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Environmentalists Coming Around to Nuclear Power? 1092

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the background-research-results-just-coming-in dept.
Heywood J. Blaume writes "In a Washington Post editorial Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, now says he was wrong about opposing nuclear power 30 years ago. In the article he addresses common myths about nuclear power, and puts forth the position that nuclear power is the only feasible, affordable power source that can solve today's growing environmental and energy policy issues. From the article: 'Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.'"
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Environmentalists Coming Around to Nuclear Power?

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  • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai l . com> on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:04PM (#15145004)
    This isn't a new thing, as the article (summary) implies. Moore has had this stance for a while now. Here's a 2004 Wired article [wired.com] on this "Eco-Traitor."
  • Shill! (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjung2k (576317) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:06PM (#15145020) Homepage
    I'd be more impressed if Moore would admit that he's now serving as a consultant for the mining, logging, and energy industries. [greenspiri...tegies.com]

    Hell, I'd settle for the Washington Post admitting that they're trying to pull one over its readership. [dailykos.com]
  • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Informative)

    by ndansmith (582590) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:13PM (#15145073)
    If anyone wants a good read about the environmental movement, check out Paul Driessen's Eco-Imperialism [amazon.com] . It changed my mind. He lays out how environmental movements are holding back development in the third world (keeping poor people's living standards low) with their misguided policies.
  • pebble bed reactors make all the difference [wikipedia.org]

    because they are super safe. they don't melt down. no china syndrome, no 3 mile island, no chernobyl, no silkwood. the fuel is packed in glass pebbles. meltdown is not possible by accidental means

    explain this to people and their old understanding of nuclear's dangers, based on 1970s era thinking fade away. which is also about the time that nuclear itself faded away, because of the dangers. but in a world of oil-funded islamic extremism and oil-fueled global warming, super-safe pebble bed nuclear energy looks mighty attractive. now all we need to do is wait for popular wisdom and political will to catch up

    and with breeder reactors, we can reprocess the nuclear waste from the bygone era of old-style reactors and do away with all of that left-over pollution. imagine that: run new reactors off of a previous generation's waste. old-style reactors only use 10% of available fuel, the rest sits unused and radiocative for tens of thousands of years. with reprocessing, 95% of the fuel can be used, and left over are isotopes with radioactive half lives measured in a century or two, not tens of thousands of years

    and don't let anyone tell you there would be a fuel shortage with the nuclear option like with oil. there is no peak uranium like there is peak oil. mainly because we can run nuclear power off of thorium as well as uranium. go look up the numbers on thorium reserves. we'd be fine for centuries. and the reserves are in more geopolitically friendly places

    the problem is still psychological for people though. nuclear IS scary. it's the same thing as flying: it's safer than driving, but people prefer to drive than fly, and feel safer driving than flying. even though the reverse is true. why? the illusion of familiarity and control. people stick with what they are comfortable with, even if what they are comfortable with sucks in comparison

    for the longest time i've tried to convince my gf to have laser eye treatment for her myopia. it's the best thing i ever did. but she is scared of the procedure. i tell her that she has more chance of getting an infection that will make her blind via contacts than via a laser screw up. but she wouldn't have any of it

    and just this month, they found a connection between bausch and lomb's renu [google.com], which she uses, and a sudden surge in cases of an eye fungus that blinds people. sure enough, on her very own, she made inquiries as to laser eye treatment last week

    so even though nuclear is safer in this world than oil due to hurricane katrina-making global warming and oil-funded 9/11 terrorism, people are more scared of nuclear than oil. they are familiar with oil, and there is an inertia about their reluctance to embrace nuclear

    so we're stuck in the inertia now, and we suffer for the inertia of the general public and the politicians. all of the nimby's who wouldn't let these things be built would apparently prefer to ship their children to falluja to protect oil than build a completely safe pebble bed reactor. meanwhile, china is investing heavily in this technology. so while the usa wears itself down fighting islamonazi wackjobs sitting on top of their precious oil, places like china will enjoy air pollution free totally safe pebble bed reactor power

    some morons don't understand the science, but know how to yell loudly and chain themselves to train tracks to prevent uranium shipments

