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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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  • It's about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DavidinAla (639952) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:02PM (#15144987)
    The logic behind using safe forms of nuclear power has been clear for a long, long time. It's nice to see some greens finally start accepting what has been obvious to some of us for 30 or 40 years. Now I'm curious how long it will be before the same people start realizing that they have been duped about global warming -- by the same people who duped us about the "coming Ice Age" and hundreds of millions of people supposedly dying of hunger from overpopulation in the '70s. The same crackpots who have been feeding us false predictions are still being given credibility today. Why people such as Lester Brown and Paul Erlich are given any credibility is beyond logic.

    David
  • by Cowclops (630818) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:03PM (#15144992)
    I've always said that nuclear is the way to go... while there are implications in the extreme long term as far as what you do with the wastes, there are no blaring short term problems like running out of coal and oil or spewing waste directly into the air.
  • He was probably right to oppose nuclear power. Certainly we have better technology today to make safer nuclear power. Again, nuclear power will never be completely safe, but neither is wind, hydro, nor coal. Conservation, both thru individual action and thru technology are probably the safest 'forms of power', but they would never be enough.
    It is time to bring nuclear power back into the discourse about our energy needs, but I'm not sure it's time to start building plants as fast as we can either...
  • by djh101010 (656795) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:04PM (#15144999) Homepage Journal
    I've been an environmentalist all my life; planted close to 10,000 trees, maintain habitat for the critters, that sort of thing. No small expense or effort. I consider myself to be more of an environmentalist than some bozo with a "save the (whatever)" pin that only gets angry about things and doesn't actually do anything to improve the situation.

    That said, I'm puzzled at the attitude the submitter apparently has, in that he seems to be describing environmentalists, and pro-nuke-power people, as two separate groups. To me, nuke is an obvious choice. If you need no other explaination, see how the anti-nuke people resort to blatant lies and unrealistic comparisons in order to get people to _feel_ that it's bad. The pro-nuke side goes with science so people _think_ about, and _understand_ the issues.

    My point, I guess, is that this isn't surprising or new, some guy who left Greenpeace when it diverted from his POV is just saying what so many other environmentalists have known for decades. I'm not sure this is news, other than that whoever this guy is, is saying it.
  • by Swampfeet (758961) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:05PM (#15145013)
    and wish we had moved to it in a big way the way France has, but this Moore fellow is an easily discredited shill for industry. He's not the representative we want to advance our cause. Richard Rhodes [nci.org], James Lovelock [energybulletin.net], and Bernard Cohen [pitt.edu] have a hell of a lot better credibility.
  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:06PM (#15145021) Homepage Journal
    I seem to recall that something similar to this was brought up a few months ago here at Slashdot and several seemingly very intelligent posters made citations and pointed out that the amount of uranium we have available that can be processed will last for only a very limited timespan and that nuclear perhaps isn't the best way to go.

    Of course, there's always the "we'll run out of oil by 1995" theories running around, but the arguments seemed quite compelling. I can't find them again now, but what's the real deal with this? If the whole world went nuclear, would we all be desperate for sources of uranium in fifty years' time?
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:07PM (#15145028) Homepage
    Global warming and climate change are real and undenyable. All it takes is some sampling of weather patterns over the past few hundred years (since we have been recording them) to note the drastic shifts in the past few decades.

    It is absolutely not refutable that change is occuring. What is refuta ble is whether or not it is because of a natural cycle, or because of man-made change.

    But the thing is, it does not matter what the cause is. If the cycle continues it will certainly, without a doubt, lead to the death of us as a civilization, whether we were the cause or not.

    Hence the concern. It doesn't matter if we are the root cause or not, we're the only species on the planet with the capability to reduce and possibly reverse the cycle.

  • NIMBYs (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:08PM (#15145038)
    Not In My Back Yard (TM Economist Magazine)

    These are the folks that are going to impede nuclear power. just look at the news when the Federal Gov. wants to put waste in some hole somewhere. The locals just go apeshit and start massive legal challenges.

    I have to say, I'd be one of them. Regardless of how safe the waste storage is, I don't want to be a home owner who lives near a waste storage facility. I'd be afraid that I'd never be able to sell the house.

  • Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by abscissa (136568) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:12PM (#15145063)
    As an environmentalist, I have always supported nuclear power. However, to suggest that global warming isn't taking place or that it is another "crackpot" idea of the environmentalist movement is simply flat out wrong.

    The people who were leading the anti-nuclear movement thirty years ago were not leading scientists and they did not have the equivelent access to information that we do now.

    I do not force my views about electrical engineering or molecular physics on everyone, having never stuided these things. Why does everyone feel compelled to contribute to the environmental debate when very, very few have studed environmental science?
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:14PM (#15145076)
    I'm not sure this is news, other than that whoever this guy is, is saying it.

    The real news, if you RTFA, is that his former green bretheren still treat him like a pariah for... being rational.
  • Good news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drgonzo59 (747139) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:14PM (#15145078)
    It seems like the French already figured it out years before. 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). Whas is really that hard to predict that nuclear power can be made safe and will be a better option than becoming addicted to overseas oil? Sure Chernobyl happened (I was pretty close to it too) but they should have just looked at it that and said "let's see what they did wrong and fix and move on". Oh, no, they all freaked out: "OMG! Teh nucular power is teh evil -- must burn more oil and coal!".
  • Re:It's about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dynamo52 (890601) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:14PM (#15145079)
    While I disagree with your comments on global warming, I also think that it is about ime environmentalists came around to nuclear energy. If managed properly, nuclear can greatly alleviate our energy problems. Waste can be stored in a safe and isolated location and modern plants have almost no chance of meltdowns.

    The environmental movement today has become a front for anti-corporate activists.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:17PM (#15145105)
    > It is absolutely not refutable that change is occuring. What is refuta ble is whether or not it is because of a natural cycle, or because of man-made change.
    >
    >But the thing is, it does not matter what the cause is. If the cycle continues it will certainly, without a doubt, lead to the death of us as a civilization, whether we were the cause or not.
    >
    >Hence the concern. It doesn't matter if we are the root cause or not, we're the only species on the planet with the capability to reduce and possibly reverse the cycle.

    Boy, am I glad you weren't gloabl emperor in the 70s when "it was absolutely not refutable" that the problem was global cooling, and not warming.

    That's the indelicate way of saying that it bloody well does matter what the cause is, because unless you understand the cause, you're likely to apply the wrong solution, because the correct solution to "natural" global cooling in the 70s would have been to ignite every coal seam on fire in order to dump as much CO2 into the atmosphere as possible to keep things warm.

  • by caffeination (947825) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:17PM (#15145111)
    It's not a question of whether or not we can do anything about it, it's whether we should. Why should we tune the ecosystem to our own benefit, when the planet has gone through things like ice-ages which have only served to refine the life here?

    A lot hinges on the question of whether the changes are our doing. If they're not, we should adapt ourselves, not the planet. If they are, we need to start controlling ourselves. Your view of the solution sounds a bit external to humans ("reverse the cycle") for my tastes, though my impression may be wrong.

  • by bnenning (58349) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:19PM (#15145118)
    To me, nuke is an obvious choice.

    That's because you're a rational environmentalist who wants to actually protect the environment, as opposed to the utopians who want to Change the World.
  • by klingens (147173) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:20PM (#15145129)
    a) Is there any commercial insurance company which will insure a nuclear reactor? Here in Germany all reactors must be insured against meltdown, etc. Since no insurance company will write a police for a reactor, the government steps in and "insures" it. All of our reactors here are insured that way.

    b) Is there a place in any western democracy (russia and china probably have less problems in that area) for finally depositing the resulting nuclear waste? A proper finaly resting place for the stuff?
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:22PM (#15145149)
    Yeah, exactly - cuz because some people in the past were wrong about a specific topic , everyone who says anything about something that makes you uncomfortable has to be wrong too.

