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'No Quick Fix' From Nuclear Power 615

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the it-couldn't-hurt dept.
humoly writes to tell us BBC News is reporting that while many are calling for nuclear power, new nuclear plants are not the answer to combating climate changes or the wavering energy concerns for the UK. From the article: "The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report says doubling nuclear capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035. The body, which advises the government on the environment, says this must be set against the potential risks. The government is currently undertaking a review of Britain's energy needs."
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'No Quick Fix' From Nuclear Power

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  • by conner_bw (120497) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:26PM (#14872250) Homepage Journal

    An interesting discussion on nuclear power [slashdot.org] and, subsequently, alternatives from a couple of weeks ago, currently at 845 comments.

  • by RedHatLinux (453603) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:26PM (#14872255) Homepage
    do not Exist.

    While I was shocked how little nuclear power would reduce emission and the fact apparently intelligent people thought this would be a silver bullet deal, it should not surprise anyone that

    There is no quick fix. A lot of things have to change, like our automobile usage, suburban lifestyle, and the excessive packaging of one time use products.

    • by FuturePastNow (836765) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:45PM (#14872333)
      No, nukes are not a quick fix. But they (barring a breakthrough in fusion, which I wouldn't bet on) may still be our only hope, because changing the lifestyles of billions of people isn't possible.

      Nuclear power does reduce emissions by helping us eliminate coal and oil power plants. Something's better than nothing, and nuclear waste is infinitely easier to contain than a cloud coming out of a smokestack.

      Moreover, nuclear power scales better for the future. Like it or not, our energy usage is only going to go up. Nuclear also makes possible other technologies that reduce emissions- where do you think the hydrogen for fuel cells comes from? The easiest way to generate it is in a reactor.
      • by njh (24312) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:19PM (#14872484) Homepage
        "may still be our only hope, because changing the lifestyles of billions of people isn't possible."

        We done it many times before. Or do you believe that humans have always driven cars to work?
      • by dpreston (906415) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:12AM (#14872682)
        Yet, there are plenty of economic tricks you can impose to change lifestyles. Make something not worthwhile for people anymore, and over time they will change their methods of living. I don't encourage, condone, or am proposing any of the following... just pointing out there are possibilities if we are thinking in the extreme :)

        As gas prices rise, we will see people move closer to their jobs (ie, the city) from the suburbs. Suburban sprawl is obviously more likely if the act of commuting is not in the least bit taxing (See: United States). If we want people to stop driving so much, make it expensive as hell...and in turn, maybe start using Europe's incredible public transportation. We don't have that in the U.S. (realistically).

        The biggest problem with environmental concerns (very similar to security concerns which any of us involved can relate) is obviously that a single person experiences very little payback for their contribution (and/or can see very little return instantaneously). To curb the public's tendencies, we may have instate some pretty intense restrictions.

        How far do we need to go to really protect ourselves against Global Warming (yes, I said it), or environmental concerns?
        • There certainly exist possibilities, but they are not politically viable. The American politician to try and push a substantial gas tax will be crucified. The American politician that tries to force Americans to live on top of each other using the force of law in expensive apartment buildings instead of 'sprawling' out into expansive and cheaper suburbs will be crucified.

          Own a home with a lawn and having some space from the neighbors is probably the pinnacle of the American dream. Telling Americans they
        • by woolio (927141) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:23AM (#14873243) Journal
          a single person experiences very little payback for their contribution

          That is the biggest evil in our culture... How many people bother recycling now that a bag of aluminum cans isn't worth much? [If anything].

          I was away from my apartment for a couple of months. I turned everything off. My electric bill was insanely low, less than 100KHh -- 1/10 of my usual usage. Guess what? My electric bill went down only a third... Still paid $25/month for not using anything. In other words, using 10x the electricity only costs 3x as much -- a bargain! Where's the incentive?

          Water here is shared.... I pay $40/month (USD) whether I bathe three times a day or once a week. And I live by myself...

          Judging by the number of souped up 4x4 trucks with sparkling-new looking cargo beds, cars are still too cheap... Even a recent (Lexus) commercial seemed to make fun all-solar car attempts in an effort to promote their new SUV.

          Forget environmental concerns... When oil becomes scarce [Or when people think it has], what will happen? How will goods be transported? How will plastics be manufactured? How will coal be mined without the use of gas-powered vehicles? How will people get to work? What will propel ocean liners carrying goods? How will farmers harvest food? How will they deliver it? Keep it refrigerated? Commercial planes aren't going solar anytime soon...

          Yes, there are alternatives to some of these... No, I don't think people will plan the switch in time.

