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Monday, December 10, 2007

The drumbeat gets louder

Repeat after me:

Green + energy security = nukes!

Sure, it's dangerous as hell. And sure, the waste is deadly. But you could fit it in a pickup truck.*

Save the polar bears, and the whales! Go green, go clean, with atomic energy. It's our future!

If there's a problem, FEMA will handle it. Terrorists are not an issue. Creating more radioactive material does not increase the threat of nuclear proliferation. Adding all kinds of heat to our waterways from cooling nuclear plants is not a problem. Our national infrastructure is in such great shape that transporting nuclear waste is not an issue. American corporations will get the job done right. The free market insures success. The agencies who supervise nuclear power will be tireless watchdogs who will stand up to industry. Besides, nuclear science has lots of good karma behind it.

Most importantly, remember that the advocates of nuclear have a long history of leveling with the public. You can count on them to tell you the full story of what they're getting us into.

* - A pickup truck that would kill you in a few minutes if you stood too close to it.

Comments (20)

Jack, Since the NSA is monitoring this, I'd advise you to mention how nuclear power helps the troops. See, we take the depleted uranium and use it to make shells. We've used thousands of tons in Iraq - so technically it's a nuclear war! Some terrorist appeasers among you might point out that many of our soldiers have died or become terribly sick because of exposure to the radioactive dust from the first Gulf War on through the ones we're winning now, but stop quibbling. Freedom isn't free. And besides the half life on the stuff is 4.5 billion years so someday it will be back out of the environment. What could be more green than that? Ask yourself this: Can we afford to wait to see what the world would look like if we didn't use depleted nuclear weapons - fuel that comes from the nuclear power industry? Hell no! Jack, frankly I'm a little disappointed in your patriotism.

Sorry Jack, I'm not with you on this one. I operated a nuclear power plant for the Navy for the better part of six years, with no ill side effects; the possible exception being becoming a lawyer ;-)

Nuclear power is just another way of making heat to boil water, which in turn makes steam to drive turbines that are connected to generators that make electricity. Burning coal, natural gas or oil are just (the very dirty) way we make heat to boil that water now.

Don't get me wrong. Really crappy designs can fail spectacularly. But we don't have that problem in the U.S. And I'm pretty certain that more deaths can be attributed to the U.S. coal industry in the past year than what can be attributed to the entire history of US nuclear power. On balance, I find the fear of nuclear power to be somewhat irrational.

France derives somewhere between 50-90% of its electricity needs from nuke plants. If the French can do this, certainly we can, too. I mean, are we really going to let the French kick our butts on this?

If the French can do this, certainly we can, too. I mean, are we really going to let the French kick our butts on this?

They already have. Back when we were still licensing nuclear power plants --as were the French-- they had way stronger standards for construction. I can't remember specifics, but I remember being dumbfounded that GE would build one reactor to a K-Mart standard for the US, but it was Tiffany all the way for France. Our "regulated" utilities would benefit from the "cheap" electricity...anybody remember when nuclear power was gonna be so cheap we wouldn't need meters anymore?

We can still get cheap nuclear power, fast track a no bit contract to China for materials and construction.

It is wonderful to read all these big guys making fools of themselves, no one can guarantee safety and maintaince standard, and the white elephant in the room is "what to do with the nuclear waste?"

look to france, italy and japanese, they have a sitting time bomb and they tried to ship it to poor countries in africa.

Nuclear waste is a political problem, not a scientific one. It came from "the environment" and one day - with or without our help, it will go back there. Jack's "pickup" would be made of lead and buried miles deep in the earth. There won't be any opportunity to "stand next to it" and nothing would happen to you if you did.

Stand in front of that truck, and it could kill you too! (Even without nukes in it.)

Terrorists are not an issue.

I thought the new trend was that terrorists werent an issue? It was all Dubya, remember?
"Dont fear the terrorists, they're just mothers and fathers..." - Rosie

There won't be any opportunity to "stand next to it" and nothing would happen to you if you did.

No, if you stood next to a pickup truck loaded with spent nuclear fuel rods, you would be dead in about 10 minutes.

No way to make nuclear power anywhere near a safe source of energy with the technology we have today. It appears Al Gore has caused Gwyneth to go "over the top" to accept nukes as an energy source-too bad.

This subject is obviously in Category "B".

Hey Nick, I used to be a nuclear technician in the USAF and now I am a law school graduate. Not an attorney (at least, not at this juncture) though.

Small universe, eh?

According to Jack, you should be dead Gully. How in the world did you survive all that radiation exposure?

