Nuclear power - discussion

Please attach you comments and suggestions regarding articles about advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power here below. Comments to the international nuclear energy news are also welcome here.

Thank you!

Wow, only 3 plusses to nuke power

You really show your one sided ness with that lop sided paper. Come on, if nuke power only has those 3, we would have never used it in the first place.

Guess you all are not Fox news, Fair and ballanced?

What are the other advantages of nuclear power?

You are more than welcome to let us know the additional advantages of nuclear power.

Nuclear energy was used under the assumption to find a good solution to the hazardous waste problem. However there is still no solution in sight for the waste problem (just digging radiating waste into the ground for several thousand years is not a solution, that is simply polluting the environment).

In the meantime, sustainable energies have been developed further. There are now better alternatives to nukes and mankind has (hopefully) learned. See also the article about nuclear phase-out . It is time for a change of technology!

Juerg

 

nuclear power

*Discalmer... I'm no expert, I just think Iknow some stuff.*

well, if we are in love with nature's way, digging holes to put unstable isotopes away for a while isn't that bad of a plan. Oh, and i'ts not goign to kill anyone, now is it? (Oklo?)

And I hesitatie to accept the validity of your statment conserning how sustainable a nuclear power infastructure is, especially considering that breeder reactors produce more fisionalble material than they consume, and that the current estimates are around 100,000 years of power (though i'm not sure what scale the ANS used for future energy demands).

Finally, I have yet to see a decent alternative to the conventional method for supplying a base load of power to the nation.

I'm goign to go out on a limb, and say that in the "future"...
There isn't goign to be just one power production method, however the base load will be supplyed by a more central, large, powerstation.
oops, that's what we have now...

Myths of nuclear energy advantages

"well, if we are in love with nature's way, digging holes to put unstable isotopes away for a while isn't that bad of a plan. Oh, and i'ts not goign to kill anyone, now is it? (Oklo?)"

Nuclear energy stations are producing hazardous nuclear waste. This waste has to be shielded from all living creatures (not just from human beings) for more than 10'000 years. The most dangerous nuclear waste even has to be shielded away for 1 million years! You call 10'000 years just "a while"? This is more than 330 generations! We now live in the year 2'007 after Christmas. 10'000 years ago people were living in caves and we still have very little information about that age. I hope this does give a feeling for the time range we are talking about.

How can we be sure that the hazardous nuclear waste will remain stable and well protected for this long time span? For example 25 years ago the chemical industry disposed chemical waste "safely". - However we are already digging out their "safe" disposal sites...

Just an example of nuclear waste handling in France : "Now evidence is emerging that a new nuclear dumpsite in the Champagne region of France is leaking radioactivity into the ground water threatening contamination of tritium and at a later stage other radionuclides. The French nuclear waste authority ANDRA has only a partial inventory of the multitude of existing waste categories, as large quantities have not yet been declared by the main waste producers EDF and Cogema, including spent nuclear fuel or waste from the uranium enrichment industry. Even French government regulators are expressing their concerns over the conditions at both dump sites."

 

Breeder reactors

Breeder reactors are currently not available. 20 years ago we were told "in 10 to 15 years fusion reactors and breeder reactors will be available". Now we are told again "in 15 to 20 years fusion reactors and breeder reactors should be ready for industrial application". Who knows whether in 20 years from now it will be another 20 years to wait for this technologies? Many nuclear scientists came to the conclusion that the application of fusion reactors and breeder reactors is very unlikely within the next 30 to 50 years. There are simply too many technical problems still to be solved.

In addition, using fusion reactors would still generate dangerous nuclear waste. It would only mitigate the problem related to the limited resource Uranium.

In other words: breeder reactors or fusion reactors are not an option. When Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair calls for nuclear power stations, they talk about normal fission reactor technology.

 

The role of nuclear power

Even if many additional fission reactors would be built within the next 20 years, their contribution to mitigate global warming would be very little according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). IEA investigated to which extent the emissions of CO2 could be reduced if politics applied rigorous measures. From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%) . Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.

Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some people propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!

 

Our future life style must be sustainable

We should put full effort into developing sustainable energy technologies further and phase-out nuclear technology . This will open many opportunities and have many positive side effects. It is time for change!

In addition, we will inevitably have to change our behaviour : We should only use as much energy as we are able to produce with sustainable technologies. Demand of energy has to follow available supply of sustainable energy. This will have many positive side effects, too.

 

Breeder Reactors and Fast Breeder Reactors

I am sorry I fail to see your point when you say breeder reactors are not viable.

First of all Breeder reactors are Fission Reactors not Fusion Reactors, true we do not yet have working Fusion reactors HOWEVER breeder reactors are Fission Reactors.

We also have enough weapons grade uranium stockpiled in the US to fuel breeder reactors for several thousand years making uranium for BWR or other types of fission reactors for hundreds of thousand years.

Trash: We dug up radioactivity, why can't we put it back where it was? The trash we produce is less radioactive then the fuel we used. So if it was in the earth before we got it, why can't we simply put it back?

Dreaming of nuclear power

The supply of Uranium lasts for the next 55 years if we do not discover additional unexpected resources of Uranium. All nuclear reactors to be built within the next 10 to 20 years will still be traditional fission reactors.

Breeder reactors are not available. So your statement about weapon grade Uranium could be used for breeder reactors is wishful thinking at best. 

The uranium used for nuclear power plants cannot be used in its original form. It needs a long chain of chemical treatment (enrichment) to make is usable for nluclear power (or nuclear weapons). This is also one of the reasons why nuclear waste from nuclear power plants is thousands of times more dangerous (more radioactive) than the original uranium found in the Earth. So "putting the radioactive waste back to the Earth" is not a simple option.