    and we all suffer for that
  • by Rei (128717) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:28PM (#15145195) Homepage
    Ah, the old scientists in the 1970s believed in global cooling [realclimate.org] myth rears its ugly head again.
  • by DirePickle (796986) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:29PM (#15145206)
    I don't have the figures or a link on me at the moment, but a little googling should lead the way. I had heard the same thing a number of times, and believed it. But I found some info (on wikipedia, maybe. Not that that should be a sole source) that said that although the amount of cheap and easy nuclear fuel could be expended in fifty years, it's possible to use breeder reactors and the more plentiful Uranium-238 and such to give us sufficient nuclear fuel for another few thousand years.

    Went ahead and hunted for the link:

    Wikipedia: Nuclear Power [wikipedia.org]

    I am not a nuclear physicist, so it could be full of crap, but wiki's science info is generally pretty sound.

  • by Larkvi (243818) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:31PM (#15145218)
    Trolls are hardly uncommon on /.--you must be using quite a filter if this is the first you have seen.
  • I never saw this, but I have seen a lot of variation in the "number of years nuclear energy will power us for" figures. I think there are a few different things that get done to the statistics depending on which outcome you want to show.

    Probably the biggest is whether you just take today's energy consumption figures and use them for the future, or whether you project the rate of increase of energy into the future, in order to get your numbers. Obviously a source of energy that could power us for 100 years in 1955 might only last 15 today, and might only last 1 in another 40 or 50 years.

    The other major issue is whether you pretend that we'll use the uranium intelligently, or we'll keep squandering it in wasteful reactors like we do today. Right now, our nuclear reactors here in the US (and pretty much everywhere else in the world) are the atomic-age equivalents of an open-hearth coal-fired boiler, giant and inefficient. We shovel enriched uranium into them, use it to make some electricity, and out comes waste. It's terrible, and it wastes a non-renewable resource (fissile uranium). Although I don't know exactly how long we'd last doing this, if you told me it was less than a generation or two before we used up all the fissile uranium, I'd believe you. It's a hellacious waste.

    If we were using all that uranium in breeder reactors, using it's neutrons to enrich naturally non-fissile uranium into plutonium, then we'd greatly extend the length of time we'd be able to run on atoms as a civilization. I'm not sure exactly how much plutonium you can produce per pound of fissile uranium, but if you compare it to just wasting those neutrons by crashing them into the shielding, it's basically like making free fuel.

    Although I generally dislike the French government, I have to give them kudos in this area for being the only government with the balls to continue civilian research in this area, when the US decided to ban it (thanks, President Carter!) and hitch our wagon to the horses of Persian Gulf oil. Ironically, although the excuse for banning fuel reprocessing was because it could be used to create nuclear weapons, it was the breeder reactors used for creating nuclear weapons (and not peaceful energy) that remained in operation, both here and in the Soviet Union.

    I'm a pretty big proponent of nuclear technologies, but I seriously wonder whether it's good in the long run (multi-generational outlook here) for us to build nuclear reactors that do nothing but "burn" U-235 and produce waste, rather than waiting until we come to grips with breeder technology and decide to build facilities that encompass the whole nuclear fuel cycle. I have this fear that if we don't do that, our (grand)children will be left fighting over the world's remaining stocks of U-235, wondering why we wasted all of it so quickly, or digging up Yucca Mountain for the U-238 that we so casually threw away.
  • Re:Wrong disaster (Score:5, Informative)

    by Total_Wimp (564548) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:34PM (#15145248)
    Energy shortage is no more a disaster than most other shortages, provided you have an economy based on supply and demand.

    Look at water. Many people have claimed that there would be water shortages in the California. Everyone should conserve water because we're running out. Now look in the Middle East. People have no problem paying for desalination plants. But you never hear them talk about water conservation in the Mid East, because who on Earth would waste such an expensive resource as water? California would find it has plenty of water if people have to pay what water is worth.

    The reason we face energy shortages has nothing to do with the fact that we're running out. It has to do with the fact that we waste it. When the price gets high enough, provided of course that the government lets it get high, then you'll find out people get quite resourceful about conservation. You'll also find that there is plenty of energy to do the things we must.