    How about instead of grasping at straws, you actually look at the data? And I mean, all of the data, not just the one that makes you feel fuzzy and warm?
  • by DirePickle (796986) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:23PM (#15145161)

    And droughts. And more powerful storms. And the melting of the glaciers on Greenland and Antarctica, and the resulting 10' rise in oceans heights. And the disruption of the jet stream to northern Europe. And the ensuing famines. And the flooding of coastal areas.

    Certainly, as a people the world can surely overcome the coming troubles, but it won't be pleasant. You want to take in the tens of millions of displaced people? If you're in the US, do you remember the trouble that the loss of part of one city caused, last year?

    Sure, maybe the hundreds of scientists are wrong. But, you know, maybe they're right too? Shouldn't an attempt be made to curtail some of this?

  • by Nef (46782) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:23PM (#15145162)
    Those parts that are up to snuff (e.g. negligible hardening and change in NDT) should be refurbed/reused. Those that are not could be melted down, including a process to remove activated isotopes in the process, and re-used to create new parts!
  • by Golias (176380) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:24PM (#15145165)
    But the thing is, it does not matter what the cause is. If the cycle continues it will certainly, without a doubt, lead to the death of us as a civilization, whether we were the cause or not.

    I was with you up until that point.

    We don't know whether another three degrees of warming over the next century (which is what the most pessimistic of Global Warming predictors are saying will happen regardless of what changes we make) will, on balance, be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.

    Historically, periods of warm climates have been more prosperous for mankind than cool eras, because most of the land in the world lies outside the tropics.

    All the Ice melting off Greenland might suck if you live in Venice, New Orleans, or some other port town that is mostly below sea level, but it's the best news ever if you've invested in any arctic real estate.

    I'm a big fan of going to nuclear as an incrimental step towards Solar, fusion, or some other, better power source... not because I buy in to "greenhouse" climate models, but rather because I like the idea of cleaner air in our cities. It just plain makes sense, no matter which side of the Global Warming debate you are on.
  • He was probably right to oppose nuclear power. Certainly we have better technology today to make safer nuclear power. Again, nuclear power will never be completely safe, but neither is wind, hydro, nor coal. Conservation, both thru individual action and thru technology are probably the safest 'forms of power', but they would never be enough.
    Actually, if you RTFA'd you'd notice that he scolds himself for being against nuclear power 30 years ago and cites how the safety aspects of the US nuclear power facilities - only major incident in US nuclear power history is PA's Three-Mile Island, which - as he states was a success, not a failure, since it completely contained the incident as it was designed to do.

    Why does he scold himself? Because, as he says in the article, the techology could be a lot further along if it was allowed to develop instead of being put on the side-burner for nearly 30 years where it got little development, at least in the US markets.

    From the article, I'm sure he'd agree that we need to get underway with starting to build new nuclear plants now.
  • Wrong question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <(tms) (at) (infamous.net)> on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:28PM (#15145194) Homepage

    Is fission less dangerous to the environment than coal? Perhaps. If it were a choice between only between building more coal plants and building fission ones, it's possible that fission might win out. (Though I think it would have to depend of the specifics of the technologies and implementations involved.)

    But that's the wrong question.

    At best, fission is still a stop-gap: supplies of fissionables are limited, on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less. So is it not more reasonable to divert resources to solving the problem right - with fusion reseach, renewables (i.e., using that big fusion reactor in the sky, including ideas like orbital photovoltaics) and better energy efficiency - than to build fission reactors and pushing the problem onto our great-grandchildren? (Or rather, for us non-breeders, our friends' great-grandchildren?)

    The TFA mentions the Iran situation only to gloss over it, but there are massive security concerns with fission technology.

    Also TFA is inaccurate in talking about nuclear waste; the problem is not the U and Pu in spent fuel, which can be processed and reused, but thorium, radium, radon, and radioactive lead isotopes.

    Is some of the opposition to fission irrational? Yes. But so is some of its support, based on an almost romantic notion of "man harnassing the mighty power of the atom!"

  • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:31PM (#15145216)
    Congratulations for buying into the global cooling myth [realclimate.org]!

    Every now and again, the myth that "we shouldn't believe global warming predictions now, because in the 1970's they were predicting an ice age and/or cooling" surfaces. Recently, George Will mentioned it in his column (see Will-full ignorance) and the egregious Crichton manages to say "in the 1970's all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming" (see Michael Crichtons State of Confusion ). You can find it in various other places too [here, mildly here, etc]. But its not an argument used by respectable and knowledgeable skeptics, because it crumbles under analysis. That doesn't stop it repeatedly cropping up in newsgroups though.
  • Nope. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:32PM (#15145225) Journal
    Certainly we have better technology today to make safer nuclear power.

    No, we don't. The technology is pretty much the same. There haven't been any new nuclear plants in the past 20 years and they really haven't updated much of the safety systems. There still isn't a long term way of dealing with the tons of radioactive waste being produced. Don't get me wrong, I think Nuclear is the way to go, but I would really like the storage system to be fixed soon.
  • Nice ad hom (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bravehamster (44836) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:34PM (#15145239) Homepage Journal
    This is a textbook example of an ad hominem attack. If you have anything to say about his actual message, I'd be interested to hear it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:38PM (#15145271)
    There are more trees now in North America than there were when Columbus landed in 1492. (source: Cato institute)

    That's great, as long as you assume that a 10-year-old scraggly pine tree growing on tree farm waiting to be turned into junk mail is just as good as a 200-year-old chestnut or oak tree.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:39PM (#15145281)
    The logic behind using safe forms of nuclear power has been clear for a long, long time. It's nice to see some greens finally start accepting what has been obvious to some of us for 30 or 40 years.

    You can sell nuclear energy to me when you can answer the question "What do we do with 48 tons of nuclear waste generated per year per plant [sfgate.com]"? Arrogant people think nuclear power is perfectly safe. Paranoid people think nuclear power will destroy the planet. Intelligent people see plant designs that are intrinsically safe, but want to know what we're going to do with the waste.

    The ONLY solution the industry has right now is "bury it" (Yucca), "make it someone else's problem" (Arizona's) and "hope we're not around if it is a problem"(whoever is on the planet when Yucca breaks open, or is attacked, or a society 1,000 years from now, which can't read English, trundles into the mysterious cave and comes out with Magical Glowing Glass.)

    Industry never changes. Their solutions to waste never change; it's always about hiding it or making it someone else's problem, because those are the cheapest and easiest.

    We've got about 50,000 tons of nuclear waste sitting around in various stockpiles across the nation; more than any other hazardous waste, and if you want to get really scared- some of it is sitting in pools of water (because it heats itself constantly) in STEEL CONTAINERS.

    The only solution on the table right now is Yucca; only problem is, we're just extending the parameters of "bury a hole" and "be long gone when it becomes a problem." The stuff in Yucca mountain will be around for 100,000 years. There are serious problems with making stuff last that long, making signs that people will understand even 1,000 years from now, geological changes over just a few thousand years, etc.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:41PM (#15145290)
    Exactly. Not only that, but old-growth forest is being cut down all over the world (like the Amazon rainforest), so any extra trees here in North America can only help make up for that loss.
  • pebble bed reactors make all the difference...because they are super safe.

    Except, they're not [wikipedia.org]. Surrounding your fissionable with graphite - the stuff that fueled the Chernobyl fire - is not really bright. And a 1986 accident in Germany with a damaged "pebble" led to the release of radiation.

    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

    Reprocessing leaves around plenty of thorium, radium, radon, and radioactive lead isotopes.

    there is no peak uranium like there is peak oil. mainly because we can run nuclear power off of thorium as well as uranium.

    Of course there's a "peak uranium", thorium doesn't change that. But thorium is a lousy fuel, it has to be "bred" into U233. And then you've still got a "peak thorium"; as thorium is about three times as abundant as uranium, maybe that's in 150 years instead of 50. (But then you need more thorium to get the same energy, so maybe sooner.)

  • Re:Shill! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Qwavel (733416) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:50PM (#15145360)

    That would be fine, but then you can't go and write an opinion piece in the paper without full disclosure. Billing him as 'co-founder of greenpeace' is totally misleading.