The problem is more complex than you obviously think. You are actually messing up several things.

Fuel Supply

No doubt that at this point we have a fairly large supply of fuel to power the ractors for now anyway but what happens when we run out of fuels?I mean you make a good point that we are well supplied for a few hundred maybe thousnds of years but still eventually we will run out!We knew since the beginning that one day we would run out of natural resources to produce fuels such as, fossil fuels. How long will we survive without these natural resources that get consumed more and more each second of each day?Hello where have you been this is the 21st century we do not have a large amount of natural rescouces left. I mean seroiuslt take time to think about whats gonna happen!!!Because one day the human race will be extinct because of the very fact people need our natural resouces to survive!!!!!!!!!Please tell me what's gonna happen when we run out?????

Breeder Reactors

I worked as an engineer for GE's Fast Breeder Reactor Sept in Sunnyvale, California for three years, specifically on the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and PLBR (Prototype Ligh Breeder Reactor). Breeder Reactors were never completed because the US Conmgress, at President Carter's direction, killed the program.

Breeders would have worked beautifully - it is a great technology. But hysteria, misinformation, and the success of the media in creating an unfounded fear of Plutonium killed it. (Did you know you can swallow Plutonium and it won't hurt you - it's an aplha particle emitter (Helium nucleus) and won't pass thru a sheet of paper.)

Compared to other sources of base load electricity (always available power), there is none as clean, green, and reliable as nuclear power.

tell me more

tell me more

the 3 pros that you

the 3 pros that you suggested just shows what little research you did on nuclear energy and how many assumptions you have made about it. i would almost guarantee you have never even heard of nuclear reprocessing which virtually rids nuclear resources of their radioactivity. thus negating most of your nuclear waste CONS. this is the most one sided, ignorant article i have read in a while.

Nuclear energy pros and cons

It doesn't help dreaming about technologies, which do only exist in the heads of the nuclear propaganda industry.

What you are mentioning does not exist. It is a fact that nuclear power plants generate dangerous nuclear waste, some of it will be radiating for several hundred thousand years! 

On the other hand, there are many alternatives available to nuclear power. I am talking about renewable energies and energy efficiency. If we invest the same amount of money into energy efficiency and in renewable energies instead of nuclear reactor plants, we can get rid of the old-fashioned nuclear technology and phase the nuclear power plants out.

Other Advantages

Juerg,
What do you propose for clean and green base load electricity if not nuclear? Wind, solar, geo, etc. don't qualify since they are not always available (maybe some day when we have efficient storage capabilities). Do you want to grow biofuels and use up half the world's fresh water supply and farm land? Oil? Coal? Gas?

Green base load electricity

Geothermal energy is certainly available 24 hours per day.

In addition, if you combine wind power from different places you get a very stable mix. There is more than enough experience available in Europe. But the solution cannot be a single technology, it must be a smart mix of different technologies like solar power (photovoltaic and concentrating solar power), wind power, wave power, water power, power from waste, decentralized cogeneration, etc

Many small units are more reliable than a few big ones. For near customers, the reliability is even higher (98-99% of US outages originate in the grid). 

Not only wind power can lose output for an extended period: US nuclear outage is 37 days every 17 months and many units can fail simultaneously and without warning.

In Europe, wind power is already number 1 for new installations for electricity production. In the USA, the market share of wind power was 37% in 2007. 

Juerg

What is to be learned from this blog

1. NUCLEAR ENERGY IS NOT GOING TO WORK.
2. It will not work because,
a. We cannot contain the waste
b. We cannot secure the waste
c. It runs on a limited resource
d. We need to invest in multiple green energies and renewable resources.
3. Nuclear waste kills people, mutations cancer etc...
4. Nuclear energy is an efficient, high generating energy source.
5. We are going to die eventually unless we get cleaner, meaner, greener, and out of using not renewable resources, that are bad for the environment.

THINK OF THE PUPPIES THAT WILL DIE IF YOU DON'T STOP NOW!!!

Nation with nukes

You included a chart that shows which of the nuclear using nations have nuclear weapons. What is the relevance of this chart? What does it have to do with the pros or cons of nuclear engery? Are you trying to make the assertion that because your country pursues nuclear energy, you're more likely to pursue nuclear weapons? If that's the case, we should bomb Iran.

Nuclear proliferation

The article you are referring to is probably "Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons per country ". In this text you can read: ".....it appears to be quite doubtful that using nuclear power for civil purposes is independent from military applications. The graph above seems to rather indicate "the more nuclear power plants, the more likely nuclear weapons".

Nuclear proliferation is a real threat and we should therefore be very reluctant to further applications of nuclear power. Considering on top of that other disadvantages of nuclear energy , we should definitely switch to renewable energies and phase-out nuclear power as soon as possible.

I very strongly disagree with your conclusion that "we should bomb Iran". Military power cannot solve any problem in the world but usually creates many additional problems (see e.g. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq).

However, Iran is a good example to prove that civil and military applications of nuclear power are much closer related than most lobbyists of nuclear energy are willing to admit. Otherwise there would be fewer concerns about the plans of Iran to build their own nuclear power stations.

There is yet another issue with this: Why should some countries be allowed to use nuclear power and others not? Who has the right to decide on this? How can a country be using nuclear power (and even nuclear weapons) and at the same time ban other countries from doing the same? If everyone phased out nuclear technology - both civil and military applications - it would make sense to penalize countries trying to start using it.