    TW
  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:38PM (#15145268) Journal
    Does it bother you that hurricane researchers have said repeatedly that global warming had little or nothing to do with it, and that there was an expected upswell of activity due starting last year, give or take? Or that the US coastline had been dodging the averages for the better part of 20 years, with a far smaller fraction of hurricane strikes than the historic record would otherwise suggest? What will you be saying if the next hurricane season shows lower activity than the last?
  • by Golias (176380) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:44PM (#15145313)
    The funny thing is, the guy who was in charge in the 70s, President Carter, urged a ramp-up of coal burning as a solution to the oil crisis.

    (The "crisis" being that the Arabs actually wanted to sell oil for what it was worth, and nuclear power plants still scared the bejeezus out of everybody.)
  • Uranium Reserves (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:46PM (#15145328)
    Here is an estimate of our Uranium reserves [euronuclear.org]
  • Excellent! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:56PM (#15145407)
    Perhaps we can move forward then, and finally get some prototypes of safe reactors that can reduce the (now undesirable) waste products into energy, instead of wasting tremendous resources burying them.

    *cough* IFRs *cough*
  • by Savantissimo (893682) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:13PM (#15145512) Journal
    Isn't realclimate.org by the guy who fudged his analysis to generate the discredited "hockey-stick" graph of temperature predictions?

    Even so, your link does not refute the GP poster's point at all. In fact, it reinforces it.
    From the concluding paragraph:
    Finally, its clear that there were concerns,[about a potential new ice age] perhaps quite strong, in the minds of a number of scientists of the time. And yet, the papers of the time present a clear consensus that future climate change could not be predicted with the knowledge then available.

    [and present climate knowledge still does not allow reliable predictions]

    So are you attempting to say that: because the concern was not unanimous (it never is) and scientists believed further study was warranted (they always say that) that the concern about global cooling was not common among climate researchers? It can't be denied that global cooling concerns were widely reported in the popular press in the 1970s, while global warming concerns were not.

    If press reports of the 1970s are not to be taken seriously, those of today regarding the nature and origins of climate change should also be viewed with healthy skepticism.
  • That 48 tons of waste per plant per year could be greatly reduced with spent fuel reprocessing. Most other nuclear nations, including the UK and France, go this route, which is a lot more sensible than just burying everything, however due to some really boneheaded decisions made by President Carter, it's never been done recently in the United States.

    Until it was banned, we had a whole system under construction for reprocessing spent fuel that would have reduced the scope of the problem we're now faced with. However, in 1977 the research was cut off, and further development and implementation was banned; although President Reagan quietly reversed the ban, nobody has been willing to put money into it. Except of course the military, their ability to manufacture plutonium for weapons purposes was never affected, something which strikes me as endlessly ironic, given that Carter's justification for banning reprocessing was ostensibly to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

    By processing the spent fuel assemblies promptly (before they sit around and create a lot of secondary contamination) you reduce the volume of waste that has to be stored for long periods, and you also get a non-trivial amount of new fuel back (even out of reactors that aren't specifically designed to breed new fuel). Either one of those goals would make the procedure worthwhile in my opinion, pick your favorite and count the other one as a bonus. Right now we're burying tons of waste which isn't itself that radioactive or long-lived or even toxic, but because it's physically joined to stuff that is. The actual volume of long-lived high-level waste produced by a plant isn't that much, if you do the right reprocessing first.

    The plan in the United States was a process called PUREX; you can Google it for more information. The French do their reprocessing at COGMA LaHague, and the Brits do it at a commercial facility called THORP.

    More information here as well:
    http://chemcases.com/nuclear/nc-13.htm [chemcases.com]
  • Re:BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr. Flibble (12943) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:20PM (#15145551) Homepage
    According to Wikipedia:

    Ukraine, put the total predicted number of deaths due to the accident at 4,000 (of which 2,200 deaths are expected to be in the ranks of 200 000 "liquidators") . This predicted death toll includes the 47 workers who died of acute radiation syndrome as a direct result of radiation from the disaster, nine children who died from thyroid cancer and an estimated 3,940 people who could die from cancer as a result of exposure to radiation.