    The idea that people don't know what is wrong with this is very depressing.
  • Re:Nice ad hom (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:55PM (#15145400) Homepage Journal

    This is a textbook example of an ad hominem attack.

    No, it isn't. If the GP claimed Moore has a foul body odor, is involved in a sexual relationship with his brother, or employs undocumented domestic staff, those would be ad hominem attacks (whether true or not, BTW -- I picked examples that are probably untrue, but claims need not be false to be ad hominem).

    Questioning your opponent's person, habits or general history is ad hominem. Questioning his motivations and rationale for taking a given position is not ad hominem. Of course, it's still better to simply address his arguments head-on, but sometimes its necessary to analyze motivations to detect subtly slanted arguments.

    In this particular case, I happen to think Moore is absolutely right with his stance on nuclear power, whatever his reasons for taking that position, and I also think it's useful to know that many environmentalists are going to discount his words because of his anti-environmental lobbying efforts. Reading the headline, I was hopeful that perhaps we were actually seeing environmentalists realizing that nuclear power is less risky than the alternatives. Reading the GP's post about Moore made me realize that this article, at least, doesn't provide evidence of that hoped-for change of opinion.

  • by HappyEngineer (888000) on Monday April 17, 2006 @06:59PM (#15145420) Homepage
    SUV's are extremely practical for those with 2 or more kids especialy if activities are involved and/or people who haul stuff that needs to stay out of the weather.
    I'm not advocating SUV hating, but your reply is a bit silly. You can use a station wagon (or whatever they call 6 seat cars these days) for every reason you just mentioned unless by "haul stuff" you mean hauling firewood (as opposed to just hauling hockey equipment or anything else that'll fit in a station wagon just fine).
  • by Andy Gardner (850877) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:00PM (#15145432)
    Why should we tune the ecosystem to our own benefit, when the planet has gone through things like ice-ages which have only served to refine the life here?

    The question of whether we should is irrelevant. If we can do something to maintain the status quo, we will. It's the nature of natural selection that life forms do everything in their power to survive. It's beside the point that no species in Earth history has had the capability (assuming we do) to consiously affect a change in the global climate before.

    You can bet if the dinosaurs could have prevented the K-T extinction event they would have. It wouldn't have been good news for the mammals but from the perspective of the dinosaurs it would've been the smart evolutionary move. And that's what natural selection is all about.

    A lot hinges on the question of whether the changes are our doing. If they're not, we should adapt ourselves, not the planet.

    Again one of the things that has boosted man up the evolutionary scale is his/her ability to fashion tools and modify his environment. Are you saying we should throw away the thing that has given us our 'edge', so to speak?

  • The only solution on the table right now is Yucca; only problem is, we're just extending the parameters of "bury a hole" and "be long gone when it becomes a problem." The stuff in Yucca mountain will be around for 100,000 years. There are serious problems with making stuff last that long, making signs that people will understand even 1,000 years from now, geological changes over just a few thousand years, etc.

    The problem is time. Radioactive material is radioactive--it decays into stable elements over time. The most radioactive elements will have decayed in less than a thousand years. Nothing is perfectly safe--crossing the street is a greater hazard to you than Yucca mountain will be to anyone. More on topic, spewing radioactive material into the air is probably a tad less safe than depositing it underground, too. And where do you think we get more stable forms of uranium in the first place? It's been in the ground all over the world for a lot longer than 100,000 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:02PM (#15145440)
    > Ah, the old scientists in the 1970s believed in global cooling myth rears its ugly head again.

    The argument isn't "Global cooling was wrong then, global warming's wrong now".

    It's "If we'd tried to fix global cooling, we'd have been wrong", and "If we try to fix global warming, we may very well do wrong again."

    There are times to use the precautionary principle, and there are times not to use it, and the global warming debate is a bitch for both sides, precisely because it is one of the times that it's probably best to use it. Unfortunately, that may very well mean "do nothing", which is the answer anti-industrialists don't like. (Scientist == Believer in global warming, but believer in global warming != anti-industrialist. And for the record, Environmentalist != anti-industrialist either.)

  • Re:Shill! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2short (466733) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:06PM (#15145465)
    What he's saying about nuclear power is not particularly notable.

    The fact that a "Founder of Greenpeace" is saying it is what is news-worthy. Who he (supposedly) is is the story. So it's perfectly reasonable to point out that "Founder" is a stretch, and "longtime paid lobbyist for any well-heeled industry with eco-image problems that will cut him a check" is a much more relevant description of who he is.

    What he is actually saying about nuclear power is not terribly worth discussing; it's the nuke-industry party line he's paid to spout. It's as irrationally pro-nuclear as the actual founders of Greenpeace are anti-nuclear. Neither makes a good starting point for discussion.
  • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:09PM (#15145480)
    So really, the two things cancel out.

    The only reason we are expected to hear what this guy has to say is because he's advertised as an environmentalist, and primarily identified as the cofounder of greenpeace - I mean, go read the summary to see what is being emphasised. Undermine that, as the GP has done, and he becomes just another average Joe, and one who has little to say that hasn't been said, and who doesn't really have enough experience in the field to make professional judgements. If he believes his arguments can stand on their own two feet, then he shouldn't have misled about his allegiance in the first place.

    That said, I am personally ambivalent on the nuclear issue. I don't think there is alot of real information out there on what the full costs/benefits are - supporters and detractors seem to constantly give contradictory assertions, and there doesn't seem to be a strong scientific consensus on it.
  • by njh (24312) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:09PM (#15145482) Homepage
    So you have no issues with Iran building new reactors? I'm personally quite puzzled to hear in the news that Australia is looking to sell Uranium to India and China, and practically in the same breath decrying Iran's extension of their nuclear fuel processing plant.

    Similarly people point out that U235 is not up to our predicted unmodified energy use (estimates of less than 70 years are commonly touted), to which nuclear advocates then suggest fast breeders - which produce easily purified plutonium, easily manufactured into bombs - or searching for more dilute sources of U235 requiring vast mining operations (and nobody mentions the oil required to power the diggers) with their attendant environmental disruption.

    Nor have we solved the waste storage problem - nuclear power produces large amounts of low grade waste (such as contaminated overalls) which we just keep shuffling around. Nuclear energy currently contributes somewhere around 10% of the total world energy, so the waste problem will get 10 times worse if we use nuclear wholesale. Considering the current handling of things like electronics waste I have no confidence that the situation will improve.

    Considering that half or more of domestic energy use is to make low grade thermal energy (space heating and DHW), and that people have demonstrated hundreds of practical and effective solar heating systems (for example, the Barra design in italy, sunspace and solar closet designs, clear attic collectors with radiant ceiling storage), I wonder why a rational environmentalist isn't promoting those instead? One reason perhaps is that solar energy is constantly hijacked by PV enthusiasts who go off talking about PV arrays in the desert and other giant projects. These cost lots of money, are dubious economically and move the problem out into some location requiring massive infrastructure investment.

    Putting energy in a centralised location automatically makes it a target for terrorist and economic attack. Most of the US's foreign policy behaviour in the last 6 years is directly linked to the fear of loss of resources, particularly oil, but energy in general. So far bombing and threatening other countries with energy resources has worked to a degree, but it is burning international good will instead. Switching from one foreign energy source to another seems rather foolish in this light.

    If we need most energy as low grade heat, why not generate that heat locally using the one resource available everywhere: the sun. The remainder might be well served by existing renewable technologies.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:09PM (#15145483)
    We already have droughts, floods, powerful storms, varying jet streams, famines, and lots of other weather. Why should we expect next century's droughts to be drier than last century's? When was the time when the weather was perfect for everyone? What makes you think that you can have the weather you want?

    You want to take in the tens of millions of displaced people? If you're in the US, do you remember the trouble that the loss of part of one city caused, last year?

    Are they all going to be displaced in one day? Or is it going to happen over the course of a century? Displacement of people already happens over the course of a century based on lots of different factors. Why is this so much worse than if people move from New York to Florida for warm weather and low taxes?

    Shouldn't an attempt be made to curtail some of this?