          Society should not be promoting this sub-culture of waste and greed. Unfortunately, "society" has too many idiots and greedy businessmen for this to change anytime soon.

          We seem to try to live as far apart as possible, as far from work, school, etc as possible... Just imagine how much time we could save doing more useful stuff, how much less driving done, and how things could be better...

          Or do people in southern california and in large cities enjoy a 1-hr commute to work? Do people really dream of sitting in stopped traffic? Do they fantasize about gridlock? I for one, do not.
          • I was away from my apartment for a couple of months. I turned everything off. My electric bill was insanely low, less than 100KHh -- 1/10 of my usual usage. Guess what? My electric bill went down only a third... Still paid $25/month for not using anything. In other words, using 10x the electricity only costs 3x as much -- a bargain! Where's the incentive?

            Ahh the joys of all them taxes and regulatory fees simply for being hooked up. And being hooked up is mandatory in most places. Go figure.

            Forget environmen
            • That is a damned lot of oil.

              Which doesn't matter one bit if you can't produce it fast enough (due to limitations on e.g. water for gasification or natural gas for upgrading and desulfurization) to keep pace with the decline of conventional oil.

              And that oil is declining. Cantarell (Mexico's biggest field) has peaked. Kuwait's biggest field has peaked. Even Ghawar has peaked (and if you don't know what that that means, you don't know enough to expound on this subject). A million barrels a day from Alber

          • No they don't fantasize about a 1-hr commute. They fantasize about a 1400 sf home in LA with no yard that doesn't cost over $500,000

            People don't commute for fun, they commute to afford a home. Every off-ramp closer to LA you go the price of homes climbs around $5000. When you are up here in the Antelope Valley they start at $200,000 for a prefab.

            This all has little to do with the commute. If you want to reduce emmisions then you have to reduce the number of poluters, in other words, people.

            Lot's o

            • As they say in medicine, the dose makes the poison, and burning coal, oil or whatever isn't really such a problem unless you've got 6-8-10 billion people participating in it.

              There's no way that we can sustain the growth of our current global population and I'm not entirely sure we can sustain our existing population. I can't help but think that the global strife we're experiencing now isn't just a side effect of too many people sharing the same space.
        • Yet, there are plenty of economic tricks you can impose to change lifestyles.

          There are also a lot of things we can do to cut down transportation energy costs w/o making sacrifices or massive changes. For example, you could more double the effective MPG of 18 wheelers by changing the regulations that limit them so heavily (pun intended) to rather light loads.

          For example, Michigan raised it's limits and the largest food quality tanker truck fleet went from 5MPG to an effective 12.5 by carrying more cargo in a
          • Irony of ironies (Score:4, Informative)

            by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @01:59PM (#14877375) Homepage Journal
            When I get 10MPG on E85, I am getting 67MPG of gasoline. Now who requires more oil to drive around, my Suburban or the Prius?
            Your Suburban, by far.

            Ethanol does not come straight from the field; it requires considerable inputs to grow the crop, and more to turn it into liquid fuel. The average EROEI that I've seen for ethanol from today's sources is 1.34:1; the most optimistic is 1.67:1. Further, about 20% of the energy in a gallon of E85 is from petroleum. Summing that up, you've got:

            • 0.15 gallon of gasoline per gallon E-85
            • Of the 0.6 gallons-gasoline-equivalent of ethanol in the .85 gallons of ethanol, between .36 and .48 gallons-equivalent is from fossil fuels (petroleum, coal and natural gas).
            Your total fossil energy per gallon of E85: .51 to .63 gallons-equivalent of fossil energy. The Prius is doing twice as well as you at its worst, three times at best!
      • My understanding is that CO2 sequestration is a viable technology that has been in use for a few decades for different reasons. It is possible to clean power plant exhaust, but it may cost a couple more cents per kWh to do so.

        There are other issues, environmental and economic concerns are complex, but I don't believe that they are necessarily contradictory. I do believe there are ways to encourage more sustainable energy use, it seems many countries do this by selective tax credits and taxes. The EU has
      • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:01AM (#14873348)
        Nuclear is not a quick fix. Solar is not a quick fix. Biodiesel is not a quick fix. Drilling in ANWR is not a quick fix. Carbon sequestration is not a quick fix. Ethanol is not a quick fix. Methanol is not a quick fix. Hydrogen is not a quick fix. Hydro is not a quick fix. Tidal is not a quick fix. Wind is not a quick fix. Conservation is not a quick fix. Energy efficiency is not a quick fix.

        However, if you add them all together, and you might just have a really slow, big pain in the butt fix.

        If I hear "such-and-such is not the answer" one more time, I am seriously gonna smack the idiot who says it upside the noggin. There is no single answer!
    • and the excessive packaging of one time use products.