    Perhaps he is talking about direct result here?
  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:28PM (#15145590)
    You need to read about a pebble bed reactor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor [wikipedia.org] or http://web.mit.edu/pebble-bed/ [mit.edu] (if you don't trust wikipedia :P) Pebble bed reactors can be designed so that it is impossible for it to meltdown.

    Qouting Wikipedia: The primary advantage of a pebble bed reactor is that it can be designed to be inherently safe. As the reactor gets hotter, the rate of neutron capture by 238U increases, reducing the number of neutrons available to cause nuclear fission.

  • Re:BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by NearlyHeadless (110901) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:32PM (#15145608)
    In fact many tens of thousands of people already died or will die of some form of cancer as a consequence of the disaster.
    Sorry but the best estimate of the scientists [bbc.co.uk] is that a total of 4000 deaths will be caused by Chernobyl, not "tens of thousands".

    By contrast the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were estimated to have cost 1,300 to 2,600 lives in the United States just during 1993 according to a National Academy of Sciences [nap.edu] study.

  • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:40PM (#15145662)
    Oh really?

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=181 [realclimate.org]

    The argument, IIRC, is centred on the intensity of hurricanes. Activity based on numbers of hurricanes do not capture such an effect, while intensity graphs show a pretty good correlation. Though things are still sketchy at the moment, you can't make a handwave motion and suggest that all hurricane researchers are of the same opinion.
  • by splante (187185) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:42PM (#15145680)
    Hmm, because this [nmcco.com] says:
    High energy means a small volume of used fuel Every 12-24 months, U.S. plants are shut down and the oldest fuel assemblies are removed and replaced. All of the country's nuclear power plants together produce about 2,000 metric tons of used fuel annually. To put this in perspective, all the used fuel produced to date by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in more than 40 years of operation--some 40,000 metric tons--would cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about five yards, if the fuel assemblies were stacked side by side and laid end to end.
    And anyway, the only reason the only solution the industry has right now is because Carter banned reprocessing of the used fuel.

    If we'd just get them going, Department of Energy [anl.gov] laboratories could pretty much eliminate the problem, but anytime someone proposes doing that, who do you think blocks it? But then, if you let them create a way to eliminate the waste, you couldn't block nuclear plants by complaining there's nothing to do with the waste.

  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:44PM (#15145689)
    The parent post asserts that Driessen is a paid oil industry lobbyist. NOWHERE in the Motherjones article does it say that. NOWHERE.

    The parent posts asserts that Driissen promotes junk science. Again, NOWHERE in the Motherjones article does it say that. NOWHERE.

    All the article says is that Driessen is a global warming skeptic, is critical of the environmentalist movement, and participants in events put on by conservative think tanks. It's hard to find anything nefarious or evil in that.

    Motherjones is a magazine of the political far left, but even it is honest enough not to say the factually incorrect statements svejk is attributing to it.

  • by nagora (177841) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:06PM (#15145818)
    Water vapour is an important magnifier but it is the rise in CO2 which triggers more evaporation, which increases h2O. The two are part of a vicious circle. As long as CO2, and other "minor" greenhouse gasses are pumped into the atmosphere there is no chance that the water vapour levels will stabilise.

    The whole H2O thing is just a distraction being pushed by big multi-nationals to try and confuse the issue and prevent them being reined.

    TWW

  • Re:BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by danimrich (584138) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:19PM (#15145868) Homepage Journal
    The source for "tens of thousands" and for the claims relating to the abortions is the German wikipedia, which has a more detailed article discussing the studies as well. There seem to be quite a lot of people criticising the IAEO, UN & Co. report (which I believe is the base of some numbers on the English wikipedia) for wrong methodologies and purposely disregarding studies with larger death counts. The source for what I cited should be a recent meta-study based on Russian data. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katastrophe_von_Tsche rnobyl#Ergebnisse_anderer_Studien [wikipedia.org]
    The true number of dead might be somewhere in between the different estimates.
  • by srw (38421) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:21PM (#15145877) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I own stock in the world's largest uranium mining company.

