we should at least have a rigorous and honest conversation, weighing all the pros and cons, rather than just trust the powers that be that everything is fine and perfect. I think if the nuclear industry were a bit more forthcoming about their practices and standards, a lot of people wouldn't feel quite so skeptical.

      •  Ultimately, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, mamamedusa

        what I would like to see is a set of top to bottom studies that assess the complete cost of energy alternatives.  And by complete cost I mean the risk and cost of nuclear waste, health and environmental costs from all sources (asthma, etc), and for oil to be honest we have to make some basis cost assumptions that include our defense budget and lives lost in recent and future wars for resource control.

        I've looked at some of your recent diaries and added you to my stream.  Thanks for the good work and

        Mach's gut.

        Support working poor and middle class Americans. Stand up and be counted. Find a rally to join.

        by Satya1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:22:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There's no global feedback like there is with CO2. (0+ / 0-)

      That makes a huge difference in how bad things can get.

      •  Absolutely, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marsanges, citisven, mamamedusa, IM

        CO2 is huge.  But there is a serious downside to the nuke side that needs to be quantified somehow too.  The risk and storage cost of radioactive materials with half life of a million years is not an easy obstacle.

        I think one of citisven's earlier diaries hits on something important.  Extrapolating from it, I feel we are making a major error if we make 95% of the discussion about CO2 vs. nuclear.  The alternatives are astonishing.  I haven't seen anything about wave generated electricity lately.  Where is the state of that development?  I was in India recently and a relative who works at  a branch of Tata claims their car powered by compressed air will soon be available.

        We (humans collectively) know that in the end we will pay dearly for CO2 and nuclear options.  We need to pay some of that cost in more subsidization of alternatives now.

        Support working poor and middle class Americans. Stand up and be counted. Find a rally to join.

        by Satya1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:46:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome Diary but I almost didn't read it (12+ / 0-)

    because the title led me to believe I'd read yet another tome about how awful coal is and how low the risk from nuclear power was, etc etc.

    You see,  unlike 99.9% of the folks here, I am a survivor of an actual nuclear accident that happened literally 15 miles from my house. It was called Three Mile Island and I was seventeen at the time, having my high school --12 miles (if that) from the cooling towers-- close and told to go home...and do whatever we needed to do.  Most of my neighbors fled for points south. My Dad, God bless him, decided we could trust the local media and we stayed.  Had the thing melted down, we'd probably all be dead by now. Damn sure we wouldn't have stayed today, with the internet, but that's the way it was.

    The situation in Japan is far more critical than what we were facing, but we didn't know what we were facing in 1979. And the longer this goes on, the clearer and clearer it becomes that the authorities and the PhD's and the Engineers all mean well, and they have lots of knowledge to share, but ultimately they don't have a fucking clue what's going to happen.

  •  Lifted from comments elsewhere-- (5+ / 0-)

    I think this is important info, and could be made into a diary, if more sourcing could be found.

    If legit, a very unpleasant coincidence....The EPA is set to raise the PAGs (Protective Action Guides) to levels vastly higher than those at which they are currently set allowing for more radioactive contamination of the environment and the general public in the event of a radioactive disaster.

    PAGs are policies established by the EPA that guide the agency in enforcing the various environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act in the invent of a radioactive emergency such as a nuclear/dirty bomb or factory meltdown like that occurring in Japan.
    The EPA had already established PAGs in this area in 1992. They can be found here. However, the agency now plans to amend and revise these standards this year.

    Because regulatory agencies form their own policies (although they can be directed by either the President or the Congress), there is no requirement to seek Congressional approval for these changes. All that is required is that the agency place the proposed changes in the Federal Register for public comment before it finalizes its draft into legal policy.

    According to PEER  (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the new standards would drastically raise the levels of radiation allowed in food, water, air, and the general environment. PEER, a national organization of local, state, and federal employees who had access to internal EPA emails, claims that the new standards will result in a “nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and an almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63” in drinking water. This information, as well as the emails themselves were published by Collapsenet on March 24.
    In addition to raising the level of permissible radiation in the environment, PEER suggests that the standards of cleanup after a radioactive emergency will actually be reduced. As a result, radioactive cleanup thresholds will be vastly lowered and, by default, permissible levels of radiation will be vastly increased in this manner as well.
    As Michael Kane writes for Collapsenet, the current EPA numbers, as well as those generally agreed upon in the international radiation assessment community, all point to the fact that these increases in permissible levels would create a level of radiation where approximately 1 in 4 people would contract cancer from exposure to them.
    The changes to the 1992 PAGs are not a new attempt by the EPA. The agency attempted similar changes in 2009 but the revisions were stopped largely by a barrage of FOIA requests and a lawsuit filed by PEER. However, in 2009 there was no massive radiation disaster the EPA needed to cover up as there is at the current time. In 2009, the EPA could afford to back off, regroup, and try again at a later date. Unfortunately, it is not likely to react the same way this time around.
    As of the time of this writing, a toxic cloud of radiation has not only reached the US West Coast, but has spread all the way across the country to states like South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Massachussetts. Both the US government and the mainstream media have largely denied any risk associated with the radiation and have actively engaged in covering up the extent to which it has spread across the country.