    No one has put forth a workable plan. So no. Random, pointless, flailing attempts shouldn't be made. Because it hurts people and doesn't solve the problem.
  • Re:Wrong question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IvyKing (732111) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:10PM (#15145492)
    At best, fission is still a stop-gap: supplies of fissionables are limited, on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less.

    We've got plenty of fissionables (which include U-238 and Th-232), but the supply of fissiles (e.g U-235) is much more limited. Uranium is actually quite common, typical granite has about 1 gram per tonne. Anyway, the whole issue of limited supply of fissile material versus fissionable was what was behind the development of breeder reactors - with the integral fast reactor having some intriguing attributes (and significant engineering challenges).

    Also TFA is inaccurate in talking about nuclear waste; the problem is not the U and Pu in spent fuel, which can be processed and reused, but thorium, radium, radon, and radioactive lead isotopes.

    WTF are you talking about??? Thorium is naturally occuring, radium and radon are part of the natural decay chain of U-238, and the only way lead becomes radioactive is by activation (typically by neutrons). The radioactive waste from reactors consists of fission products and transuranics (plutonium, americium, curium, etc.) - fisson products typically have short half lifes, while the transuranics often have very long half-lifes.

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:11PM (#15145501) Homepage
    You're only looking at the immediate reactionary argument. I felt this way too a long time ago.

    The question should not be: "Who cares about a redwood forest", the question should be: when is enough, enough?

    When there ARE no forests?

    When all of the water in undrinkable due to pollution?

    When there IS no water? (Just ask the SoCal farmers fucked by Mulholland when he diverted the watershed to LA; or the sprawling McMansion suburbs in NorCal that are running out of water).

    Where do you personally draw then line? When there are no trees left, every inch of land is covered with beige houses, and every human being has exactly 1 square yard of space left? Obviously not: but you must ask yourself: when is enough enough?

    Then you will see that the Endangered Species Act is far more powerful than it appears on the surface. Each little insignificant critter on there is nothing more than a proxy, or a negotiable "line" that represents the "enough" I am referring to above.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:12PM (#15145505)
    shoot it into the motherfucking sun!!!
  • Re:Nice ad hom (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BluedemonX (198949) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:14PM (#15145523)
    Actually it is. Though you're thinking of an abusive ad hominem "he smells, and his mom dresses him funny" there is also circumstantial ad hominem: "Circumstantial: A Circumstantial Ad Hominem is one in which some irrelevant personal circumstance surrounding the opponent is offered as evidence against the opponent's position. This fallacy is often introduced by phrases such as: "Of course, that's what you'd expect him to say." The fallacy claims that the only reason why he argues as he does is because of personal circumstances, such as standing to gain from the argument's acceptance."

    Here, once again, is what was said:

    "Moore is a paid lobbyist who specializes is garnering favorable press for environmentally destructive mining and energy industries. He's not just ex-Greenpeace, he's an ex-environmentalist who parlayed his prior experience working for Greenpeace into working against it. If you are a major polluter, Moore is the go-to guy for whitewashing your corporate image."

    The response didn't rebut the position in any way shape or form, it was EXACTLY what the Circumstantial Ad Hominem fallacy represents. It says nothing about what the man said or didn't say, it seeks to attack the man and/or his circumstances.
  • Economics matters! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fortinbras47 (457756) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:17PM (#15145535)
    I think a huge problem for the environmental movement has been that it has ignored economics, ignored costs, and been too quick to ask for heavy handed governt intervention. Sound economics and "conservative" (in American politics sense of the word) policies can be quite beneficial to the environment, such as allowing nuclear power plants. Just for kicks, I'll list a few examples:

    Problem: Too much sulfur dioxide is getting into the atmosphere.
    Leftist environmentalist solution: Require installation of scrubbers on powerplants when they are upgraded.
    What happens?: Powerplants don't upgrade their powerplants. Those that do upgrade then burn cheaper&dirtier coal leaving net pollution even worse.

    Conservative environmentalist solution: Implement pollution trading credits.
    What happens?: Pollution reduced in the most cost effective way.

    Problem: Power production is heavilly dependent on on fossil fuels... long term issue of global warming.
    Leftist environmentalist solution: Subsidize wind, solar, geothermal. Campaign against nuclear, hydropower dams, etc...
    What happens?: Power prices go up because wind, solar, and geothermal is massively expensive. Also, these alternative energy sources can't produce enough electricity and today we are more reliant on coal than we have been before.

    Conservative environmentalist solution: Implement a modest carbon tax and let the market sort the problem out.
    What happens?: Unclear because it hasn't been tried! Theory would predict a slow shift towards nuclear, and low carbon emitting technologies.

    Problem: A number of species in the United States are close to extinction.
    Leftist environmentalist solution: Ban all construction/anything ANYWHERE these species are found.
    What happens?: Developers/landowners have huge incentives to follow a policy of "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut-Up" If the federal government finds that a *insertspeciesnamehere* is living on your land, then your land will become worthless. Therefore, if you see a *insertspeciesnamehere* you shoot it, bury it, and don't tell anyone about it. (Don't think this doesn't happen.)

    Conservative environmentalist solution:
    Pay landowners some fee if *insertspeciesnamehere* is living on their land. They will then have an incentive not to kill it. Also, the government can try to buy the land from the landowner if it is critical habitat for the animal.
    What happens?: Species are protected and society as a WHOLE (not just a few unlucky landowners) is paying the cost of protecting the endagered species. This is a more effective and fair solution.

  • by electroniceric (468976) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:19PM (#15145543)
    It's quite clear that we haven't gotten every last drop of the stuff out of the ground, nor will we ever. The problems are this. One, our current economic well-being is pretty closely tied to cheap energy, and much of our industrial infrastructure is built around oil. So the calm transitions you describe in the consumer space are in fact tremendously wrenching events over most of the economy, requiring an extraordinary amount of capital investment to retool a lot of things. The other area where you're being a little too sunny is _how_ the prices go up. If a political faction in Turkmenistan knocks out a major pipeline to Europe, world oil prices double overnight, and that decimates oh, say, 64% of the American airline industry, who happened to bet on modest price increases rather than stratospheric ones. You're probably right that oil won't go away, but even forced reductions in its use could be tremendously disruptive.

    As you might guess I happen to think the price of energy will in fact go up, and that oil price shocks are a real threat. I also think infrastructure changes and their corresponding investments take a long time, so we'd better get started early and not wait until the market obligates us to move quickly. We can mitigate both the threat of global warming and of oil shocks by having the government make it economically reasonable to plunk down some do-re-mi on a less oil-dependent infrastructure. I've been scoffed at countless times by conservatarian market "purists" who insist that the government can't possibly do something like this, but it's hard to argue away the obligation of good stewardship, both of the economy and of the environment.
  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:24PM (#15145570)
    FYI, I understand that there's a possibilty that your post is meant as satire, but if it is, it's not particularly good satire. For the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that you are being serious.

    In short, if there isn't a direct payoff to me, then fuck it.

    That sort of attiude is why we have corporations who cut R&D to increase the short term balance, why consumer debt is at an all-time high, and why the Feds keep spending us deeper and deeper into debt.

    It's not just irresponsible to have a "me and now" attidue, it's also downright stupid. If everyone wants to help themselves by screwing everyone else over, then we end up with a society which simply doesn't work.

    Just like you can't argue the Savior's sacrifice with an atheist, you can't use extinction to argue with us; we just don't care.

    Funny, because we find it interesting that you still choose to believe without hard evidence - and that's not something that I'm ashamed to admit.

    That and a 20% consumer tax

    There are good arguments for a VAT, but the simple fact is that sales tax generally disproportinately affects the poor. Wealthy individuals spend a much smaller percentage of their income, which means that, percentage wise, they actually pay less tax under a purely VAT system than those who have less income.

    Of course, if you're arguing for a VAT in addition to the current tax system, that's an entirely different matter. Adding money to the federal budget won't really stop our financial problems - it is runaway spending - particularly on the military (17.2%), Medicare/Medicaid (23.6%), and interest on the debt (8.10%) - that is driving our government further into debt.