    It has been stated that the world will run out of uranium in 50 years, or variations thereof. The problem with this statement is you have to ignore a lot of facts to come up with it. This statement assumes that the uranium deposits currently being mined are all that there is. The fact is, we're currently sitting on at least 50 years worth, and there is no real reason to start mining new deposits at this time. As these deposits get depleted, and as (if) the market price of uranium rises, more exploration will be done, and more deposits will be mined. If the price rises high enough, it becomes feasable to "mine" the uranium dissolved in the oceans. If it rises even higher, it becomes feasable to produce it in breeder reactors. In short, the world is _not_ running out of uranium. Second, the "50 year" statement assumes that we will not improve our reactor technology. In north america, we're still running 30+ year old reactors that only remove 5% of the available energy in the uranium. The "waste" that comes out of these reactors can be processed and put through again, or can be used in newer designs to extract more energy from the same uranium. So, ignoring the idea of finding new reserves to mine, if we improve our efficiency to even 50%, we'll now have 500 years worth. (of course, now _I'm_ ignoring the inevitable fact that we will consume more than our current rate over the next 500 years.)

  • by sbaker (47485) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:35PM (#15145939) Homepage
    According to Wikipedia:

    Average passenger-miles per gallon:

    Automobiles 34.9
    Personal trucks 30.8
    Motorcycles 55.0
    Transit Buses 30.3
    Airlines 33.8
    Intercity trains 25.9
    Commuter trains 46.1

    So Airlines are better than AVERAGE cars - but an SUV is much worse than an average car.

    Motorcycles and commuter trains win.

    But a FUEL EFFICIENT car is the best option. You can fit an adult, 3 kids and a bunch of kid stuff into a 35mpg MINI Cooper - I do it all the time. Then you're up to 140 passenger miles per gallon - but even when you drive alone, you're still doing a shade better than average. With a typical SUV - even with three kids - you are only just barely making the average - but when you drive it alone (as I'm SURE you do) - you're dragging the average down so far...
  • by bnenning (58349) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:41PM (#15145962)
    Nuclear power is not safe!

    Crossing the street is not safe. But often the benefits outweigh the risks.

    Please go tell how safe it is to the thousands of people affected by the Chernobyl accident.

    Chernobyl was a disaster for many reasons, most of which have no relevance to modern nuclear plants not run by Communist dictatorships. It is also instructive to look at the number of people killed in coal mining accidents.
  • Re:Good news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lazy Jones (8403) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:15PM (#15146089) Homepage Journal
    And now are making money selling the electricity from their many nuclear power plants to others (read "Germany" where the Green Peace hippies managed to stop the building of nuclear power plants years ago).

    Germany has been exporting electricity since 2003 (i.e. more exports than imports) according to this official report [www.bmu.de]. In fact, in 2003, France had to import power from Germany because of the hot summer. Europe already has a larger production capacity than its projected needs and France will have to look for new markets soon.

  • If I had a dollar for every time I heard this in the Australian political blogosphere, I'd be a rich man. Australia selling uranium to China (sales to India have not yet been approved) doesn't pose any additional proliferation risk [benambra.org], and, by discouraging reprocessing, may actually help reduce wider proliferation risks [armscontrolwonk.com].

    As for passive solar, I'm all in favour, but there are several issues:

    • it's not enough
    • There's an enormous existing housing stock that will take many decades to rebuild.
    • Passive solar makes SFA difference in high-density living. Do you think 2+ billion Chinese and Indians will be living in American-style McMansions, or apartments?
    • Jevon's paradox [wikipedia.org]. In this case, Americans spend their energy savings on bigger houses [rd.com], negating the efficiency gains.

    As to your objections to nuclear, low-level waste is really a nonissue...the stuff is simply not that dangerous compared to the myriad other waste we dump into landfills or spray into the atmosphere. Compared to the thousands of lung cancers caused by radon [wikipedia.org] annually, LLW is a piffling risk. High-level waste is the problem, if mostly a political one. See how Sweden is dealing with it [www.skb.se].