"No, if you stood next to a pickup truck loaded with spent nuclear fuel rods, you would be dead in about 10 minutes."
Actually, if one were stupid enough to do this, then it only might be true. The level of shielding and initial level of radioactivity, among other factors, play into this. And you can always just walk away -- the farther you get, the less it affects you.

"Nuclear waste is a political problem, not a scientific one."
This is an absolute truism. The costly delays in nuke plants of the 60's and 70's was mostly due to the paperwork needed to make even minor changes. Imagine if you were building a house and adding or moving an outlet in your bedroom or changing a lamp to a ceiling fan meant you had to get a whole new building permit issued.

btw - you lost me when you said nothing would happen standing next to a pickup of spent nuclear waste. :-P

"they have a sitting time bomb"
What is this supposed to mean? Nuclear power plant designs use fissionable material that is not "fast" enough to blow up like a bomb. If there is a failure at all, the nuclear material gets (very) hot and melts. Any "explosions" you think you heard about were not be nuclear, but rather due to hydrogen or steam pressure. Such explosions would be trapped in a closed-loop containment building.

Contrast to Chernobyl, where they were using a rather flawed design, suffered incredible human failures, and there was NO containment building. This is not the way we have ever built them in the U.S. (or France or Japan)

Gully - yes it is a small world.

No way to make nuclear power anywhere near a safe source of energy with the technology we have today.
This comment (in addition to the truck of nuclear waste narrative) kind of miss the point about why there is resurgent interest in nuclear power: in comparison to other energy sources (e.g. coal and oil), this technology has a much better record of safety AND reliability for providing a base level of power with near ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS EMMISIONS. If we're truly worried about melting polar ice caps, but not enough to ensure we turn off all the lights and start riding bikes everywhere, then nuclear power is where we need to go.

disclaimer - in case anyone is wondering, I'm currently in-house at a software company. Other than the "greenhouse gases are likely causing global warming and probably screwing up the Earth for my heirs and descendants" issue, I really have no interest (pecuniary or otherwise) in nuclear power. I am not shilling for Pacific Power, PGE, or any other utility you can think of.

this technology has a much better record of safety AND reliability for providing a base level of power with near ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS EMMISIONS.

Cool Beans--the silver bullet to the energy problem. Just flush the spent fuel down the loo.

Several problems with your doomsday scenario, Jack:

1) you don't have spent fuel rods if you reprocess, as Britain and France do.

2) the small amount of waste remaining after reprocessing can be essentially neutalized by a process known as vitrification. Essentially, this involves glassing it over in silicate.

3) Adding all kinds of heat to our waterways from cooling nuclear plants is not a problem.

On this issue, if you want to call it one, you are correct. Current designs don't add heat to waterways, though older designs presently in use do. In Florida, the manatees love the heated water outflow from a power plant I visited. They congregate in the area. Do you have some deep-seated hatred - as yet unvented - against manatees? ;-)

All in all, Jack - you may be great at taxes, but you don't seem to know much about nulear technology. And that's not a slam: nobody is great at everything, and everybody has "hot-button" issues.

But nukes aren't something to villify just because they are nukes.

Wind power isn't going to cut it, hydro is terrible, coal is terrible, natural gas is terrible...so if it's all so bad, then how are you going to provide the power to your local Starbucks?

Realistically, you need to embrace Sparky, your atomic friend.

Spare me the condescending cr*p. I happen to know the issues quite well. I'd be glad to argue with the industry lies and half-truths you post, but if you go ad hominem with me again, you're done on this blog.

the small amount of waste remaining after reprocessing can be essentially neutalized by a process known as vitrification. Essentially, this involves glassing it over in silicate.

The radioactivity doesn't go away. The glass waste is pretty much like a spent fuel rod, just with plutonium or uranium taken out. Plutonium and uranium are the least of your problems with spent fuel. The beta and gamma radiating isotopes are far more hazardous, and reprocessing does not eliminate the radiation.

Also, vitrification has been tried for years by the bomb factory boys at the U.S. Department of Energy, and they have had a hard time getting their act together on it.

As it turns out, my first job out of the Navy was as a contractor at the DOE vitrification facility in South Carolina while it was under construction and start-up.

For those who don't know, vitrification is a process for immobilizing really high level radioactive material. Radioactive particulate is mixed with glass (silicate) and other materials that absorb radiation (e.g. boron). The mix is then poured into a large, thick-walled stainless steel cask and sealed off. The plan is (was?) to store these at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

There were some curious technical challenges. I do know that they did start the vitrification process, but its been 13 years since I was there and I have no idea how things have progressed since. I should also note that it was only being used to store the stuff left over after making material for nuclear bombs -- AFAIK it has not been used to store material from nuclear power plants in the US.

