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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Guess what's back?

Safe, clean, cheap nuclear power.

Comments (3)

NYT article: Is it safe? No, not entirely. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl demonstrated that, and there are also risks from terrorist attacks.

JK: Chernobyl has no relevance to nukes here. We quit using that design right after WWII because of its safety problems. That the Russians continued using it is just another reminder of how truly awful government can be.

NYT article: Then again, the world now has a half-century of experience with nuclear power plants, 440 of them around the world, and they have proved safer so far than the alternatives. America's biggest power source is now coal, which kills about 25,000 people a year through soot in the air.

JK: He is being kind here. He leaves out the other things that coal puts in the air:

“Coal ash is composed primarily of oxides of silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium, arsenic, mercury, and sulfur plus small quantities of uranium and thorium.” (Quoted from oOak Ridge Natrional Lab report at http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

Note the presence of:

JK: The high level of these pollutants are the direct result of the anti-nuke people stopping nukes without considering the side effects. (Of course some coal would still be used even if we had lots of nuke plants.)

Well, China's counting on it to run their e-cars, and they expect a generating plant designed for safety first can still be productive.

As for terrs, two solutions: instead of Homer Simpson, put a platoon of Marines in for plant security. Alternate one platoon ('Gold Team') with another ('Blue Team'), with the platoon that's off duty running training exercises in a replica of the plant with weapon simulators (like MILES gear), against a 'Red Team' of simulated terrs. Rotate the Red Teams around the country so the security teams get different and innovative challenges. Cheaper than a Chernobyl, or all the cancer death from burning coal for power like much of the East does.

While nuclear fission might be a *component* of future energy, it shouldn't be viewed as the savior. We need a diversified set of energy generators, so that a problem that develops in one segment isn't crippling. Moreover, small energy consumers (such as most residences, offices, and retail buildings) should be encouraged to be microproducers. A windmill in every yard. Attach a generator to every downspout. Solar (active and passive) on every roof. Assuming these projects are cost-effective, of course; there's no point to require these measures if they cost more than the status quo.

Back to nukes: I don't know that nuclear fission will ever be cost effective under the current conditions. If you add up the cost of all the legal battles, the siting process, the construction process, the spent fuel problem, decommissioning, insurance, security, etc., I'd be surprised if a new nuclear plant would make money compared to the alternatives. Of course, most energy plants will have similar problems, but they tend to be much higher with nuclear fission.

We'll need to change the current political & emotional conditions dramatically before we start seeing nukes popping up. I don't think we hurt enough yet to accept the trade-off. Maybe when gas hits $10 a gallon, and your monthly electricity bill starts to approach your rent/mortgage we'll accept the trade-offs. But not before then. There's too much negative emotion attached to nukes right now.

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