Nuclear weapons

The article you are trying to point out is the Nuclear proliferation wherein this article only shows how this nuclear weapons can affect the lives of many people. If there will be the existence of those nuclear weapons, surely bad results will come like discrimination, wars and different kinds of arguments.....

CO2 emissions

I am stunned that this site encourages one of the biggest misnomers in the nuclear debate. Nuclear power DOES produce C02. It comes from mining, transport, creation of fuel rods, building the plant, use of concrete (1kg concrete produces just under 1kg C02), cleaning the place up afterwards etc etc. It has been calculated that a plant using high quality uranium ore will produce about two thirds less CO2 than an energy equivalent gas power station. It is even producing C02 50 years after its stopped producing electricity.

This is an improvement, but it is nowhere near zero. Please adjust your site.

(for a good run down of information and referances, check "Nuclear Power, The Energy Balance", Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith)

Uranium sustainability - is it worth the effort?

quoting a comment on a different page:
"I am a science teacher and have an issue with one of the facts that you have included in your "pros and cons of nuclear power" page. At the bottom of page 1 you write, "The energy for nuclear power is Uranuim. Uranium is a scarce resource, its supply is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years depending on the actual demand." My issue is with the "30 to 60" years. According to the NEI it is relatively abundant. Another site I found said the reserves would last up to 1000 years. I am curious as to your source for the depletion time."

I do not know the numbers, but the anount of uranium on the planet is completely different to the amount of usable uranium ore. Low grade ore requires so much energy and produces so much CO2, that it is less effective than conventional fuel power stations.

The Nuclear industry and its allies often refrain from mentioning these kinds of facts.

Don't get me wrong, Nuclear Power can be a help, but when you look at ALL the evidence and compare it to other alternative energy options, it becomes apparent that the time, money and effort would be better spent on even better forms of energy.

16% of the worlds energy consumption is from electricity. So at MAXIMUM nuclear can only reduce the problem by 16%. We need a much better solution than that, and need to get working on it fast and stop wasting time on the nuclear issue.

Uranium Sustainability

The 30 to 60 years comes from the current market price of enriched uranium. Our current reactors use enriched U-235 which is actually a quite rare element, and so 30-60 years is the supply of u-235 left AT THE CURRENT MARKET PRICE. It has been estimated that if the market price for u-235 doubles (which would still not increase electricity generation cost much) allowing more expensive ways to mine uranium, world supply of u-235 increases to around 300 years. This is still not acceptable however, as this is obviously not sustainable for our descendents. Breeders are a much better alternative because u-238 is very abundant, we have thousands of years worth of this material, (assuming the current world power usage.) While we agree that waste is generated, the idea is to build these plants to allow our standard of living, while also at the same time developing fusion power and cheaper wind and solar alternatives. Nuclear power is currently the 2nd cheapest energy source (behind coal), and we could continue to use that cheap electricity to power electric cars for transportation and for heating in our homes as opposed to coal and oil. Solar and wind are great options, but you must cover huge amounts of land, detracting from the "natural" appearance of the landscape. (just look at the wind farm in Palm Springs, CA.) Then again, what is so "beautiful" about a desert anyways? :)

Supply of Uranium for nuclear power

It is a common misunderstanding that nuclear power is cheap electricity. Read this article about the true cost of nuclear power generation .

Known Uranium reserves will only last for 30 to 60 years. Breeder reactors are not available and it is doubtful whether they will ever be available. For background and details see the report from the German Energy Watch Group of December 2006 with the title "Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy ".

Excerpt from the summary of "Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy":

"Any forecast of the development of nuclear power in the next 25 years has to concentrate on two aspects, the supply of uranium and the addition of new reactor capacity. At least within this time horizon, neither nuclear breeding reactors nor thorium reactors will play a significant role because of the long lead times for their development and market penetration.

The analysis of data on uranium resources leads to the assessment that discovered reserves are not sufficient to guarantee the uranium supply for more than thirty years.

Eleven countries have already exhausted their uranium reserves. In total, about 2.3 Mt of uranium have already been produced. At present only one country (Canada) is left having uranium deposits containing uranium with an ore grade of more than 1%, most of the remaining reserves in other countries have ore grades below 0.1% and two thirds of reserves have ore grades below 0.06%. This is important as the energy requirement for uranium mining is at best indirect proportional to the ore concentration and with concentrations below 0.01-0.02% the energy needed for uranium processing – over the whole fuel cycle – increases substantially.

The proved reserves (=reasonably assured below 40 $/kgU extraction cost) and stocks will be exhausted within the next 30 years at current annual demand. Likewise, possible resources – which contain all estimated discovered resources with extraction costs of up to 130 $/kg – will be exhausted within 70 years.

At present, of the current uranium demand of 67 kt/yr only 42 kt/yr are supplied by new production, the rest of about 25 kt/yr is drawn from stockpiles which were accumulated before 1980. Since these stocks will be exhausted within the next 10 years, uranium production capacity must increase by at least some 50% in order to match future demand of current capacity.

Recent problems and delays with important new mining projects (e.g. Cigar Lake in Canada) are causing doubts whether these extensions will be completed in time or can be realized at all??

In case only the proved reserves below 40 $/kt can be converted into production volumes, then even before 2020 supply problems are likely. If all estimated known resources up to 130 $/kgU extraction cost can be converted into production volumes, a shortage can at best be delayed until about 2050."

And a last remark: According to the WEO 2006 report nuclear energy is considered to be the least efficient measure in combating greenhouse warming! We should therefore focus on other technologies to mitigate global warming and in particular change our own behaviour .