      Maybe ... but I'll be damned if I'm going to buy recycled condoms.
    • Yeah, I'm with you there.

      Next time I run down to the store to pick up a new computer, I'll bring in back home on my bike. Of course, it won't be in a box, so I'll take a blanket with me to the store to wrap it in for safety.

      And, when I go for additional RAM, NATs, graphics boards, etc., I'll bring my own anti-static bags.

      And then there's the candy and cookies for the kids. Buy in bulk or make our own, and when we take it with us we'll re-use baggies. Or wrap it in leaves.

      Of course, since we'll be changing o
      • Don't be (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RedHatLinux (453603)
        an idiot, I was referring to people doing things like say walking more often and not doing things like driving their car to their mailbox, rather than walk to it, like my old cul-de-sac neighbors.
    • by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:55PM (#14872620) Homepage Journal
      humoly writes to tell us BBC News is reporting that while many are calling for wind power, new wind plants are not the answer to combating climate changes or the wavering energy concerns for the UK. From the article: "The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report says doubling wind turbine capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035. The body, which advises the government on the environment, says this must be set against the potential costs. The government is currently undertaking a review of Britain's energy needs."

      Fixed it. ;)

      Honestly, doubling nuclear capacity would do more towards reducing CO2 emissions than doubling wind capacity. It's not like you couldn't go on a building program and build at a rate to commission, say, 5 plants a year using parallel building. 20 years of that and you'd have another hundred plants, enough to shut down most coal plants. That'd cut down on something like 700 million tons of CO2 a year.
    • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:21AM (#14872718)
      While I was shocked how little nuclear power would reduce emission
      That's because nuclear fuel is not made of magic beans as people expect but a rock that needs to be dug up, processed, enriched and manufactured into fuel rods/pellets.

      All of the "zero carbon emissions" or "clean" people have forgotten that it is an industrial process that exists in the real world and not a washing powder commercial. One third of the carbon emmissions of gas turbines (assuming the best possible quality of ore) is still very good - but it isn't zero.

      Big power plants of any description are never going to be quick anyway. It can take three years just to get a turbine rotor delivered out of a catalogue.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:30PM (#14872270)
    > "The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report says doubling nuclear capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035.

    What about trippling the nuclear capacity? What about quadrupling the capacity? That should have an impact surely.

  • Okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:31PM (#14872272)
    Congratulations on stating the obvious! Considering the fact that energy requirements are almost always increasing, and not decreasing, simply having CO2 levels maintain where they are now in 2035 would be somewhat of an accomplishment.

    If you don't build nuclear, and instead build that new coal plant, does that somehow cause CO2 levels to go down? Didn't think so.

    It's time for the world to face the fact that nuclear energy (and hopefully fusion in the "next 20 years") is the only practical way to truly reduce CO2 emissions and solve pollution problems. If cheap nuclear energy exists, it is possible to reduce pollution and CO2 production in other areas, in addition to the initial electrical generation. Hydrogen fuel for vehicles, electrical heating instead of natural gas or oil, etc.

    While other forms of alternative energy are "nice", they all have their downside - solar cells aren't exactly environmentally friendly to produce, wind plants take lots of land and are an eyesore, etc. Nuclear plants may have some miniscule risks, but when properly managed, they are by far the best solution. The problem with nuclear energy (dealing with the waste included) is entirely political, not technical.
    • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TykeClone (668449) * <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:38PM (#14872296) Homepage Journal
      The problem with nuclear energy (dealing with the waste included) is entirely political, not technical.

      Technical problems we can solve. Idealogical problems, on the other hand, ...

      • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Funny)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:55PM (#14872378) Journal
        Idealogical problems, on the other hand, ...

        ...We have trouble even spelling.

      • Re:Okay? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by njh (24312)
        We can fix some technical problems. We haven't solved the technical problems with fusion, despite 50 years of enthusiatic and well funded research. (and many would argue we haven't solved the technical problems with fission either)
  • What gives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teutonic_leech (596265) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:39PM (#14872304)
    I see these 'reports' all the time, claiming that nuclear power would do little do reduce emissions. Now, wait a minute - those gigawatts per year produced would then instead come from what? A coal plant? Now, that ADDS to emissions AND it actually produces more radioactive waste isotopes than a regular nuclear plant (not many people seem to realize that). Why in the world is everyone so freaked out about building a frackin' nuclear plant, whilst tens of thousands of nuclear weapons are rotting away in the former Soviet states? And the U.S. has at least as many and they don't know who do drop them on either... It's all a big mindfuck if you ask me - NUCLEAR? BAD!! Poisoning the air with your car and other air polluting devices - GOOOD!
  • "By 2035" -- its sounds like a long way off, no? Lets suppose the modular plants the South Africans are building take of like wildfire. 2035 -- by that point you'd just be seeing real productive use of any significant number of them. That's a best possible outcome.