    Finally, terrorism. Nuclear plants are a pretty tough target. How well defended is the Maroondah reservoir?

  • Breeder Reactors? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday April 17, 2006 @10:52PM (#15146483)
    "The only solution on the table right now is Yucca"

    Well, there's always the reprocessing route. If you use a breeder reactor and waste reprocessing fuel cycle, you can eliminate all of the high level, won't go away for thousands of years waste. Of course, you still have the "low level" waste, but that will go away after a few hundred years (maybe 500 or so to be safe). The great part is that they've figured out how to convert conventional PWR's and BWR's into breeders through advanced computer modeling, so there's no need for any new R&D. The only problem is that it's a lot more expensive than the once through fuel cycle. I guess you can have it clean, or you can have it cheap. Its cheaper and cleaner than coal anyway.

    Storing the high level waste isn't really as much as a problem as you think, either. 48 tons of nuclear waste may sound like a lot, but it's really only a few cubic meters. There are salt domes in new mexico that will probably be geologically stable for millions of years (look up the waste isolation pilot plant, WIPP). The only reason yucca mountain is at yucca mountain is politics, it's really a pretty bad location. At any rate, 48 tons of waste per year compares favorably to the hundreds of tones of waste generated daily by a coal plant, in my opinion.
  • by FredFnord (635797) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:08PM (#15146536)
    It's worth noting that, while Patrick Moore was indeed a significant part of the start of Greenpeace, he's basically been in the pocket of industry for ages. He's run a salmon farm and called claims that they pollute 'hogwash'. (They do, in fact, pollute.) He's been a front man for the lumber company involved in the deforestation of much of Canada for a long time. He was instrumental in persuading the Pew Charitable Trust not to 'waste its money' on funding environmental groups.

    He's the one who said "We found that the Amazon rainforest is more than 90 percent intact." Which is, of course, total bunk. He's basically a greenwasher now... someone who you hire who tells you how to make your industry look more green without actually changing your practices, or whom you hire to do damage control when your industry has just been exposed as a gross polluter, or in some cases even when your industry is about to get much worse and you don't want any flack from it.

    Moore's clients have included:
    B.C. Hazardous Waste Management Corporation
    BHP Minerals (Canada) Ltd. (To claim that dumping mine tailings in a river is not harmful.)
    National Association of Forest Industries (heavy loggers)
    Westcoast Energy and BC Gas (to play down global warming concerns)

    Some sources:
    http://www.fanweb.org/patrick-moore/liar.html [fanweb.org]
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Patrick _Moore [sourcewatch.org]

    My favorite quote:
    Trees and wood are both good! A world without forests is as unthinkable as a day without wood.

    Got wood?

    -fred
  • by r00t (33219) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @12:28AM (#15146799) Journal
    Use fossil fuel? Hell no! It's better to sell that to the west.

    Saudia Arabia actually uses nuclear for desalination.
  • by Hartree (191324) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:05AM (#15147142)
    Because much like the Bush administration's restrictions on stem cell research is based on political reasons rather than engineering or science, the Carter administration's position was also based more on politics than science or engineering.

    There were groups that wanted it stopped due to opposition to nuclear power in general. There were also groups that wanted it stopped because they thought it was a proliferation risk. The civilian nuclear power industry didn't fight so strongly for it as it was looking to be expensive and it appeared to be easier just to deal with the waste problem later. i.e Kick the can down the road.

    I remember when the decision was made. I disagreed then as well. Unfortunately, the political conditions were such that it went ahead. I think it was quite a bad idea.

    The claim of shutting reprocessing down for proliferation reasons was questionable.

    Yes, being able to do the chemical separation is one part of making plutonium for bomb fuel. However, it's relatively difficult to get useable bomb fuel plutonium from reactor fuel that's been in a normal type power reactor. It has too much of Pu 240 and other higher weight isotopes of Pu. (What you want is relatively pure Pu 239.)

    Bomb fuel is made in a reactor specifically engineered to produce less of the higher weight isotopes of plutonium. Normal power reactors produce too much Pu 240.