In answer to your question

His source is quite reliable, the amount of uranium NOT in bombs will last us 30-60 years pending on amount of use. Even if we used the uranium from these bombs it would last 1000 years, but still run out. The amount of harmful waste from this etc, will be terrible for our environment and us as a people and a whole. The answer is green it clean it or die.

nuclear energy discussion

i need it for my school report!

Lend me your ears!!!

Before anything else, I just want to greet everybody a Gorgeous Day!!!!!
I am a student of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela. I just want to give my simple opinion and idea though I know I'm not in the position, I'm just a mere student.
This is my idea,
Those Nuclear Power Plants are really controversial.I am aware that those stuffs will really help and contribute to the welfare and development of our electricity's progression but we should also bear in our mind that these things are very, very dangerous and fatal. We should not sacrifice our lives just for those nuclear power plants because we still have other sources of energy which are harmless and more convenient to use. I should like to persuade everybody especially those people who are on the position to please stop the use of these Nuclear Power Plants. Let's end the EXISTENCE of NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS!!!! LET'S SAVE OUR DEAREST EARTH!!!
We have responsibilities to do, that is to preserve and to protect the earth NOT to destroy it!!!
..........I have a question, which do you think is more important, the conveniences and benefits we can get from those power plants or our lives?!!!
Come to think of it!!! we should be contented enough on what we have now!! We dont need to sacrifice our lives just for that.

Is nuclear power sustainable?

Freedom, progress, civilization and prosperity demand allowing everyone in the world to have
as much energy as they can afford. Limits to energy are limits to
Nuclear energy can supply a Kwh at 4 cents US, so 20,000 Kwh/year is $800 US.
This is well within means of many people around the globe.

What if we wanted to make sure that each person in the world could get that energy without
creating a global warming issue? Simple. 7 billion x .25Kw = 1,750 GW.
We would need to build 1,750 1GW plants. This can be done over 40 years at a cost of $60 billion/year.
($2 billion/ plant).

Nuclear power is sustainable power. It can be used productively, safely and without environmental harm for thousands of years, and the use nuclear fuel can be re-used as fuel again and again, to get 60 times the energy per kg of Uranium as compared with the current system.

Nuclear power is no solution and not sustainable

The International Energy Agency (IEA) investigated to which extent the emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.

From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). One of the main reason according to IEA was the lack of capacity to build more nuclear power plants within a relatively short time frame. Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.

This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.

Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some people propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!

The cost of nuclear power is high

Electricity from nuclear energy is considered to be economical and very cost effective, in particular compared to electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, water, sun, biomass or geothermal energy. There are two main reasons for the relative low cost of nuclear power:

  • Research and development for nuclear applications has been financed by the government, therefore these costs don't get transferred to the cost of electricity produced from nuclear power. However the cost of R&D for renewable energy sources is mostly financed privately and therefore added to the production cost. It is therefore included in the cost of renewable electricity.
  • Nuclear power plants are underinsured for legal liability. The risk for nuclear catastrophes is not carried by the owner of the nuclear power plant, it is carried by the whole nation. Electricity from nuclear power would cost at least twice as much than today if operator companies of nuclear power plants were to insure the plants for the real risks.

True costs should be compared, at least for the evaluation of technologies for new plants. The inclusion of full cost of risks also for nuclear power is a must. Otherwise apples are compared to peares.

It is evident that comparing true costs will dramatically reduce the attractiveness of electricity from nuclear plants compared to all other sources. And it can also be expected that the nuclear industry with their strong lobbying organisations will fierily fight against this comparison of true costs.

However atomic energy has been subsidized long enough. It is high time for the use of renewable energies, even more so when a fair cost comparison alone makes nuclear electricity unattractive! In addition to economics, all ecological reasons speak for renewables.

Is Nuclear Power Safe? Workers Terminated for safety issues

In 1991, a nuclear power plant was relaxing industrial safety to a point of allowing free climbing in the nuclear plant because to comply with OSHA was too expensive.

A Nuclear Safety Specialist, frustrated by the plant management who threatened his job if he would NOT take out the recent OSHA requirements and resend the procedure to the plant committee, brought that issue to a friend who was a Nuclear Quality Auditor at the plant. That was the start of showing the plant staff that the Federal Provisions for protection of Nuclear plant workers was not only ineffective, but the Federal Administrative Law Judges would allow the plant to come up with any excuse for terminating nuclear whistle blowers. The first excuse was declared to be non-existant, the secondard excuse was for the nuclear worker following the direction of the computer divisions request. Should that be an immediate termination excuse?

Worst than that the Judge (ALJ) in 1991, determined that the company broke and twisted the whistleblower protection for nuclear workers, to be used and admonishment against the employees and the company were the victors and the employees were in the wrong, for what?

Later after the termination the very deliberately made unsafe procedure (incidently the procedure was approved with the safety requirements in it and then weeks later re approved without the safety requirements) was followed by an employee only 6 months later, and the employee fell to his death. The plant review committee demanded the rewriting of the procedure (nuclear worker protection was violated, the charge of the plant review committee was violated, there was a conspiracy which resulted in death of a worker, the OSHA fined the plant $20,000 and the plant was happy.

Further and more details, after the termination while the process was still going, my vehicle was tampered with twice and once was very dangerous; the brake fluid was taken out. The whole brake system was brand new, and after I put fluid back in and bleed the brakes the whole system was great for the whole year. There were no tampered lines, the hood was raised and the fluid was extracted from the master cylinder. What a surprise when I went to go to the doctors.

Nuclear power has rules but the companies are too over bearing - they can consipre to violate their charter - to review procedures and require them to be current and following all of the regualtions. The Administrative Law Judges are following the plants, not the facts.