  •  As tongue in cheek... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marsanges, citisven, Linda Wood, mamamedusa, IM it may sound:

    Which way is the wind blowing?

    Is a very big deal at a failed fission plant.

  •  Cheap & easy energy: SolarRoadways & SolaRoad (4+ / 0-)

    Turn US roads into power plants, and you can generate three times as much energy as the US has ever used at any given time:  The initial costs are steep, but the replacement price gets cheaper as more are made:

    The technology is here today -- SolaRoad is going to implement their own independently-invented version on Dutch bike paths:

    Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

    by Phoenix Woman on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:58:50 PM PDT

  •  Excellent conclusion. (3+ / 0-)
    The pursuit of unlimited energy, mobility and prosperity is the real illusion.

    One bitter fact is two bit hacks populate the third rate fourth estate who are truly the fifth columnists.

    by amk for obama on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:59:34 PM PDT

  •  Risks and Stakes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, marsanges, badger, mamamedusa

    There's a difference between evaluating risks and evaluating the stakes involved.  The day to day risks of nuclear power may (and I emphasize the word may) be small but the stakes are enormous.  People, obviously, will accept higher risks as long as the stakes are less than cataclysmic.  Unfortunately, we've seen that nuclear accidents, even when they do not devolve into their worst cases, at TMI, Chernobyl, and, I hope and pray, Fukushima are always cataclysmic.  They change things forever.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:09:01 PM PDT

  •  Another thing about German nuclear power.... (0+ / 0-)

    The NPT exists in the form it does - with non-weapons states permitted to enrich their own fuel - in order to accommodate German enrichment facilities.

  •  I just need to boil water (6+ / 0-)

    I have this giant turbine that requires pressurized steam to generate electricity with. I just have to boil a huge amount of water to turn the turbine.

    I could easily get some logs and start a fire but it would require a hell of a lot of logs because wood doesn't burn very hot. Plus, it gives off way too much smoke and CO2.

    I could use coal but coal is deep underground and it too gives off too much smoke and CO2.

    I could use oil or natural gas but it too is deep underground. There is a way to burn it which doesn't make much smoke but all of the CO2 is still there.

    I could use concentrated solar energy but it seems like no one wants to fund the project even though the energy source is free.

    OR, I could heat this water with the most complicated, dangerous, expensive manner I can find. If I don't build this plant right, several thousands of people could die. Bankers are somehow falling out of the sky to fund this.

    "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."- Arthur Carlson

    by bobinson on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:29:30 PM PDT

    •  Bankers are not falling out of the sky (0+ / 0-)

      to fund this. Bankers are falling out of the sky to receive money printed by the Fed so that these same Bankers can LEND to the U.S. taxpayer the money with which to guarantee these projects and insure them against all liabilities. The U.S. taxpayer will then pay the interest on the nuclear industry's loans as well as the interest on the National Debt, which will have increased as a result of this racket.

  •  Beautiful diary - Thank You! - I am slightly (6+ / 0-)

    blushing and proud to have my German compatriot writing something very sensible about the wisdom of irrationality ...

    I love good writers and thinkers... I have to admit it. Very nicely written. And pretty honest too.

  • question.....EU used to freak out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    when the Russians would mention anything about natural gas flows......Have the Germans solved that issue?......Hope you have...thanx!

  •  citisven, (4+ / 0-)

    thank you for this beautiful diary. Your humanity clarifies the discussion of this horrifying subject.

  •  Coincidentally (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, Earth Ling, IM

    While I was reading the diary Silbermond's song Nicht Mein Problem was playing, and it contains the line:

    Brunsbüttel fliegt uns um die Ohren

    which I think translates as "Brunsbüttel flies around our ears".

    I picked up somewhere that Brunsbüttel refers to the nucelar plant near the town of the same name in northwest Germany, but had never looked into it.

    It seems to be another nuclear plant with a troubled past, including an explosion in 2001 (probably hydrogen) inside the containment that ruptured a pipe, but fortunately not right next to the reactor itself:

    State Secretary of Energy Wilfried Voigt (Greens) said that such a serious explosion had never occurred before in a German reactor and State Minister for Energy Claus Möller (Social-Democrats) stated: "Three meters [9 feet] farther and Brunsbüttel would never be connected to the grid again". There had been rumors that [reactor operator] KKB deliberately continued operation regardless of concerns about what happened inside the containment vessel.