    That makes the engineering for building a bomb out of it much tougher, since the core has to be crushed more quickly (due to large amount of spontaneous neutrons from Pu 240). The material is also much more dimensionally unstable. Pu is a weird metal in many ways and with the higher decay rate (and higher heat production) of the Pu 240, it changes phases and shape. Some of the dimensions of bomb cores are fairly tight tolerance.

    The British apparently had a program to make a plutonium bomb from Pu with a high level of heavier isotopes, but gave it up.

    This is why the US offered to build light water reactors for North Korea. It wasn't a major proliferation risk. The US reneged on it, but that's another sad tail of international relations.

    So, just having reprocessing plants is a bit less of a direct problem for proliferation than is often alleged, since the product of them (unless it came from a special reactor) isn't easy to use as bomb fuel.

    It's not that big a worry as far as nongovernment entities. It would be tough for even an advanced terrorist group to make use of the usual output material from a reprocessing plant.

    The indirect problem is that if a country has reprocessing plants already, it's harder to monitor that they aren't secretly setting up one of their reactors to make bomb fuel.

    So, that's the longwinded explanation of why I agree with the earlier poster that the Carter administration's decision was shortsighted.

    Just like I feel that the Clinton administration's decision to shut down research on the IFR was also a shortsighted payback to a political constituency. (The IFR was an advanced reactor that would have produced far less waste, and much shorter lived waste.)
  • Re:Solar Future (Score:3, Informative)

    by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:41AM (#15147694) Homepage
    Your information is way out of date (if it ever was true). PV is relatively clean and cost effective now, and per unit these advantages will only improve with increasing volume. We just don't need centralized nukes in the next few decades, propping up a nuclear industry with a history of lies, murder (Silkwood), and pollution, built on government subsidies for R&D and insurance, and initmately associated with WMD production.

    On scalability, PV solar systems work well especially when integrated with a system that gets some of its energy during cloudy or nighttime from cogeneration, which could be fueled using hydrogen made elsewhere by solar panels, or by biodiesel fuelds derived from farms, or from synthetic carbon based fuels (like synthetic propane) created from power from solar panels deployed in equatorial areas or the ocean. To see such an solar and cogeneration system working cost effectively in a major northern city, consider:
    http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/popup/hhtoronto/works.h tm [cmhc-schl.gc.ca]
    "What is truly amazing is that CMHC's Healthy House in Toronto provides all the comforts of home - without using municipal services. It has been designed to rely on sun and precipitation as the basis of its heating, electrical, water and waste water management systems. And right from the start, the way it is built and the materials used in construction mean more comfort, less maintenance and lower operating costs. That goes for the landscaping, too. CMHC's Healthy House in Toronto is located near public transportation, and is designed to provide maximum usable space on a minimum amount of land, to limit air and water pollution, and to use locally available materials and durable renewable resources wherever possible. It is an affordable solution to housing now that will keep on working for many years to come."

    On pollution:
    http://greennature.com/article641.html [greennature.com]
    "These differences, however, may not be particularly meaningful, according to Vasilis Fthenakis, a senior chemical engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory who specializes in the potential environmental impacts of solar cells. "There are no significant environmental and safety hazards with any of [the types of solar cells] to the scale that they are manufactured today," he explains. And although there are some hazardous materials used, such as silane gas, cadmium, carbon tetrafluoride, and lead, he says, "if you look at the quantities in relation to their use in other industries, they are very, very small." But these risks will become more significant as the industry grows, he adds."

    Still, the fact remains that either we clean up all manufacturing towards zero emissions, or we will be burried in waste and pollution no matter what our energy source. R&D into all forms of low pollution manufacuring in the future will benefit PV.

    Overall they make sense right now compare to what we have:
    http://www.azom.com/details.asp?ArticleID=1119 [azom.com]
    "An average U.S. household uses 830 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. On average, producing 1000 kWh of electricity with solar power reduces emissions by nearly 8 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 5 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and more than 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide. During its projected 28 years of clean energy production, a rooftop system with 2-year payback and meeting half of a household's electricity use would avoid conventional electrical plant emissions of more than half a ton of sulfur dioxide, one-third a ton of nitrogen oxides, and 100 tons of carbon dioxide. PV is clearly a wise energy investment with great environmental benefits!"