There is more information, I was blacklisted for years and have not been able to get similar employment since. I was an effective auditor, trying to have safe nuclear power; obviously the federal government is not serious about nuclear workers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was tipped off some time before the termination, and they contacted me at home while I was on vacation. This is another serious situation that the power industry is aware is a point in time that they are not to terminate an employee, but they did aqnd got away with it.

If there is any interest in more details, or more information please contact me.

Edward Jones
ejones07@socal.rr.com

Subsidies for Nuclear Fuel

One of your replies to a correspondent summarizes two ways in which costs for electricity generated
by nuclear power facilities are subsidized by national governments-- research and development of
technology and under insuring liabilities for disaster, etc.

But my question is this: is the production of enriched uranium fuels for use in nuclear reactors
controlled and subsidized by national governments due to the technology involved, the risk of
misappropriation of enriched products, etc. or is there a purely commercial trade in enriched uranium
rods for use in reactors for the production of electricity that is not subsidized by taxpayer dollars
or tax credits or deductions?

I commend whomever made the point about the greenhouse gas costs of the mining or and production
of the uranium oxides that get refined into fuel. The nuclear proponents do not seem to acknowledge
this cost in CO2 emissions and in the resulting pollution due to waste tailings with their radioactive
burdens. An Australian film called "Climate of Hope" spends some useful time describing this issue.

mullino

Weapon Manufacturing out of Fission Biproducts Con

I fail to see your con viewpoint that it is possible to manufacture devastating weapons out of the biproducts of Civil Reactors, so therefore commercial plants should not be used for electricity production. The vast majority of Light Water Nuclear Facilities run fuel enriched to 3-5% U-235. Uranium would have to be enriched to at least 20% to possibly obtain critical mass, with an engineering miracle. The only facilities that operate using HEU fuel are for military applications, such as ships, or for research, and therefore are strictly secured and governed. And even spent fuel from Civil Reactors are highly restricted, so I really don't understand your viewpoint that we shouldn't have reactors because the spent fuel might be used to make a weapon.

Nuclear proliferation - nuclear power

In the article "Nuclear proliferation in a nutshell", you find a good summary about the relation of civil nuclear power application and nuclear proliferation. It's main issues are:

  • Nuclear power makes widely and innocently available all the key ingredients of nuclear bombs (fissile materials and the technologies, knowledge and skills to produce and process them)
  • Without civil nuclear power, these ingredients would be harder to get, more conspicuous to try to get, and politically far costlier to be caught trying to get, because the reason for wanting them would be unambiguously military. (Think about Irane and North Korea. Are'nt both of them saying they only want to apply nuclear power for civil reasons?)
A world without significant nuclear commerce would make nuclear proliferation not impossible but vastly more difficult—and easier to detect timely  

 

I was reading all of this

I was reading all of this information, and I thought it was an extremely interesting debate. However, no one mentions anything about things like coal power, and I thought that this bears mentioning.

In the United States today, coal is one of the largest means of supplying electricity, far more than any single other type. Now, I agree that if things like solar and wind could be effective at supplying the entire country, there would be no need for a power grid, or nuclear power, or coal power, or anything else. Everyone could just have their own little solar plant on the roof of their house, and all of the problems could be solved. But solar and wind are not effective enough at this time to do that. We need to continue to put money into these technologies so that one day they can pay off, but for now, they cannot supply enough power for everyone to use. So we need to have some way to create that power in the meantime. Maybe nuclear isn't the best way to do that, but it is so much better I think than using coal.

Here are a few links I though were very good in favor of nuclear power, the author is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and he really does know what he is talking about. Every single fact I checked in his paper is true, and I would say it is biased in favor of nuclear power, but exceptionally accurate. The articles are a little outdated, but the physics behind everything is still just as true today as it was 20 years ago

http://russp.org/nucpower.htm
http://russp.org/nucfacts.html
http://russp.org/BLC-1.html

Some excerpts from these links:

"For a given amount of energy produced, coal ash is actually more radioactive than nuclear waste. How can that be? Simple. The quantity of coal ash is literally millions of times greater than the corresponding quantity of nuclear waste, so even though the radioactive intensity of the coal ash is much less, the overall amount of radiation and radioactive matter is greater."

So you can see that the argument about nuclear radiation, while always a problem, is actually GREATER with coal ash than with nuclear power.

"But nobody worries much about the radioactivity of coal ash because the chemicals in it are far more dangerous. They include several thousand tons per year of mercury and other heavy metals, along with huge amounts of lead, arsenic, and asbestos, for example. Yet even the huge quantities of chemical waste in coal ash are of little concern compared to the gaseous emissions from burning coal, which kill an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 Americans every year, depending on which study you believe."

"nuclear waste would indeed be "dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years" if we were stupid enough to leave it lying around untreated, but did someone forget to mention that coal ash is dangerous forever? That's right: solid chemical waste never decays. It will be as dangerous in ten million years as it was the day it was generated. And there is so much of it that we have no choice but to leave it lying around untreated. "

"Coal-fired power is many thousands of times more dangerous and harmful to the environment than nuclear power. Does that mean coal-fired power should be stopped? Absolutely not. Even coal-fired power is far better than no power at all. Without economical electric power, we will rapidly degenerate into a third-world nation, and average lifespans will drop precipitously. Even though emissions from coal-fired power costs many lives, the net effect of coal-fired power is to extend average lifespans. The point is not that coal-fired power is bad, but rather that nuclear power is thousands of times cleaner and safer. "

In my mind, after reading these articles as well as many others, I don't know if nuclear power is the way to go. However, coal power is certainly much worse, and we should worry about getting rid of that before nuclear power.

Nuclear power's biggest advantage? Its not coal.