    Being smart about environmentalism means that you can still eat your tuna (without killing dolphins), you can still have your deck (from a well-managed forest), you can still eat steak (without antibiotic abuse), and drive your car/SUV (hybrid, EV, hydrogen, or biofuel powered).

    Technology has the ability to solve many of our environmental problems without changing our quality of life - we just have to care enough to use it. Unfortunately, it appears that you don't.
  • Re:It's about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@b[ ]een.com ['cgr' in gap]> on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:29PM (#15145597) Homepage Journal
    It's nice to see some greens finally start accepting what has been obvious to some of us for 30 or 40 years.

    "Some greens" have always seen Nuclear power as a good idea (check my domain name). There's been a low-level dispute about whether or not the upsides of nuclear power exceed it's downsides.

    As the disasterous implications of global warming have loomed ever larger, the downsides of nuclear power have started to loose their bite.

    The 'badness' of Nuclear power has always been one of preference (or lack thereof), that has gotten, for some, to the point of dogma. It started as a 'mom and apple pie' hysteric fear -- in the times of fallout and bomb shelters and relatively fresh pictures of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagaski, where "nuclear" was most often coupled with "weapons". It was all to easy to mount a convincing attack on the problems of nuclear power, since the problems were really there, and the hysteric fear of atomic weapons was enough to flip what should have been a practical argument into "oooh, nukes! keep them away from me".

    There was also the unspoken background that many US power plants were actually breeder nuclear reactors that were used as much to help manufacture weaponry as to generate power (( and weren't necessarily all to good at the latter, from some conversations that I've had with people who lived near them )).
    The downsides of nuclear power have not gone away... it's just starting to look more and more like the lesser of two evils.

    summary: anti-nuke was always a policy decision, not a scientific theory.

    Global warming, on the other hand is a scientific theory that has been slowly worked it's way from 'interesting flake idea' to 'pretty much a proven fact' over the space of about 30+ years. There is roughly zero probability of a "Perry Mason Moment(tm)" where 10,000 scientists bread down on the stand and admit that it was all just an elaborate hoax.

  • Re:Nice ad hom (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BluedemonX (198949) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:30PM (#15145600)
    RE: Any argument is partially based on trust. You simply can't look up every statistic, challenge every statement because it's just impractical.

    Of course you can. And trust me, if I was to point out that the dreaded spaghetti weevil has been eliminated from the Earth, about 0.00001sec later someone will point out that I just made that up.

    RE: This is what the people who cry "ad hominem! ad hominem!" at every turn seem to miss. If the guy smells and dresses funny that really has no bearing on whether you trust his facts, or even willing to listen to him. If the person in question is dis-trustful or his motivations are in question, that's quite relevent.

    I don't think you understand how ad hominem works. Hitler may have been an evil human being with many misguided ideas, but he did at one point say 2+2=4, and 2+2 do in fact equal four, the fact that he was a toothbrush moustached syphilitic tweaker with genocidal tendencies don't change that fact. If you wish to attack what the man said, attack what he said. All we are saying when we claim ad hominem is that in a discussion about what the man actually said, throwing in that the guy likes to club baby seals for fun or whatever IS IRRELEVANT.

    Don't please bring up Godwin's Law. That is reserved for a deliberate appeal to the gallery relating something about the other person's argument to the Nazis.
  • Re:It's about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dantheman82 (765429) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:39PM (#15145653) Homepage
    Sorry, your circumstantial ad hominem argument [wikipedia.org] against Driessen should have never received any mod points. But, if Mother Jones (who undoubtedly is seen by the world as an authoritative source) said so, then it must be true. Well, I don't want to be dismissive of them either, but see for yourself [motherjones.com] as to their bias (or lack thereof) and journalistic credentials...as that is in fact substantial grounds for dismissing their rhetoric.
  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Monday April 17, 2006 @07:41PM (#15145668)
    So you would not mind, say, having your drinking water contaminated with fuel for nuclear reactors?

    Maybe you missed the point - after 300 years there is no net increase in radioactivity.

    Put the waste back where the original fuel came from and there is no change in radiation levels. If you want to argue about externals having an impact and that you can't just put it back without additional effects on the environment, then sit on the stuff for 900 years and you are down way BELOW the original level of radioactivity. 900 years is still hugely easier to manage than 90,000 years.
  • it matters scientifically what the cause is in order to find the right antidote, that's true. but psychologically, the blame game is used to defer responsibility

    we all have the responsibility to put our hand on the global thermostat and start twiddling. whether its natural or unnatural that the earth is warming is besides the point. its warming. so lets fix that. it might be natural that the earth is warming up, but we like our ecosystems the way they are, so we're going to fight it. which means that mankind is probably going to preserve the earth's global temperature the way it is from 1500-2000 forever, even if naturally it would waver about, hot and cold. and so what?

    an asteroid heading towards earth is natural too. but that's not an argument for not deflecting the thing. same with global warming: who cares if its natural or unnatural. it's more important that it's bad, and that we need to fix it. we can apportion cost and blame later. the point is to not apportion blame first, and then do nothing about the problem based on that

    if the river is rising because the dam broke, well we better start slinging sand bags. we can find out later if the dam broke because someone dynamited it or it just broke on its own. but it does no good to say "that psycho fred dynamited the dam, so he should fix it!" and then sit back and watch our houses flood

    in other words: ok, there's global warming. why? natural processes? or the industrial revolution? well, we know that if we seed dead areas of the ocean with iron, we cause phytoplankton blooms that sequester tons of CO2. so we should do that, regardless of why the world is warming. get it?

    of course it still matters why, but we can start fixing the problem, since we all agree there is a problem, before we figure out why we have a problem. this is just being prudent, and having a set of priorities: fix the problem first, apportion blame later. not apportion blame first, and defer responsibility based on that

    simple common sense

  • Re:Solar Future (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:10PM (#15145841)
    1. Not a chance solar panels in their current technology could meet 1% of our entire energy needs and. They could. It would just be too expensive. 2. Did you know what crap and environmentally unfriendly energy is required to make a solar panel :) Yes, that's why research is needed. Nuclear needs to keep us going for only 30-40 years before we works something else out Maybe nuclear is our only current option, but we should still invest massively in solar research now. Ask yourself why that isn't happening.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:22PM (#15145883)
    Let's make a deal:

    Global warming caused last year's record number of hurricanes. So this year, when the number of hurricanes is fewer, we'll know it's because global warming has peaked and is no longer a problem. Do we have a deal?
  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:27PM (#15145904) Journal
    And you know what? That's fine, too. Heck, a friend of mine runs a parasailing school. Needless to say, he has to take a lot of shit to the top of a mountain. Thus, he has a big-honkin' SUV. More power to him. I know people who use have SUVs because they have a boat and they need to tow it. As I've said before, I want those people to have SUVs. I've been stuck behind people with passenger cars trying to tow a trailer uphill. It isn't fun. So for those people, I'll stand up and applaud when they buy an SUV.

    According to statistics I've seen, that's about 2% of SUV owners.

    Part of the issue that I have with most SUV owners is that they basically have what I call "Macho Minivans." They don't go off-roading. They don't go camping--or if they do, it's to campsites barely off the highway and they do it for a week in the summer. They like the SUV because they can carry lots of groceries and the kids' stuff. Yet there are other vehicles which could be used instead--namely the minivan--but Dad doesn't want to drive them because they are not considered "manly" vehicles. If you see a guy driving a minivan, he obviously has a job, a wife, some kids, etc. etc. It may not be true in certain cases, but that's how society "sees" you.

    As for things that you carry, some of it might also depend on how often you need to do this. Now I'll admit, I live in a metropolitan area, but I grew up in the country and I understand it's different. But, for example, I recently needed to carry a lot of stuff. Y'know what I did? I went to Enterprise, conveniently located down the block, and rented an SUV for the day. Moved the stuff from Point-A to Point-B and then returned the vehicle. Cost me about $60. A couple of years ago, my Dad bought a cord of wood for his shop's woodstove. They actually delivered it right to the woodshed. Cost him an extra $100 or so.