    Are these the same people telling us we should just give up fossil fuels for WIND? That some combination of animal dung methane and solar power will make it happen?

    Look, we rely on fossil fuels because they have a huge amount of easily available energy in a very dense package. Where else do you find that kind of energy density? Seems like the nuc plants work -- though they're expensive.

    How about magic microwave beams from spacecraft with huge solar sails? Ummmmm......ok. Right after Scotty rides down in the space elevator to show us how to make transparent aluminium out of mile long flexible carbon nanotubes. Let me know when its working, I swing by in my flying car to come check it out.

  • by letdinosaursdie (809029) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:42PM (#14872319) Homepage
    This [sciam.com] (pay wall past intro) is an interesting article I read in Scientific American about a plan to recycle much of what is currently considered nuclear waste for use in advanced fast breeder reactors. It seems the most feasible alternative to oil I have seen.
  • And while you're up there, can you pick me up a few billion dollars worth of resources that have been unaffected by geological change and are therefore infinitely easier to mine? Oh wait, they said quick fix. I know, keep burning coal, but pump the carbon dioxide into the ocean. Yeah, that's a plan. As with all space based activities, what's lacking is not the technology, it's the mandate.
  • Conflicted report? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loopy (41728) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:44PM (#14872331) Journal
    Seems to me some of their claimed disadvantages are in conflict. To wit:

            1) The economics of nuclear new-build are highly uncertain, according to the report
            2) Nuclear would lock the UK into a centralised energy distribution system for the next 50 years when more flexible distribution options are becoming available
            3) The report claims that nuclear would undermine the drive for greater energy efficiency
            4) If the UK brings forward a new nuclear programme, it becomes more difficult to deny other countries the same technology, the SDC claims

    Points 1 and 2 seem to indicate economic and technological malfeasance, but points 3 and 4 seem to imply the technology is good enough to curtail better economic options which would be desirable to other countries? Hmm...

    Point 4 also implies that the UK would seek to deny other countries nuclear plants in general, or that "other countries" might use said plants for other than above-board reasons. I can't figure out whether point 4 is insulting to other countries or insulting to the UK...or both.
  • by sockonafish (228678) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:45PM (#14872332)
    The only reason that doubling the number of nuclear plants wouldn't have an impact on emissions is because there are so few nuclear plants. For the UK, doubling would mean 23 more plants that would cover 20% of the UK's electricity needs.

    I couldn't find details, but the study likely also ignores the benefits of nuclear plants in relation to automobiles. Currently, if a person drives an electric car, he'll still be causing emissions at the electric plant. In conjunction with electric car technology, nuclear plants could be a way to significantly reduce emissions that result from vehicles.
  • * Switch light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs
    * Replace bulky monitors for flat screens
    * Incentivate low-power CPU's
    * Invest in information campaigns about not using home electronics in stand-by mode
    * Invest in solar power R&D for home applications
    * Incentivate usage of bycicles instead of cars, change the infrastructure of cities to provide smaller stores in more places rather than huge walmarts 10 miles from home

    Any other ideas?

    • The problem with conservation as a solution to CO2 emmissions is industrial energy use and the economy.

      There are probably ways via market prices or the tax system or whatever to motivate individuals to use less energy. But industrial users, who account for something like half of all energy use, aren't having any. Charge them more for energy and they will move to places where cheap energy is available.

      Here in Ontario, industrial growth for 50 years or more has been driven by cheap energy. Now that energy
    • Stores like Walmart and Meijer saves energy. Here's why:
      I can drive to Lowes to pick up my screw driver,
      then drive to Old Navy for a T-shirt,
      then go to Star Furniture for that baker's rack,
      then drive to Exxon to fill up my tank (lots of driving),
      then I have to go to Hobby Lobby for my ribbon (I mean model plane... that's it),
      then I drive to CompUSA for my X-box game,
      then I go drive to Southwest Music Store for my Rush CD,
      then I drive to Kroger for my groceries... and so on,
      or I can drive to one place, Walm
    • * Switch light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs

      Or even better: use dimmer switches and ... turn bulb off when not in use. Perhaps even use motion sensors to automatically shut off lights in unused rooms. An incandescent bulb switched off burns less energy than a flourescent in an unused but still on flourescent.

      * Replace bulky monitors for flat screens

      Too minor (see below). Now, change out all the CRT Television screens and you've got something.