Nuclear and coal power are to be phased out

I certainly agree with you and anybody else that coal power is not a viable alternative to nuclear power. But why don't you take a closer look to better alternatives? It does not make sense to compare atomic energy only (or mainly) with coal power plants.

It is simply not true that renewable power sources (like e.g. wind power, water power, waves power, tides power, solar power, wood, biomass, etc.) could not supply enough energy.

  • Step 1 must be to increase energy efficiency, because about 30% to 50% of the end-use energy is just lost.
  • Step 2 must be to assign funds for further developing and implementing alternative renewable power sources. Currently, nuclear power is highly susidized by governments but alternative renewable sources are mainly being developed by private investments only. This is unfair.

The big energy suppliers world-wide are fighting to keep their current influence and power. They can only keep it if  our future energy needs are fulfilled with large centralised power plants. But it would be much smarter to have a large number of decentralised plants producing the electrical power locally from renewable sources as mentioned above. This is indead feasible as a high number of scientific studies have shown. It is mainly a matter of setting priorities and allocating the resources.

Juerg

See also:advantages of nuclear phase-out

 

I agree that the ideal

I agree that the ideal situation would be decentralizing the entire distribution of electricity. It would make three phase AC power unessesary, which would have certainly been nice when I had to do all the ridiculous mathmatical calculations for my power class! It would reduce losses and would be much more simple to control and take care of. I can see this as the ultimate goal for power across the world. But right now, the technology is just not there to supply enough power. While everyone should conserve energy and try to reduce waste, it is impractical to think that the total energy output is going to go down by 30 to 50 percent. Everyone just does not care like you or I do about the environment and preserving the earth.

I agree that we must increase energy efficiency. I also agree that funds need to be allocated to renewable energy sources, or they will never become mainstream. But I disagree with you on a few points.

Most renewable power sources are localized, that is to say that tide and wave power are only useful by the ocean, and solar is only useful in a few very sunny places. Wind is very localized as well, because you need certain wind speeds, not too fast but just fast enough. I have also heard that they are loud and noisy, and no one would want to live near one (although I've never seen a wind farm before, so I cannot say for myself). Wood is certainly almost everywhere, but it does take a long time to grow enough to burn. Biomass is good too, but again, not enough to do too much. All together, they can supply as certain percentage of the needed power, but because of the limited areas to use each one, I don't think that they are practical for large scale power supply in the near future.

I did some reasearch on solar power in Pheonix AZ, one of the sunniest places in the United States, and a good candidate for solar power, and while I don't remember the numbers, the space required to power just pheonix was so large as to be impractical, and when you consider losses over the distance to the city, it would many many times more expensive than the energy from Palo Verde, the nearby nucular power plant. I think that people are not going to be willing to pay more when they don't have too.

Hydroelectric is the only one I can think of that can (and does) supply a significant percentage of energy. Especially in China, if I reall correctly. But again, it is still localized, you need a high head or fast moving water to make that work.

Also, I looked up the facts on the government subsidies of various types of power, and I found the following: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/energy_subsidies.cfm

Renewables recieved about 4.9 billion dollars in subsidies in the United States, while nuclear power recieved around 1.3 billion dollars. But numbers alone can be decieving, so let's look at the amount of government subsidised dollars per megawatt hour, which is far more revealing, because each type of power gives a different percentage of the power to the country, and so it is a better measure of how much money they recieve vs. how much energy they supply.

(in Dollars/MW hour)
Natural Gas and Petroleum Liquids- 0.25
Coal - 0.44
Hydroelectric - 0.67
Biomass -0.89
Geothermal - 0.92
Nuclear - 1.59
Wind -23.37
Solar - 24.34
Refined Coal -29.81

From this you can see that there really is no comparison: when you combine all of the renewables it is not even close to the amount nuclear gets: it is far greater. The US government really is trying to encourage renewable energy sources, and they have been for a long time. But they just have not payed off yet. I am sure that in other countries there might be a different story, but I am not familiar with the power systems in those countries, so I did not do much research on them, especially Switzerland (and I would love to have some data if you have it handy!) I tried to look it up, and could not seem to find the data on subsidies.

On a side note, I was not trying to compare just nuclear to coal in my last post. I was only pointing out that if someone is putting forth the energy to stop a particular form of power, in my opinion it should be coal, not nuclear, because coal power is much worse for both people and the environment. And when that is totally phased out, then bring attention to nuclear.

I also noticed in your link that you discuss in depth the number of jobs created by switching to renewable resources, and I wanted to touch on that too. To me, the number of jobs created is not the issue. It is certainly something that cannot be totally ignored, but as I see it, the issue is saving the environment and this planet we live on. It is the number one most important thing this generation can do. Nuclear is currently the best way i can see to do that. Coal and gas power are the ones I think everyone should be fighting to reduce.

Also, I would love to read the studies that show the feasibility of decentralised plants from renewable sources, if you happen to have them handy. Sounds like something I would really be interested in, as well as useful for me for staying aware of what is going on around me!

Studies about renewable energy supply

You are asking for the studies. Unfortunately, most of them are in German language, however the following links are in English and might show the direction:

I might post some more links later...

Completely Misleading figures about subsidies

To the comment from Anonymous "I agree that the ideal..."

Your "facts on the government subsidies" are for the year 2007 alone. The table for subsidies only shows figures for the year 2007. Why don't you mention this? I am sorry, but you are trying to mislead people.

If you just look at one single year (2007), it is clear that any developed and established technology looks good because it received little subsidies in that particular year and on the other hand it produced a lot of electrical energy. On the other hand new and promising technologies receive higher amounts of subsidies but they still produce small amounts of energy (this is simply because they are new and not yet established).