    So your fears aren't totally irrational.

    We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

    by badger on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:02:36 PM PDT

    •  I hadn't heard of that incident (0+ / 0-)

      but yes, you got the literal translation absolutely right, I think the more proper English expression would be something like "Brunsbüttel is blowing up in our faces."

      I'll have to check out Silbermond, I'm a little behind on the German music scene, I'm permanently stuck in the Toten Hosen era. ;-)

      •  Silbermond -- (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't know that much about German pop music, so maybe they're your equivalent of Britney Spears, but I like them a lot. Toten Hosen seems pretty cool too, but the medieval metal with bagpipes (In Extremo?) I just can't get into.

        Silbermond's earlier stuff is more "romantic teen angst", but the later stuff is more political/social criticism. It's almost all on YouTube. I especially like:

        A Stückl Heile Welt
        In Zeiten wie diesen
        Irgendwas bleibt
        Nein Danke
        Nicht mein Problem

        Mostly live versions.

        My German language is terrible, but there are translations on the web.

        We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

        by badger on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:12:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Baden-Württemberg (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marsanges, citisven, Lawrence, IM

    Nuclear power was far from the only issue.  Many polls in 2010 showed the Greens winning well before Fukushima occurred, though they had been slipping a little bit and the election was forecasted to be extremely close. The nuclear issue sealed the deal, but the Greens would not have won on it had they not already been in a strong position.

  •  Of course, I'm irrational. Citisven, why do you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, etbnc, mamamedusa, Earth Ling

    encourage the insanity of sanity? (snark)

  •  The Precautionary Principle (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, Earth Ling, Linda Wood

    ... seems incompatible with our cultural beliefs.

    By my observation our modern industrial culture trains us to filter out many perceptions of harm. Our culture's widespread inability to perceive subtle or future harm short circuits our ability to understand consequences, and thus biases our ability to make prudent long-term predictions and decisions.

    The Precautionary Principle doesn't seem to fit our cultural frame.

    Thanks for contributing your perspective, citisven.

  •  the 180 rule (4+ / 0-)

    Since today's conservatives live in their public relations-manufactured reality, they are able to take their worst aspects, flip them, and apply those traits to the opposition.
    That's how President Obama became a racist.
    Now amid all the curiously placed network news stories about "good" radiation, it is the nuclear foes who are "irrational."
    All the claims that nuclear power is cheap, safe and green are provably false to any rational thinker. That it is the most socialist of any power sources today -- it wouldn't exist without massive injections of tax dollars -- is just ignored.
    Tons of a witchs' brew of poisons that persist for generations are now being spewed over Japan.
    That's the real reality.

  •  There is a scientific basis for this attitude (7+ / 0-)

    based on many studies demonstrating the accuracy of intuition.  For example, it has been shown that for ER doctors deciding whether a heart attack has occurred, more information does not to lead to better outcomes.  After learning four basic facts, doctors make worse decisions with each additional fact.

    I am not irrational about nuclear power--I was the reactor officer on a submarine.  During my training, I saw the way a little information can lead to poor decision-making.  I saw a technician pouring low-level radiation into a ditch behind the lab while carrying on sneeringly about the irrational fears of the public.  His knowledge of ppm and half-lives was blinding him to what I saw as a completely irrational action.  Knowing a few things can give one the feeling he knows everything.

    I also heard more the once a rationale put forward that information should be kept from the public on the grounds that they would react irrationally.

    I'll tell you one thing, when a nuclear accident is Japan is creating measurable effects in Glasgow, logic is not that necessary to understand that we have a significant problem.

    The great cost of liberal war is clarity.

    by geomoo on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 03:44:57 PM PDT

    •  interesting observation, geomoo (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geomoo, Earth Ling, Linda Wood

      though I don't have any direct empirical data, I tend to agree that our intuition has much more information than our big brains give it credit. It may not win you any scientific debates, but as you say, logic is often just an attempt to explain something we already know. Or as I like to say, the mind searches for what the heart knows. It would be great if more of our engineers were also poets. The world would be less polarized and we would envision much more creative solutions to our predicaments.

  •  There is no cheap power. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, citisven, mamamedusa

    If wind and solar were cheaper than coal and gas, there would be a lot more of it and subsidies would not be needed.  Of course, some of the costs of fossil fuel, especially the costs of climate change, are not being paid by those who produce fossil fuel energy.

    Eventually the price of fossil fuels will go up, since there is only a limited amount.  But by then the costs of global warming might be very large.