In the U.S., spent fuel rods are usually stored on site at the nuclear power plants in pools of cooling water. I think the eventual hope is to centrally store them at more secure facilities. But again, political issues stall the transfer of the materials as nobody wants to allow the transport of the material through their back yard, even though they will be transported under heavy guard in a large container designed to withstand a direct missile attack . Contrast this to the transport of oil in large tanker ships that, even in this post-Valdez era of double-hulled ships, lately cannot seem to keep the oil contained...

btw - the radioactive hazard after vitrification is only gamma radiation from the radioactive decay of uranium and plutonium. Beta radiation cannot penetrate the first few layers of skin, but it is an ingestion hazard.

Max, Nick, I warned you.

Amen, brother Jack -- "...the industry lies and half-truths ...."

If disposal is such a slamdunk, then why has NOT a single ounce of that Earth-poison life-poison been disposed of yet?, after more than 60 years of 'real soon now, we're working on it.' Oh, yeah, store the life-toxic waste "on site" until somebody thinks of something; so, now you notice there is come plutonium accretion in the Columbia River, downstream from Hanford all the way past the confluence with the Willamette. In other near-shore sites, it is IN THE OCEANS ... of the world ... where we eat from. LIARS says this is good. LIARS lie.

In the '50s, Isaac Asimov proposed the vitrification method. Cast the waste in glass 'logs,' carry and bury them in the Mariana Trench where the Pacific tectonic plate is subducting beneath the Philipine tectonic plate, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariana_Trench), and the Earth's own recirculation process can ingest the material, decontaminate it in the core, and return it to the surface in the mid-Atlantic rift 2,500,000 years later.

The nuclear militarism(=hate) industry is what has blocked Asimov's one pragmatic solution, all along. In 2000, glass-ified waste deep-ocean burial actually moved to congressional approval and then the damn warmongering supremacists (read: Bush, Pentagon) came up to the Hill lying that some Scary Enemy Monster could dive down and retrieve the glass logs when we leave them and take the glass apart and get the Nuclear Magic out of them and make TERRIBLE TERRIBLE Scary WeaponBombs out of it and THEY'RE GOING TO KILL US ALL.

And the fear-folly cretins such as comment here and recite massmind media lies in middle-America coffee-clatches, who don't know what radiation is or what's-an-Xray, they shake and tremble and accept the lies because it is the only information they ever obtain. Get some books, attend some classes, listen to knowledge lectures, study the stuff until you comprehend the physics, and then you immediately conclude that the only survival for humankind on Earth is by leaving the stuff in the ground, forget nuclear energy. (Someone claims the credential of having 'studied nuclear stuff while in the military,' army, navy, whatever. That's not a credential, that's a self-condemnation.) Those too lazy to learn knowledge go on wasting life listening to ol' college flunkout LIARS Larson pretending he gets smarter by the stupider he makes his cult of monkey-hear monkey-say parrots.

(A look at the surface of nuclear know-how, not even scratching it: DOE ... acknowledges that some [radiation-ruined Earth] will never be completely remediated .... In fiction, radioactive waste is often cited as the reason for gaining super-human powers and abilities. In reality, of course, exposure to radioactive waste instead would lead to illness and/or death. So the LIARS image that nuclear hellishness makes a 'country' SUPERhuman and SUPERIOR to all other people, when in reality, nuclear-love enslavement is dumbness for imbeciles.)

Not to be ALL derogatory, here are constructive contributions to better mental manner and best healthy life. Take personal responsibility and be self-sufficient, (having extra to help others is post-graduate mastery). Meaning: Lose the loser model ( = thinking somebody else will do it for you), of centralized supply, mass distributed, mass merchandised, you can buy it -- in the case of electricity, DO NOT make it in one place (nuclear, coal, hydro, or elsewise) and sell pieces to everyone; DO make your own, on-site, each demand self-sufficient in its own supply: distributed manufacturing, also known as knowing what you're doing, so if you want to build a nuclear power plant in your backyard, you just go right ahead and build yourself one ... if your neighbors permit it. (In the case of food, abolish supermarkets and drive-up fast food, DO grow your own. Clothes: DO make your own. Money: DO credit yourself.)

In mature worldly sophistication, know that there are NO enemies out to GET you, or your 'country.' Such an idea is embedded in you to train you to fear, so that you are controlled and enslaved by your own fear. "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko. There are NO 'communists' coming to GET you. There are NO 'terrorists' coming to GET you. The world-at-large is NO threat to GET you, life does NOT hate you. You are taught and trained to hate, and to fear, and when the only thinking you can do comes out of your fear-glands, then the hate and fear you find directed at you is from a mirror, every time.

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