If you look at the cumulative subsidies, i.e. the subsidies of the last 30 or 50 years alltogether, you would find out that no other technology to produce electrical energy has received more subsidies than nuclear power!

So again: The figures in the comment from Anonymous with the title "I agree that ideal..." are misleading and the conclusions are wrong.

Confusing Opinion with Fact

I would say that maybe you too are a little bit misguided about the facts and figures. You cannot compare the past to the present: the past cannot be changed. It is the present we have to work with. So I think that you might be right about the amount of subsidies that nuclear power has recieved, although I have not run the data myself, and if you have, I would like to see the figures you came up with. But I think that it is actually more accurate to look at one year than the entire thing together. Renewable energy sources have not been a source of any significant percentage of power for as long as nuclear power has been, and so it has presumably not been recieving subsidies as long. So it could make sense that nuclear has recieved more. Of course, if you try to include the Manhattan Project into the sums of government subsidies, it has recieved phenomenal amounts of money, but that is not a fair comparison because generating electricity was not what they were trying to do, and the fact that they could use that same energy to create electricity was a byproduct of a war effort.

So I find myself confused as to what your post is trying to accomplish, other than insult the people who were having a friendly debate about something everyone knows no one will change their minds about. If you think that renewable energy sources should be recieving more money because they have great promise? Well, your request has already been granted. That is how it is now. Whatever happened in the past is exactly that: the past. You cannot change it. But you can change the present. Which is exactly what the United States Government appears to be doing, and no one can ask more for more than that.

I think that the conclusions are not nessesarily wrong just because someone only gave only the most recent data avalible to them. That person at least had proof to back up a claim. Where's yours?

Ooops

There are several major problems with your article on nuclear power:

1. You only listed two costs advantages. Both of which were spun to be negatives against nuclear power. One simple one that comes to my mind is that we (the United States) have great uranium reserves. That means that we can don’t have to transport the fuel around the globe (which reduces fossil fuel use). Since we don’t have to buy the fuel from countries that are not always friendly to us and we have lower transportation cost. The fuel is cheaper.

2. In Europe, yes, they are phasing out some nuclear power plants. You said that they are being shut down due to fear surrounding nuclear power. I don’t understand. There hasn’t been a significant nuclear power accident in almost 30 years. Why weren’t they shut down then? Why wait a generation? Maybe it has to do with their government education or waiting for the ruling party to swing in the left direction. While they have reduced their dependence on nuclear power, they have increased their use of natural gas. A large amount of that natural gas comes from Russia through pipelines that run through the Ukraine. Wait a minute. Was that the same pipeline that Russia threatened to shut down in response to a dispute with the Ukraine? Sounds like that shift to natural gas is a great idea for Europe.

3. Your assumption that nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons was based on the fact that 4 out of the top 6 countries with nuclear power have nuclear weapons. Six is not a normal number for groups (unless we are talking about beer). Why not use a number like 5, 10 or 15. Oh, that’s right because it doesn’t make your assumption look as good (3/5, 5/10, 6/15). Why not just argue that nuclear power does not lead to nuclear weapons? Less than half of the top 15 countries with nuclear reactors have nuclear weapons.

4. I’m going to be honest. I haven’t read the German government study that says that nuclear power causes cancer. I don’t know what sources they used or how they played with the numbers. I do remember other government studies that said that cigarettes do not cause cancer. I know that the US Navy has the largest volume of nuclear power exposure data in the world. Why do they keep it? It is because every once in while a crack-pot lawyer gets a client to sue them for his lung cancer (and please forget that the guy probably smoked for 50 years). The US Navy is able to show that people exposed to naval nuclear power do not have a higher incident of cancer. In fact, there are able to so something different. Personnel on submarines receive less overall exposure. They receive minimal exposure from the reactor, but they do not receive and exposure from the sun, cosmic rays or radon. In this case people living in a metal tube with a nuclear reactor in the middle receive less exposure that the average person.

I’m not going to dispute any more of your article. It’s not because I agree with any of it or that I think it’s correct, I am just tired of reading this crap.

I will say that I do agree with your push for solar power concentrating plants. If we could just get the environmentalists out of the way we would already have a huge one in Arizona.

I know that your article has probably swayed many people away from nuclear power. Good for you. However I think it would have been better written as “I think nuclear power is the devil and I’m going to pretend to present it in a unbiased manner”

9/11 Correction

You said that no Nuclear Power plant in the world can withstand the strike of an aircraft, yet there if you read a description of a plants reactor core protection:

The reactor core is contained within a 9-inch thick steel pressure vessel. The pressure vessel is surrounded by a thick concrete wall. This is inside a sealed steel containment structure, which itself is inside a steel-reinforced concrete dome four feet thick. The dome is designed to withstand extremes such as earthquakes or a direct hit by a crashing airliner.

Crashing civil airplane on nuclear power plant

The crashing airliner you mentioned is according to my information a military aircraft. However a civil airplane as e.g. a Jumbo Jet with fuel tanks filled up is a much bigger threat due to its much larger weight and this was definitely not taken into account.

In France, the official answer was first that a ractor shell could withstand a crashing civil aircraft. But later, French gouvernment had to admit that this kind of threat for a nuclear power plant was indeed never taken into account during the design of the plant. Later, independent studies showed that a fully-fueled Jumbo Jet crashing on a nuclear power reactor could indeed destroy the reactor shell.

But let's hope there will never be such an incident! 