    Now, don't get me wrong. If you're going out every weekend for an SUV load of alfalfa, pellets, or pine shavings, it might be cost-effective to own one. If you do this once-a-year or so, it might be cheaper to just rent an SUV from the local Enterprise or see if they'll deliver it to you.
  • Re:It's about time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:31PM (#15145920) Homepage
    Misguided policies? Where to begin.

    * American farm subsidies that keep millions unemployed.
    * A laundry list of other subsidies and tariffs that lock out foreign goods.
    * Organizations like the IMF that tie development loans to absurd and punitive measures, forcing developing countries to abandon effective poverty prevention programs in the name of "smaller government", while making stupid loans that may as well be sent straight to the Caymans.
    * Only supporting abstinence-only AIDS prevention.
    * Invading countries that don't pose any threat to us.

    Frankly, I don't see how Greenpeace--with a global budget of about $150M a year--can do nearly as much damage as any one of dozens of multinational corporations, much less the federal government.
  • MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FhnuZoag (875558) on Monday April 17, 2006 @08:38PM (#15145952)
    Seriously. Is there a cabal of fanatically anti-GW mods in action, or something?

    Let's dissect this piece by piece.

    Isn't realclimate.org by the guy who fudged his analysis to generate the discredited "hockey-stick" graph of temperature predictions?

    Ad hominem attack. And wrong, because realclimate is a group blog, and the author in question has nothing to do with the hockey stick. And the hockey stick isn't discredited, except in the eyes of a certain small group of people who are often accused of fudging their own maths.

    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 then the page goes on to mention that the knowledge then available was in the absence of GW. i.e. scientists were considering that the Earth would be naturally cooling, if there wasn't a GW effect.

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

    This line, or sentiment, isn't present in the article at all. It's a direct fallacy of inserting words into someone else's mouth.

    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? ... 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.

    No. The point being made by the article was that such concerns were not exhibited in peer reviewed journals. Climate change is. Popular press does not equal peer reviewed journals. Hence, a direct argument that the present situation is identical to that of 'global cooling' is false.

    And before some idiot mods this post as troll (like they did earlier to another of mine), can someone please justify precisely what information the parent offers that makes it so 'informative'?
  • by Savantissimo (893682) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:01PM (#15146041) Journal
    "Apparently, the peer review and editing process involved in scientific publication was sufficient to provide a sober view. This episode shows the scientific press in a very good light; and a clear contrast to the lack of any such process in the popular press, then and now."

    I didn't quote that because it was pure opinion not supported by the sources cited. Curiously, taken at face value that quote also undermines your and the author's contention that the current press coverage of climate change is more responsible than it was in the '70s. Given the present popular press' continual doomsday drumbeat regarding supposedly anthropogenic and severe global warming, the press' admitted present lack of scientific rigor tends to call the current conventional climate wisdom into futher question rather than support it.

    "there would be another ice age in *tens of thousands of years*."
    You mean "within" not "in". Also note the 1940s-1970s cooling trend mentioned as the occasion for concern at the time.

    The climate either gets cooler or warmer - the one thing it NEVER does is stay exactly the same. Taking changes in climate as evidence of anything has to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    As for the climate models, the problem scales as what, perhaps n^(3.x) at best? So even if there is 1E9 times more power available, the simulation is at best only 1000 times faster than in the '70s. And you're still talking about a chaotic system modeled at >1km resolution with complicated ad-hoc algorithms that are usually not fully available for independent review, so you're just running a more obfuscated kind of garbage faster. Particularly when the models still don't fully predict the behavior of the most impotant greenhouse gas, water vapor, and its interdependence with the most major cooling factor, clouds. Can these computer climate models retrodict past obervations? Can they do so with a code complexity less than the prediction complexity and produce robust predictions despite small variations in the initial states? No? Then don't ask anyone to take their predictions seriously.
  • by Geoff St. Germaine (819751) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:07PM (#15146067)
    Well, the reasons given in that article are actually good reasons to go with nuclear. Reactor safety is basically a non-issue for third generation nuclear reactors (which have passive safety systems). As far as waste management goes, the thing to wait for is the fourth generation nuclear reactors which offer the possibility of burning actinides, which would significantly reduce the amount of high-level waste. It seems that when groups bring up the fact that mining of uranium ore causes environmental damage they ignore the fact that coal is also mined and that mountain-top removal has a massive environmental impact. The scale of mining required to remove coal is monstrous compared with uranium, considering that uranium has about 3.6 million times the energy density of coal (90 000 000 MJ/kg for uranium compared with 23-29 MJ/kg for coal). IMO, nuclear represents a step forward, but certainly not a permanent solution. At this point, many "greener" technologies are not suitable for use in as many locations as nuclear.
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:07PM (#15146068)
    That article is a fine example of the bullshit logic that pro-GW forces like to use when backed into a corner:

    Due to this semi-random nature of weather, it is wrong to blame any one event such as Katrina specifically on global warming - and of course it is just as indefensible to blame Katrina on a long-term natural cycle in the climate.

    Sorry, where I come from we have what's called the null hypothesis. In any research asking "was this caused by humans?" the null hypothesis is "no." This sort of language is the crap you see when they don't want to come out and knock a block out of the humans-caused-global-warming super structure. Unless you have evidence to suggest that it was not natural, the assumption is that it was. They've turned a normal statistical test bad by asking it both ways: "was this caused by humans?" and "was this natural?" Since neither will get your confidence interval you say "oh, see, we just don't know." Like hell, you only do that sort of thing when the answer to the first question doesn't fit your agenda.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:11PM (#15146079)
    1) They bring up the issue of safety, not only for the reactors but of storing the radioactive waste.

    Reactor safety is effectively solved, and has been for decades. Refer to Three Mile Island - even when everyone messes up, nothing escapes from the containment vessel. The radioactive waste is not as big a problem as is commonly supposed. Other people have addressed this in more detail, so I'll just mention a few possibilities - the waste can be recycled as new reactor fuel, or its latent heat can be used for hot water systems, or it can just be buried where the radioactive uranium was sitting for the last few billion years in the first place.

    2) Mining the ore needed is a very high impact activity, so the environmental impact might not be any less, although it would likely be concentrated in a few locations.

    True - and having been involved with the mining industry, I know how big a disruption a kilometre-wide hole is to the local ecosystem. However, this applies not just to nuclear power but to just about everything in modern society - you need the resources from mining in order to make cars, bridges, computers, toothbrushes, etc. For that matter, you need to mine in order to make solar panels, windmills or hydroelectric dams.

    3) The money to develop and build new nuclear reactors could be more efficiently spent on greener technologies.

    Possibly, and possibly not - this one's very hard to disprove since it's inherently impossible to predict the cost-effectiveness of research on improved methods of generating power. The obvious solution, however, is to let the market sort it out. If solar power is more cost effective, companies will invest in it. If nuclear power is more cost effective, companies will invest in it instead. We just need a carbon tax to make the market account for the external cost of greenhouse gas emissions, or it will gravitate towards fossil fuels for the next few decades until they start becoming scarce.

    When it comes to climate change, nuclear is probably a better option. But in no way is nuclear a green technology, it just alleviates the most pressing issue facing fossil fuel use. What we need to do is develop truly green and renewable energy sources, which doesn't include nuclear.

    Nor does it include hydroelectric (look at the ecological damage caused by dams!), solar (some nasty chemicals are involved in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells), wind (damage to wildlife, plus the mining required for the materials comprising many, many windmills), etc, etc.

    There is no truly zero-environmental-impact way of supplying our power needs short of wiping ourselves off the planet. If you look at all the factors involved in some of the supposedly green forms of power like solar and hydroelectric, nuclear power actually compares pretty well.
  • by mla_anderson (578539) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:26PM (#15146130) Homepage

    Yes TMI was a success.

    TMI illustrated that a nuclear plant can be designed to fail safely. Despite human error the plant shutdown safely, that is a success but a success by the designers not the operators. Stop spreading FUD about TMI and do some actual reading about it.