    Nuclear is expensive, but eventually (100 years?) it will become cheaper than fossil fuels because there will not be any more fossil fuels.  But in the long run nuclear will only be feasible if nuclear fuel reprocessing is used.  At the present reprocessing is more expensive than just mining more uranium, but the uranium will run out too, and reprocessing would greatly extend the supply of nuclear fuel and greatly reduce the problem of nuclear waste.

    If this country ever started to experience real chronic shortages of electric power, there would be a great demand to do something about it, and most of those doing the demanding will not be very concerned about safety or long term effects.  It might be used as a shock doctrine moment by the conservative movement.

    The real problem is that there are too many people in the world, and those people want more material prosperity.  The world's resources are not up to the task, but people will be tempted to use them with less and less safety and sustainability in an attempt to keep doing business as usual.


    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 04:03:45 PM PDT

    •  I think you're right on (0+ / 0-)

      The question then becomes whether we'll just keep doing business as usual until the ecosystem (and we with it) collapses or whether we'll discover our better, more reasonable angels and start scaling down voluntarily to steer the sinking ship into more stable waters. The pessimist in me says the former, the optimist the latter.

    •  Before (0+ / 0-)

      the modernization of the Midwest, home wind power was the primary source of electricity.

  •  It is not irrational to fear or be (0+ / 0-)

    opposed to things you can't personally control.

    This diary is excessively nuanced.

    •  Of course it is irrational. (0+ / 0-)

      So is music. Lots of stuff is irrational.

      Acting on fears, however, should not encourage wild choices.

      Bad choices such as exporting $ 400-billion a year for oil ??? Every year. Instead of building nukes and buying electric cars ?

      That's one helluva cost for following irrational fear of nuclear power plants. Fear fueled by obvious propaganda campaigns.

      Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

      by vets74 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 06:03:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unprecedented global prosperity is the only humane (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vets74, Earth Ling

    way we will ever get a handle on human population over the long term.  The prosperous nations decline in population over time.

    That means not only reversing economic inequality but actively running the other way which is globally the greatest good for the greater number, and, yes, it means that means for a generation or two you have unsustainable production.

    This is a considered opinion.  I believe that it is only possible for planet Earth to sustain one or two billion human beings in a highly technological regime over a long period of time.

    But there are other, less humane ways of getting rid of the 5 billion person overburden, by neglect or pursuit of policies that don't consider them.

    •  I think the prosperity that gets a handle on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AndyS In Colorado, citisven

      human population is basically access to health care that includes family planning. It doesn't necessarily mean freeways and nukes and air conditioned Walmarts. I too feel that raising the standard of living for people all over the world is a good thing. But it depends on what you mean by the standard of living. I would definitely hope for clean water, health care, nutrition, and democracy. But I'm always amazed that people who work all year in high tech urban environments want to spend their vacations in small villages eating fresh food and hiking in open country, as far away as they can possibly get from Walmart.

  •  Simply one of the best diaries I have read, EVER! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood, mimi, citisven, fidel, IM

    I was onboard with German Nuclear Irrationalism (GNI?) from the get-go.

    A moratorium on existing, older plants and plans for future plants with updated safety reviews and evacuation plans can't hurt.

    I especially liked this:

    Experts know what’s happening until they don’t.

    But this was the bellringer for me:

    But rather than pitting one insanity against another, wouldn’t the most sensible thing be to call the bluff on our collectively adopted myth that we can keep borrowing ever more energy from our planet through increasingly complex methods to feed an economic system based on perpetual growth?

    That is a myth we need to bust.  Perpetual growth just ain't possible, or at least not practical in my opinion.  What is really important in life?  All the gadgets, electronics, cars, and vacations we can consume, or time spent with family and friends walking under sunsets like the one you posted?  Consume, consume, consume starts to sound like a Con to me.

    I also recall seeing 180km/hr from the backseat of a tiny Peugeot 205, as my cousin raced from Frankfurt to Dortmund for a dog show.  God, was I hungover that morning.  Looked at the speedometer, and went back to sleep, and we were there in no time, and thankfully in one piece.  Crazy Germans.  Actually, he is even crazier because he's American

    Great diary, and how is it, as a German, you write English way better than me?  :P

    •  Thanks for the kind words, Jose (0+ / 0-)

      As far as my writing, I was so traumatized by German high school where I always got bad grades in my writing classes that I needed to reinvent myself in another language. It sounds absurd, but there's some truth to it. They really weren't into creative writing so much, it was more about regurgitating the old masters, and I always had trouble understanding Kant, Goethe or Thomas Mann. So when I came to the US (thick accent at first) and my college professors were very forgiving of my bad grammar but enjoyed my prose I thought "wow, maybe there's hope for me." So it's been a 23 year transformation to get to this point where I can get published in English language magazines and hopefully finish my second book soon. I'm a late bloomer, but ultimately doing it in my second language has proven really helpful. It just adds another layer of understanding into the world of words.

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