      * Incentivate low-power CPU's

      One word: Cell. Again though, this won
  • by d.corri (952075) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:53PM (#14872371)
    ...nuclear power plants are nowhere to be found since we're the world's largest producer of hydroelectric power [wikipedia.org] but it wasn't always like this...
    In 1968, after a nuclear meltdown in Charlemagne [wikipedia.org] (Quebec's own Chernobyl accident), the government decided to ban nuclear power for fear of another disaster. Unfortunately, it was too late, since Celine Dion was unleashed to the world soon after that and the rest, as they say, is history...

    Sounds like a badly written Uncyclopedia article or something.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:56PM (#14872380) Journal
    While I am a fan of alternatives, the problems for alternatives is that stable power plants are built to handle the worst loads. That is, when you design your grid and your sources, you use the dependable sources as the figuring of the input energy. Well, we may add more alternatives, but we still need to increasethe plants that can be counted on. Why? Because almost all energy is at the whim of mother earth. Of course, there is tidal, geothermal, and hydro available, which can be counted on. But most of the alternatives showing a great deal of promise are in wind and solar. They can NOT be counted on. So until a good viable way to capture the excess energy is created (hydrogen is a LONG ways off), then we will have to use on the normal types (coal, oil, gas, and nukes).
     
      And personally, I think that Nukes is about the only good choice left.
  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:57PM (#14872387)
    Carbon emissions are *rising*, with something like a 60% increase in the last 30 years.

    Even a small impact in terms of *reducing* emissions over 30 years is a *huge* change form the level they would have *risen* to by '35 at the current rate.
  • by syntaxglitch (889367) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:02PM (#14872413)
    1) Long-term storage of nuclear waste.

    First, keep in mind that the longer it stays radioactive, by definition the less radioactive (and thus less dangerous) it is. Depleted Uranium, for instance, despite being technically radioactive, is actually used as radiation shielding!

    The obvious solution to dealing with waste is to seperate it into stuff that can processed back into viable fuel (and used as such), stuff that's so mildly radioactive that it could be ground into powder and scattered into the ocean and you'd never notice the difference in the background radiation level, and stuff that's not viable as fuel but still radioactive enough that it needs to be stored--which I imagine you'll find is not very much waste.

    2) Economics of building nuke plants

    Yeah, and how much of the economic uncertainty comes from artificial barriers created by scientific illiterates who oppose nuclear power? Other than fossil fuels, nuclear is the only type of generator that is proven to be long-term viable and scalable to any capacity. If the economics are "uncertain" for nukes, they can only be worse for anything else.

    3) Centralized distribution system

    ...as opposed to the way things are now? There's an economy of scale benefit to most forms of power generation. This is nothing new or unique to nuclear. Furthermore, any alternative sources that could be decentralized could likely still be deployed and connected to the power grid as they become availible. History demonstrates that demand for energy generally only goes up.

    4) Undermines the drive for efficiency

    Uh, no. Efficiency is, within reason, its own driving force. Despite what some people would like, we're never going to use less energy. There's only so much efficiency gain possible, for one thing. Besides, efficiency gains don't reduce consumption any more than getting a bigger house reduces clutter. Efficiency just lets us get more value from the energy we do use.

    5) Difficulty in denying other countries the technology

    Oh yeah, because that's working really well as is.
  • by toejam13 (958243) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:10PM (#14872448)

    Nuclear power will most likely never surpass its existing use as a source of supplemental power for the world market. That said, I disagree with the article in its suggestion that it cannot make a significant dent in carbon emissions.

    Nuclear power could very easily become the largest source of power for fixed location consumers. Existing coal and oil plants could simply be replaced with nuclear facilities. This eventual phase-out of legacy power supplies could easily cut carbon emissions by hundreds of tons per year.

    However, nuclear power will never become the totally dominant source of all our power needs unless the near future reveals a revolutionary advance in battery or super-capacitor technology. Until then, transportation technology will never be able to efficiently harness power off the Grid. Transportation will continue to use energy sources that are easy to transport and distribute.

    The major hold-up with nuclear power is two-fold. First, current generation nuclear reactors use uranium as a fuel source. This fuel creates huge amounts of radioactive waste. Although this waste was once highly desired for nuclear weapons projects in the past, today it is a worthless product that is expensive and dangerous to dispose of. Also, this fuel is quickly becoming scarce. Some scientists suggest that the world has less than 60 years worth of reactor grade uranium at current consumption. Secondly, current generation reactors have a high potential for danger. The horrific blunder of Soviet engineers when running a coolant test at the Chernobyl facility will haunt generations to come. America's own scare at Three-Mile Island brings that fear close to home.