  • The Apocalypse (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jazman_777 (44742) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:27PM (#15146139) Homepage
    The West has mostly left orthodox Christian belief, but it is still inherits the culture. Part of that is the need for Apocalypic End Time accounts. The Christians have Revelation, the rest have what lies to hand--the Environmentalists are happy to fill the need. Note: I am not making an argument for or against global warming, but just making a point about the apocalypic language surrounding it.
  • Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsm_sf (545316) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:45PM (#15146204) Journal
    Seriously. Is there a cabal of fanatically anti-GW mods in action, or something?

    No, it's just that the fanboy phenomenon isn't limited to Mac vs. PC. It's maddening, but you can't really blame them for not having access to a trustworthy news source. The S/BS ratio in our country sucks ass right now.
  • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:47PM (#15146215) Homepage
    I'm all in favor of facts and balance in environmental questions as well. But when it comes to this particular commentator, I think you give Moore too much credit for conviction. It seems he turned his back on the entire environmental movement decades ago. Rather than being a case of a grizzled veteran of the environmental movement taking a hard look at the facts and coming to an uncomfortable conclusion, I think it's a case of a disgruntled ex-employee using his credentials to give his opinions more credibility than they warrant.

    The ANWR doesn't have enough oil in it to provide much aid for energy independence. I'm guessing the supporters of drilling fall into four camps: Exxon-Mobil, people who think there is fifty years of oil instead of one, people who want to piss off the hippies, and people who hate moose.

    I'm still ambivalent about nuclear energy. Probably safer and cleaner than coal, but anything that makes it easier to get nukes into the hands of crazy people is worrying.

    I want my glow-in-the-dark mutant carrots. I'm not really worried about the health effects of GMOs, but I do worry about the monocultures that arise from the hypermechanization of food production. It leaves us extremely vulnerable to disruptions in the food supply.

    Finally, I think that much of the anti-environmental movement come from similarly childish notions. In this case, it's the idea that the free market and human grit will overcome all, or that God Almighty gave us dominion over nature, or that we're too puny to have any real effects. There is too much religion on both sides.
  • by xSauronx (608805) <xsauronxdamnit@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Monday April 17, 2006 @10:08PM (#15146302)
    or because they "liked it".

    two months ago my sister bought a pacifica. she has 1 kid and no need to haul much more than some groceries most of the time. i have 2 kids and am comfy in my sable, though id kinda like a wagon again, but only sometimes.

    anyway, we were helping her move last month and i got very upset with her. were at a mini storage place, and have things strewn about dciding where to put what in a u-haul, and she says shes gonna get the guys some sodas. groovy.

    then she asks us to move everything out of her way, because she *Cant* back the pacifica up. you get inside, and windows are tiny, in addition to her being short. she literally couldnt fucking see to drive in reverse. she admitted it, she even knew it when she bought it, that she could barely see out of it to drive well.

    i tore into her, moved her stupid fucking car, and told her to go buy a civic that she could actually take somewhere. she doesnt have a good reason for an SUV, or whatever you call that pathetic atrocity, she bought it because she thought it looked nice; despite that she was moving from north carolina to alabama, and intended to make the drive at least once every 6 weeks or so (even with gas on the rise) back home to visit, and had nothing she *has* to haul besides a baby, a diaper bag, and what not, all of which could easily fit into a mid-size sedan that she could actually *drive properly*.

    some people are just selfishly fucking stupid. i know some guys like to tout the freedom of choice, and yes, its great. we all fuck up with that freedom from time to time, but to make a practically permanent stupid fucking decision just because you could? nice, sis. you cant drive it, dont need it, intend to put thousands of miles on it and the mileage is shitty.

  • Re:He's a lobbyist (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2short (466733) on Monday April 17, 2006 @10:23PM (#15146367)
    See, now that's an interesting discussion we could have, were he identified that way, rather than trying to discuss why a "Greenpeace Founder" would promote nuclear power.

    From what I can tell, an "Exxon-Mobil shill" would promote nuclear power because he's a whore, and will promote whatever he's paid to promote. Since the thing he's got going for him is the ability to get news outlets to identify him as a "Greenpeace founder", the people who will pay him to promote stuff is anyone who needs to spike an eco-image problem. So he has lobbied in favor of gas & mining companuies, nuke plants, bio-tech, etc.
  • by radtea (464814) on Monday April 17, 2006 @10:30PM (#15146394)
    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.

    There are legitimate issues with the widespread use of breeder reactors for power generation. I'm not familiar with the details of modern civilian breeder technology, but current weapons reactors run on a three month fuel cycle, and this is likely to be the case for civilian reactors too (the 238U jacket will have to be cycled roughly every 90 days.) This is because 240Pu starts to build up significantly after that time, making the fuel difficult to handle. The rate of this process is fixed by the cross-sections. There's not a whole lot you can do about it.

    So one is necessarily moving rather a lot of quite radioactive material around. Ideally one would like to do reprocessing on site for this reason, but that is expensive: it means you need to have as many reprocessing plants as you have reactors. On the other hand, advances in gas centrifuge technology in the past fifteen years have made isotopic separation so easy that a country run by wingnuts who believe a funny picture is worth rioting over can do it, so local reprocessing may be more practical now than it once was.

    Central reprocessing would be cheaper, but it would mean moving all that hot fuel by truck or train. Accidents will happen, and theft is a definite possibility, but the real problem is inventory control. If you think about moving say 100,000 kg of fuel around for reprocessing every year, and your inventory control is good to 0.1%, you have a slop of 100 kg per year. It's moderately hard to feel safe in a world like that.

    Thorium-cycle technology has a lot of appeal, although any technology other than CANDU-type D2O moderated natural uranium piles are going to necessarily involve materials and technologies that could be used for bombs. We should probably consider ourselves fortunate that it's so hard to make plutonium explode, given how much of it is likely to be sloshing around loose.

    So my view is: slow neutron technology is a lousy investment because it only buys us a century. Fast neutron technlogy is worth some investment, particularly thorium-cycle stuff, but it should only be one area of focus, and not the primary one.

    My own belief is that algal biodeisel or something like it is far more likely to be the long-term fuel of the future. Hydrocarbons are just too damned convenient. They have a human scale--a high enough power density to be really useful, but low enough that they rarely level more than a city block (although anyone who has seen a tank farm fire will be aware that they have dangers of their own.)
  • of course they do (Score:3, Insightful)

    by r00t (33219) on Monday April 17, 2006 @10:50PM (#15146480) Journal
    You don't get a research grant for saying everything is OK.

    You get one like this: "We're doomed. Everybody panic!"

    You get the second one like this: "Maybe we have a chance, if I do more research."
  • by de Selby (167520) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:11PM (#15146542)
    "You don't get a research grant for saying everything is OK."

    If all the scientists' complaints of censorship are any indication, you don't get much for saying things aren't OK.
  • No, it doesn't (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Julian Morrison (5575) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:25PM (#15146602)
    Thinking about the future of the human race on this planet calls for long term planning.

    Nope. Not so. That would be entirely analogous to the 18th century folks trying to pre-plan the 20th century. Worse than useless!

    "Pushing the problem onto future generations" is exactly the correct strategy. It's like one of those computational problems that you can solve fastest by letting it alone for a few years while Moore's law catches up. Future techological problems are best solved with future technology - our best course is to attempt to reach that future as soon as possible. To which end, fuel the economy! Because economic growth is basically the wave-front that's pushing scientific growth.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:30PM (#15146630)
    "The problem is that while technology advanced, we have not built new reactors to take advantage of it."

    By "We", I assume you mean the United States, since France and others have been using fast breeder reactors and fuel recycling that never results in weapons grade Plutonium at any point in the cycle, and reduces the actual long term waste to nearly nothing.

    The US has held itself back over its continuing collective guilt over ending WWII by using nuclear weapons on Japan. 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 (the US only gets 10% of our electrical power from reactors). http://www.cscap.nuctrans.org/Nuc_Trans/locations/ japan/wna-japan.jpg [nuctrans.org]

    -- Terry
  • by mortonda (5175) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:43PM (#15146675)
    What's Dad got to be ashamed of? Am I the only husband/father who is proud that I am a husband/father?