Jumbo jets

It is true that containment domes were not specifically designed to withstand a jumbo jet ramming them. It is also true that they can easily sustain a strike from a smaller aircraft. Truth be told there would be significant damage to reactors containment dome and possibly some damage to the reactor vessel itself, however the chances of this actually propagating to a point that endangers the public safety is very small. In the engineering world you design something for all the hazards you can identify, then you over-engineer the design to account for things you forgot about. Containment domes are very robust structures that would minimize the amount of damage done to a nuclear plant, and essentially eliminates the possibility of having a Chernobyl scale accident.

nuclear power isn't so bad

The person who wrote the article is a little biased, i might say. there are more advantages than just those two though the disadvantages are clear. scientists are developing very safe ways to develop nuclear energy while also creating Yucca Mountain which will store all the waste. Nuclear power is also much better for the environment than burning fossil fuels.

Better alternatives to nuclear power

You are saying nuclear power is not so bad.

The fact is there are better alternatives to nuclear power:

  • Efficient use of electricity (or of any energy in general), negawatts
  • wind power (already no. 1 world-wide in terms of newly installed (added) electrical capacity)
  • solar power (concentrated solar power or solar cells on the roofs)
  • water power
  • combined heat and electrical power generation

All these alternatives don't share the drawbacks of nuclear power (high costs and high risks). Just think about: why is the private sector not investing in nuclear power? - It's simply because such an investment doen't make sense.

Nuclear Power and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

I agree with the conclusion of this article: while nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, it still produces them over its life-cycle. Furthermore, it physically can't be the only solution for energy deployment. I read a study that said there are limits to how fast an energy technology can grow, and nuclear can't grow fast enough to meet demand while replacing coal energy too.

The study I mentioned is posted here:
http://inderscience.metapress.com/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,6,6;journal,2,6;linkingpublicationresults,1:119992,1

With another similar conference paper here:
http://me.queensu.ca/people/pearce/publications/documents/asp3.pdf

Nuclear Power

In a report within a text used for a college class for Energy and the Environemnt - Nuclear Power through the use of U-235 as found in the earth's crust at the present rate of world growth will last for about 2000 years. If U-238 is used in breeder reactors the time goes to somewhere over 2 million years.
Other than the humans that work at the plant the CO2 emissions are about 0.
New nuclear fuel is radioactive but you have to eat it to harm you, and I mean eat pounds of it.
Spent fuel is highly radioactive for several hundred years then we are back to eating it. The US standards are based on natural background being the standard for protection, rather than on human risk, difference of 10's of thousands of years.
A nuclear reactor works on 2-3% enrichment a bomb works on 99.99% enrichment, it is easier to buy natural uranium and process it than it is to try and process uranium oxide fuel used in commercial reactors to make a bomb. Gee I think that is where all the oddball countries got there's. Let's try and not blow smoke OK.

Dreaming about future applications of nuclear power

There is one big problem with what you are saying: The technology you are describing does simply not exist! You are talking about science fiction! World-wide, there is not one single reactor, which could use U-235 without extensive pre-processing. Uranium reserves only last for about 50 years, if the current consumption is maintained (and not increased).

And another No: spent fuel is highly radioactive and needs to be shielded away from human beings for 100'000 years. It is extremely dangerous material. You don't have to eat it, to die. You are completely wrong and trying to mislead other people.

On the other hand, there are plenty of alternative technologies available without these immense risks. Have a look an renewable energies. They are both less expensive and less dangerous. But first of all, we are to use the energy more efficiently, on average 50 to 70% of the energy is just wasted in inefficient processes!

Wait a Minute!!!!

STOP THE EXISTENCE OF THESE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS!!!!!
BECAUSE THAT'S THE BEST THING TO SOLVE THESE UNWANTED PROBLEMS WE ARE FACING NOW ESPECIALLY THE NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION!!!!!

Nuclear Energy

There are problems with nuclear energy just as there are problems with other kinds of energy. We should work to solve these problems with all forms of energy including nuclear energy. If it is fossil fuels, then the problem is global warming and we need to put the best minds on this problem. If it is wind power, the problem becomes generating the needed amount of power at a competitive cost and we should work on it. If it is solar power the problem is the efficiency of the conversion process and we should work on it. If it is nuclear energy, it is the problem of waste storage. It would be foolish not to work to try to solve this problem.

Right now breeder reactors produce more fuel than they consume, which obviates your point of the limited amount of naturally occurring fissionable uranium. Also they produce percentage wise far less waste and waste that has far shorter radioactive half lives than the original Uranium reactors now in existence. I am not saying that the new reactors have solved all problems - they clearly haven't. What I am saying is that technical problems can be solved. New breeders are operating in France and being built in China. When people 1st learned to fly, they flew very poorly. Now a relatively short time later people have machines that fly very well.

Given the need for our planet to have large quantities of eco-friendly energy you should not poo-pooh any one kind - we need to investigate ALL of them and ensure that they meet our ecological goals.

Solar vs Nuclear

I noticed a comment on using Solar power instead but you would have to create enormous fields of solar cells to equal the amount of energy produced by a nuclear power station and this is completely unfeasible as these would have to be constructed and materials for them would have to be located and transported.

Concentrated solar power DESERTEC

Such a project does indeed exist in Europe. See here for details about the DESERTEC project.

DESERTEC is the name of a proposed large scale solar power project. Under the proposal, solar thermal energy collectors (not solar cells) would be located in the deserts of North Africa and would provide Europe with one sixth of its electricity. This is the combined power of dozens of nuclear power plants!

In other words: When you call such a project "completely unfeasible" you are wrong.

Key word you used is Proposed

They haven't started building it plus the countries of the Sahara are NOT friendly to most of the European nations. Would yo want to trust your electricity supply to your enemy?