    Surprisingly, most of these issues have modern solutions. The French has developed an encapsulated uranium fuel source that places fuel within a heat resistant shell. This shell keeps the density of the fuel low enough that in the event of a coolant failure, the fuel rods never go critical.

    Second, scientists have suggested that a switch from uranium to thorium could reduce radioactive waste by over half, and could reduce our plutonium stockpiles by using it as a seed for these new reactors. Furthermore, thorium is a more common element than uranium, with prices being only a fraction of uranium.

    However, political pressure will most likely never allow it to happen since traditional power companies fund many anti-nuclear lobbies. Oil and coal hate nuclear. Popular media demonizes nuclear. Environmental laws make it nearly impossible to even whisper nuclear without the threat of civil lawsuits.

    As such, we will continue to pump greenhouse gasses into the air. At our current rate, my home in Washington State might experience weather similar to that of Southern California today. Sunshine is good. . .

    Thorium reactor acrticle: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,68045, 00.html [wired.com]

    • Nuclear power will most likely never surpass its existing use as a source of supplemental power for the world market. That said, I disagree with the article in its suggestion that it cannot make a significant dent in carbon emissions.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "supplemental" here. Nuclear power traditionally has been used full time (along with coal and some hydroelectric) and often forms the backbone of a grid where it is used.

  • by shut_up_man (450725) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:17PM (#14872479) Homepage
    From the article, these are the five major disadvantages identified by the CDC:

    * No long-term solutions for the storage of nuclear waste are yet available, says the SDC, and storage presents clear safety issues
    * The economics of nuclear new-build are highly uncertain, according to the report
    * Nuclear would lock the UK into a centralised energy distribution system for the next 50 years when more flexible distribution options are becoming available
    * The report claims that nuclear would undermine the drive for greater energy efficiency
    * If the UK brings forward a new nuclear programme, it becomes more difficult to deny other countries the same technology, the SDC claims (emphasis mine)

    While the first four are significant, the last one is an interesting angle I hadn't considered. If going nuclear becomes the model for leading first world countries, second and third one countries are going to demand the technology in order to follow the dominant pattern. If they're refused it, they'll probably feel very littlle remorse in cranking up their fossil fuel plants and polluting like elephants with dysentary in order to set up a little environmental blackmail. If every tinpot dictator is given nuclear tech, the chances of someone turning Manhatten or heaven forfend, downtown Vancouver into a radioactive cloud go up dramatically. Just on that point alone, it seems like going nuclear would only buy a respite of a few decades before the energy squeeze moves further down the chain and gifts us with a whole new set of problems.
    • The Rand corporation, back in the 1950s, determined that the U.S. could provide all developing nations with all the power they needed by operating nuclear power plants for them indefinitly, for less than it would cost to fight a single small-scale war (the Iraq wars, for example) every 20 years or so. So one solution to keeping small countries from developing nuclear weapons is to give them non-weapons grade reactor material for free, in exchange for inspections or an agreement to return the waste, or some
  • Rationing = Power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:28PM (#14872514)
    If there is a "shortage" of something, whoever has the power to ration that resource has enourmous power. No matter if it is food, water, energy, medical care, whatever... if you can decide who, where, and why one gets the resource, you have an giant stick and a giant carrot to enforce obedience.

    No government panel wants a solution to global warming that produces a lot of energy. No one wants there to be plenty of energy for everyone who needs it. They want an excuse to strictly limit and control energy. If they can decide who gets energy, and who doesn't, they have total control in a modern industrialized world.

    Wind power, solar power, and such, cannot produce enough energy to satisfy current consumption. Nuclear Energy is the only technology that we have off the shelf that can produce the energy in vast amounts to satisfy our energy hungry society. That is why so many people are so dead against it. How are you going to usher in a new age of central planning and government control if there is no crisis to justify such a thing. Nuclear power is just not acceptable.
  • by wall0159 (881759) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:43PM (#14872571)
    In Australia, _right_now_ you can buy 'green power', which is power that comes only from renewable resources. It costs a little more (maybe AU$40/year more). Perhaps a 10% price increase.

    There is no reason why what can't be scaled up to provide electricity to every one in Australia (and presumably other countries too). (Of course, if everybody signed up in one day, I doubt they'd have the infrastructure ;-).

    This isn't an anti-nuclear rant - it just isn't the best option for domestic electricity.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:46PM (#14872585)
    It seems that this very important government body only has one (yes, only one) PHD scientist on it's board (a metallurgist)... and zero (yes, no-one), with any knowledge of nuclear energy or physics at all!

    Nearly all of the people on the board are lawyers, administrators, or prominent members of anti-nuclear organizations.

    So a government body of people, with no knowledge whatsoever of nuclear power, and who were already ideologically dead set against nuclear power from the get-go, decided that nuclear power is bad. Wow, what a shock!