    Amen! Being a father is the best and most important job I can imagine. I just wish I had more children so that I *need* a minivan. Some of the minivans I've driven are quite comfy, and drive nice. Maybe after the next child, the need will outweigh the expense. :)
  • by Pendersempai (625351) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:48PM (#15146694)
    Is there a place in any western democracy (russia and china probably have less problems in that area) for finally depositing the resulting nuclear waste? A proper finaly resting place for the stuff?

    Nope. Or at least, none that doesn't require some sort of ongoing upkeep. But here's my question for the anti-nuclear folks: what's your plan for the tons of radioactive soot that is pumped into our air currently from coal and oil power? At least the nuclear stuff comes packaged in barrels rather than people's lungs. There's less of it, pound for pound, and it's less harmful per pound.

    You can't evaluate nuclear power in a vacuum, you have to measure it against its alternatives... and when you do that, it beats them handily.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:59PM (#15146724)
    It's funny: I grew up in a place where a pickup was a definite asset. Middle of nowhere around latitude 56. Nothing but farms, a few highways, gravel roads (if you're lucky) and lots of mud. People used their trucks to haul stuff constantly. Whenever anyone from home moves to the city, the FIRST thing they do is get rid of their truck and buy a little car. They plan it when they're planning the move. "Yeah, I've got to get rid of my truck, find a place, move my stuff down...." If we're planning a road trip to the city, whoever has the car drives.

    People who really drive trucks know what a liability they are in the city.
  • by M0b1u5 (569472) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @12:14AM (#15146764) Homepage
    IDIOT!

    We simply have very little idea what the past climate has been like. Human record keeping is a joke: inaccurate at best, hopelessly flawed at worst. "Weather Stations" which were in open country, are now within suburbia, and the measurements taken have done nothing except record the predictable changes inmicroclimate (NOT CLIMATE!!) due to urbanisation.

    Also, please note: WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE. Ipso facto, all "weather stations" record is a tiny bunch of data which has almost nothing to do with climate, but quite a bit to do with weather.

    Note also: to date, NO ONE has made an accurate prediction about what will happen to our climate, OR long term weather. In fact, all (bar none!) predictions to date have been incredibly wrong.

    Sheeit - we can't predict the weather more than 10 days in advance - and that's with an incredible array of weather satelites, ground stations, weather balloons, observers and hostorical records, all plugged into super computers, and the results interpreted by specially trained weather people!

    Given this fact, it's weather predicters who must have the only job on the planet where they can get their job wrong 50% (or more) of the time, AND STILL HAVE A JOB TO GO TO NEXT WEEK!

    How on earth can you have any faith in any of these fools when they can;t make a single accurate prediction about ANYTHING? Oooops, sorry, they can predict their funding levels for the next 10 years pretty accurately, but beyond that? NOTHING.

    "Global Warming" must be approaching a trillion dollar a year industry - and boy, I wish I could get my hands on some of that cash too!

    1. Spurious Global Warming Predictions
    2. FUD
    3. ......
    3. Profit!
  • by Drakonian (518722) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @12:31AM (#15146804) Homepage
    All the Ice melting off Greenland might suck if you live in Venice, New Orleans, or some other port town that is mostly below sea level, but it's the best news ever if you've invested in any arctic real estate.

    Give me a break. If the Greenland ice shelf melted, it would submerge maybe 40-50% of Florida. You saw the fuss created for 100,000 Katrina refugees? Imagine 200 million of them, worldwide.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @01:06AM (#15146884)
    Actually, you are the idiot. All glaciers are melting save the heart of the south pole. Some of these are 100K y.o. For ALL of them to be melting requires that the average temp be increasing. In fact, it means that the temp is warmer than 100K years ago ( of course, that does not mean that the temp is at its absolute highest ). BTW, since you are a bushie, let me explain that a number of these glaciers are on the north side of steep ravins. i.e. they do not get direct sun. So pollution on top does not change the situation. They are melting due to climate change.
  • Terrorists?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scsirob (246572) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:10AM (#15147151)
    Pebble reactors are fine, until you count in terrorism.

    Just the fact that you mention this means that terrorists have already accomplished their goal. They try to make people terrified by stuff that *might* happen by having smaller events happen every now and then.
  • by stephenlhicks (969132) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:30AM (#15147667)

    Its outrageous that not once in Patrick Moore's article did he mention that we should be doing all we can to REDUCE the amount of electricity we use.

    Who has a huge inefficient fridge? Who has a 500 watt powersupply, a fat TV, bar radiators and central heating? Who leaves their computers on when they leave work, or even when they go to bed?!

    We need to stop looking for replacements for our massive appetite for power and use our brains to develop devices that are energy efficient. Nuclear power will only replace one environmental problem with another, the long term legacy of radioactive waste.


    "I may bend your precious airplane, but I'll get it down." Ted Striker
  • by trentblase (717954) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:49AM (#15147940)
    I think all the people replying to your post "you should get a station wagon" are missing the point. 2 or more kids??? The world population just passed 6.5 billion. We don't need any more stinkin' kids! Think about how many resources each kid will consume, including the apparent requirement of you to purchase an SUV. Ok, so you already have the kids and I guess you can't kill them. And I guess you have a right to pursure... uh happiness or something. So just get a station wagon ok?
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:09AM (#15148078) Journal
    No nuclear power station has ever been fully decommissioned successfully.
    Prove this statement.
    All of human civilization has a history of about 5000 years, and yet we imagine that we can successfully manage this incredibly deadly poison for thousands of years into the future
    You offer no reason why such a feat would not be possible.
    And, on the basis of barely 60 years, some so-called experts express "confidence" that there won't be enormous disasters, both accidental and intentional, in the future.
    Yes, experts with more experience and knowledge than yourself. Who should we believe, people who actually have knowledge, or you who only has rhetoric.

    Outrage is not a substitute for knowledge and facts.
  • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @05:37AM (#15155656) Journal
    Why is it so difficult to have a pragmatic discussion about nuclear power on slashdot?

    Fesible nuclear technology like Integral Fast reactors, a proven and operational concept, and newer Sub critical reactor technology, like thorium based reactors are ignored in these discussions. These are the REAL nuclear alternatives.

    It seems to me that these discussions are heavily politicised in favour of the current generation of nuclear plants with no regard to the newer and safer nuclear technologies. Facts ignored, like the gross inefficiencies of the current generation of nuclear reactors, the production of Plutonium as a waste product and the amount of time those waste products are deadly for do nothing to promote an argument in favour of nuclear as an alternative. In particular the Half Life of those isotope's, before it becomes the next deadly element - with an even longer halflife in the millions or billions of years, are treated with a 'head in the sand' attitude that illustrates the ignorance prelavent in these discussions.

    Furthermore baseload arguments are used to write off wind and solar technology simply because solutions to these baseload issues, i.e Solar and Wind production of Hydrogen for example, have not been explored.

    Attacks on Green groups are made because they make arguments about 'Evil Corporations' (even though corporations are LEGALLY OBLIGED to externalise risk to protect shareholder interest), and while I have no interest in the emotional attachment some green groups have to their arguments, it's at least equivalent to the emotional attachment I see here wrt discussions about current nuclear technology.

    Which is to externalise the waste component of nuclear power generation to some other generation and just let them deal with it. How can anyone justify such short term thinking and claim it as a viable solutions to the worlds energy demands.

    I wonder how many of you in favour of nuclear power are prepared to put your own money into building a new concrete bunker over Chernobyl or your time lobbying your politicians into supporting contributions to same? How can anyone be expected to take nuclear seriously when the current mess still hasn't been cleaned up properly.

    Until a realistic look at newer nuclear technology that has better inherrent saftey is conducted, Chernobyl scale events should be expected to occur every few decades, and there is no way this can be considered 'Viable' or 'Environmentally Friendly'.

Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so. -- Josh Billings

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