    And consider innovative approaches towards lifetime recycling of PV products:
    http://www.renewableenergyacc [renewablee...access.com]
  • by Peter Lake (260100) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @10:17AM (#15148741)
    Japan, on the other hand, has 34% of it's electical power coming form 53 reactors, of which the majority are breeder reactors (generate their own plutonium for use as fuel in themselves and other reactors), so it seems they're a heck of a lot less fearful of it than the US is

    And Japan has a great track record on nuclear safety!

    Arrests over Japan nuclear accident [bbc.co.uk] "The accident was caused by three workers at the plant who mixed excess amounts of liquefied uranium in steel buckets, setting off a nuclear chain reaction."
    Two were killed and over 600 exposed to radiation.

    Accident at Japan nuclear plant [bbc.co.uk] "At least four people have been killed in the deadliest accident to have hit a Japanese nuclear power plant."
    Five were killed.
    Kepco, which manages the Mihama plant, has admitted since the accident that it had not properly checked the pipe which burst, fatally scalding five workers, since it was installed in 1976.(here [bbc.co.uk])

    Bosses quit in Japan nuclear scandal [bbc.co.uk] "Top executives at Japanese electricity producer Tepco are to quit, after the firm admitted possibly having falsified nuclear safety records."

    Blaze at Japanese nuclear plant [bbc.co.uk] "A fire has broken out at a nuclear plant in western Japan, injuring two people but causing no radiation leak, officials say."

    Japan court orders reactor closed [bbc.co.uk] "A court has ordered Japan's newest nuclear reactor to be shut down over fears about its safety in the event of an earthquake."

    Japan's shaky nuclear record [bbc.co.uk]

    But you're right, they *do* seem a heck of a lot less fearful of it - at least those guys mixing uranium in buckets! :)
  • by djh101010 (656795) * on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @10:25AM (#15148824) Homepage Journal
    Chernobyl

    You _do_ know that the USA'n design has no resemblance whatsoever to the open-pile primitive disaster-waiting-to-happen that Chernobyl was, right? If you don't, please educate yourself before you make your decision firm in your own mind. It's an entirely different thing; comparing today's technology to their primitive one is like comparing today's top of the line desktop PCs to the ENIAC.
  • Re:BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @11:46AM (#15149708) Journal
    I ask for scientific studies and you give me a opinion piece from the Tuesday, April 23, 1991 issue of the MIT Tech [mit.edu] encouraging people to attend the "City of Boston Earth Day event remembering the Chernobyl human and environmental victims".

    This is nothing more than op/ed piece. It has no scientific value.

    Care to try again?

  • In related news (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cargo Cult Islander (969189) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @01:19PM (#15150715)
    Greenpeace just issued a report made in collaboration with 40 ukranian, russian and white russian scientists where they claim that the estimated death toll from the Chernobyl accident has been extremely underestimated by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA estimated the total death toll to 4000 people. Greenpeace and the east european scientists estimated that 93,000 people died from Chernobyl related cancer cases. Added to that is the immense social costs from the forced relocation of 300,000 people from the local area.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/chern obyl-deaths-180406 [greenpeace.org]

    Now, I have a few questions.

    Why doesn't /. bring news from the anti-nuclear lobby and only news planted by the pro-nuclear lobby?

    How long are the /. crowd going to accept being tricked by the pro-nuclear power plant lobby? That industry have more money than M$. The last two years increased interest is a classic case of an industry manipulating the public opinion. Do the friendly Linux crowd accept to be manipulated by big business and slick spin doctors? Does anybody?

    And regarding the article: How do we remove the CO2 emissions from the mining, transport and processing of the nuclear fuel? In reality those emissions are so big that nuclear power plants only emits 30% as much CO2 as a traditional coal powered plant.

    Nuclear Power is a non-renewable power source. Why not just skip directly to investments in renewable power sources instead of relying on costly, risky, centralized Nuclear Power plants?

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