    Yes, the advanced research determined that if you double the tiny amount of energy produced by nuclear power in England, you get double a tiny amount! Wow! I wonder what happens if you generated ALL OR THE VAST MAJORITY OF ENERGY VIA NUCLEAR ENERGY? I guess that would produce a lot more energy and reduce a lot of greenhouse gases, wouldn't it?

    How come people take things like the "Sustainable Development Commission" seriously? I mean, this "commission" is a joke!
    • Look at the Chairman (Score:5, Informative)

      by sane? (179855) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:09AM (#14873556)
      Its important to realise that this little group is the brainchild of its chairman - Jonathon Porritt [wikipedia.org]. That's Jonathon Porritt, ex-director of 'Friends of the Earth', ex-chair of the 'Green Party' and all round acceptable face of the greenies in the UK (he's the son of Lord Porritt). The SDC is a government sop to the green movement, making it appear that they are being taken seriously, but not necessarily with any power.

      The reality is that any grouping put together by this man is unlikely ever to come out and say nuclear power (of any type, including Pebble Bed) is acceptable. The only acceptable solution in their book is for everyone to 'power down' and accept an energy budget akin to the Victorian era.

      Although Nuclear Power isn't the full answer, we need lots of renewable investment as well, its almost certainly the best shot we have at the existing time for continuing our civilisation in roughly the same shape as it is at the moment as the oil supply declines. Renewables are just too low in energy density to be able to build fast enough to match the problem.

      File under ignore - the government will.

  • Nuclear Ignorance (Score:5, Informative)

    by nsmike (920396) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:16AM (#14872694)
    It amazes me to see so many informed comments, yet none practically based.

    How many people here have worked in a nuke plant? How many know the logistics of it?

    First off, redundancy factors make failure and meltdown a near impossibility. Unless an operator is asleep in the control room, and then deaf and blind to all of the alarms and lights that go off when a coolant failure might occur, the reactor will be shut down.

    Second: Waste storage. Many people don't seem to know what a spent fuel pool is. Everyone's talking about disposing of waste, when all nuclear facilities in this country already have a means of storing the waste for the approximate life of the reactor. The spent fuel pools are huge buildings with a huge pool, where spent Uranium fuel bundles are stored. The walls of this building are solid concrete, approx. 10 ft thick. No radiation is getting out of there.

    On top of that, most slashdotters would probably be surprised to know that they pick up more radiation in a year from their computer monitors, cell phones, simple radios, and other devices, than a nuclear employee does from the plant. Everything is carefully monitored with dosimeters (devices that measure your radioactive dose).

    Another thing that annoys me: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A RADIATION SUIT. The suits that nuclear workers put on are are called "Anti-C's" or anti contamination suits. Inside the reactor building, and in other areas where boric acid is used to absorb radiation, loose radioactive particles are everywhere. Movement of those particles from where they're expected to where they're not desired is called contamination, so these suits are used to prevent the spread of contamination. There's even a special process you are to use in removing these suits which prevents contamination. After that, you enter a scanning device which does a once-over of your entire body to detect contaminants, and if you're contaminated, a number of things can happen. If it's an article of clothing, it's simply disposed of. A shoe or boot, generally on the bottom, the offending region is sliced off. On your skin, anti-contamination soap is used, and if that isn't successful, they bring out the SOS pad.

    Also, people don't realize how common Radon is. Often, workers would enter the "hot side"(we call it that because that's the area where exposure to radiation is possible) and come out, having gone nowhere near contamination, and they set off the alarm, mostly on rainy days. That's because of Radon. The water causes the radon to essentially stick to your shoes, and while sticky pads on the floor can help removing this, often a de-ionizing fan is required to get rid of it totally.

    This is the extent to which they go to prevent public exposure to radiation/radioactive material from their facility. Environmental concerns are nil.

    Fear of meltdown is an irrational, uninformed position, and an easy fear to maintain through ignorance.
    • Re:Nuclear Ignorance (Score:3, Informative)

      by asuffield (111848)
      First off, redundancy factors make failure and meltdown a near impossibility. Unless an operator is asleep in the control room, and then deaf and blind to all of the alarms and lights that go off when a coolant failure might occur, the reactor will be shut down.

      You missed the most 'obvious' way: the operators can deliberately deactivate and/or ignore the alarms, and override the safety cut-outs. Stupid? Well, yes, but that's how Chernobyl happened.

      You could redesign the control systems to avoid such issues.
    • Re:Nuclear Ignorance (Score:3, Informative)

      by hyfe (641811)
      First off, redundancy factors make failure and meltdown a near impossibility. Unless an operator is asleep in the control room, and then deaf and blind to all of the alarms and lights that go off when a coolant failure might occur, the reactor will be shut down.
      [...]
      Fear of meltdown is an irrational, uninformed position, and an easy fear to maintain through ignorance.

      That's what they said last time too.

      I had no technical expertise to validate their claims then, and I have no technical expertise to valid

    • How many people here have worked in a nuke plant? How many know the logistics of it?

      Let's assume the answer is "zero". What makes your opinion any more credible than that of anyone else?

      That sounds horribly personal, and I don't mean it that way. The problem is the amount of faith based reasoning in this debate. For most commentators the risk factors associated with nuclear power seem to be a matter of doctrine rather than evidence. Some do it out of genuine conviction. others because they represent v

  • It works for France (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:34AM (#14872759) Homepage
    France now gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. Most of the rest is from hydroelectric plants. France exports 15% of its electricity. All the high speed trains are electrified. In some cities, you can rent electric cars by the hour. [psa-peugeot-citroen.com]

    What oil crisis?

    Oil today (NYMEX): $61.47/bbl.

  • by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher.gilliard@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:47AM (#14872818) Homepage
    doubling nuclear capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035.

    And driving more hybrids would also make a small impact, and using solar power would make a small impact, and using energy efficient appliances would make a small impact, and using wind power would make a small impact, and using more hydroelectric power would make a small impact, and developing fuel cell technologies would make a small impact, and turning off lights at night would make a small impact, ......

    The point is there's no magic bullet, there's no one thing that will make us stop using dirty, non-renewable energy sources. But, if we encourage all the things that will make us less dependant on oil, we'll be better off.
  • Missing the Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kf6auf (719514) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @02:49AM (#14873160)

    So looking at things from a logical perspective, the goal is to minimally inconvenience peoples lives (whether it be by global warming, running out of oil, or disposing nuclear waste). Since this is another example of the Tragedy of the Commons, governments will need to intervene or the problem won't get solved. The problem seems to come from too many people using oil and not a renewable energy source. Thus people need more motivation to use less oil (whether in their cars or in power plants).

    Solution: do what the government does best and tax; tax crude oil or tax machinery based on CO2 emissions. Let the market sort out for itself whether it wants to use nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, tidal, geothermal, solar, or some other form of electricity generation. Let the market determine how much people want to decrease their energy consumption. Maybe spend the increased revenue on renewable resources; it's not necessary, but that would help too.

  • In other news ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shadowlore (10860) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:40AM (#14873295) Journal
    doubling nuclear capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035

    Doubling Hybrid and electric car use would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035.

    There you go, some perspective.
  • by Timberwolf0122 (872207) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:16AM (#14873379) Journal
    Several post have mentioned that simply becoming more reliant on nuclear power for our electrical needs wont really reduce our carbon emissions that much, this is only partly true.

    Coal/Oil/Gas stations would by definition produce more CO2 than a Nuclear station, however the big Carbon saving comes from nuclear vehicles(okay stay with me). By nuclear cars I actually refer to a hydrogen (or similar) vehicle that has its fuel create by nuclear power (i.e. Electrolysis). If 25% of the US and Europe's cars all switched to this virtually carbon free energy source then we would see some serious carbon reduction.
  • Save, save, save (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:03AM (#14873537)
    The only way to really solve this problem is to stop wasting energy. The way to think about this is: if you have to live with using only 5% of the energy that you use now, what will you choose to use it on? Take it as a thought experiment - you're not allowed to invent ways to produce your own energy; assume that this has already been done. So what will you keep? A car? Your fridge? Your computer? How about not buying stuff that comes in unnecessary packaging? Avoiding ready made meals, drinks, snacks etc?

    Perhaps 5% is not what we will have to live with in the future, it could be more or less, but I suspect it won't be far off at least for our children.
  • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @10:04AM (#14874907) Homepage
    Nuclear power has been the convenient club with which to bash tree-huggers over the head, as long as one ignores all the drawbacks of nuclear power (not the least of which deal with waste disposal, leaks and accidents, and the peculiar tendency of US Govt regulators to look the other way when safety rules are violated - damn pansies! we don't need no stinkin' safety rules! We're tough Americans. Not a bunch of goggle-boxed do-gooders going around telling everyone that radiation's bad for them. Pernicious nonsense! A guy could take 400 chest x-rays a year. Oughta have em too.)

    It's good that some of the other drawbacks are gaining attention too. But I suspect that this is going to be framed as "radical leftist nonsense" by the media, and dismissed, and soon we'll return to building tons of nuclear plants. Oh what a joyous future we'll have. Can we please build them in Republican neighborhoods?

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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