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Rise of the Nuclear Greens « Back to Story
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LIFTR's are a great idea, but any of the Gen IV reactors would be a great improvement. The key thing about MSR's in general, is the excess heat could solve a lot of other problems.
Bryce, Schellenberg, and I agree that we need to reduce the cost of nuclear power, so that developing nations will embrace it rather than burning coal. Nations follow their own self-interest. That's the point of a new book, THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal, described at http://www.thoriumenergycheaperthancoal.com
Is the U.S. self sufficient in nuclear fuels? Yes. But the question isan't really important. You have to realize that the volume of fuel necessary to fuel a reactor is relatively tiny - one to two semi trucks worth every 18 months or so. Compare that to an average coal plant that burns a rail car full of fuel every 20 minutes. Funny side note - the small amount of residual uranium and thorium in coal typically contains more energy than the coal being burned.
Nuclear power is dense, the densest commerical power source we know. The cost and avalibility of the fuel is pretty much irrlevent.
Also, the potential use of thorium vastly inceases the amount of fuel available. So does recycling spent fuel. Or extracting fuel from sea water. Or breeder reactors. Bottom line is it is difficult to imagine anyone running out of nuclear fuel anytime soon, or any one country cornering the market on fuel. There should be sufficient nuclear fuel to run our world for thousands of years.
On a side note, what greens always forget is that the size of a resource is irrelevent to whether it makes economic sense to use it. Fusion power may have some advanatages over fission power, but if it costs $1 per kwh to generate it is a non-starter. Solar is swell, but at $0.20 a kwh forget it. Power costs need to be below $0.15 per kwh, or better yet below $0.10 to be competitive. Heck, anything below $0.10 per kwh will ignite a manufacturing boom where avalible. Why else would you smelt aluminum in Iceland? Manufacturing flows toward places with reliable inexpensive power, and away from everwhere else.
"Nuclear = Eventually, all those "cool" but still highly radioactive reactor cores will start piling up (even underground) and start threatening our soil and water."
First, the fuel to run a full-size nuclear plant for a year goes to about two cubic meters of spent material.
Two. Not five hundred.
Second, the reactors last 50 years. Maybe 100 years with appropriate maintenance. They're about the size in acreage of a discount retail store.
There is no reason to believe that a metal-and-concrete reactor is going to dissolve. The inner reactors, themselves, are approximately 16-inch thick high-strength steel. These are the strongest objects ever manufactured. Stronger than the barrels of naval guns on dreadnaught battleships.
Big Coal's main competitor remains nuclear power. The American boom in natural gas production can be considered a one-off anomaly. Big Coal has been funding anti-nuke efforts since the 1950s.
So what is the test ???
Well, the nukes have been in use since the first reactor came on line in 1942. Significant power-related accidents happened at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Modern designs including Fukushima have produced no large-scale fatalities. (Recent discoveries of radiation hot spots all across northern Japan are consistent with debris from Soviet and Chinese weapons tests. Rain water runoff has had 50 years to concentrate these isotopes.)
Commercial power with standardized modern designs -- that's easily 50 years for practical testing. The body count is essentially zero.
Compare/contrast with the costs associated with even a 10 foot rise to ocean level. Much less a 50 foot rise.
Consider the loss of ice we are seeing from aerial photos of the Canadian northern islands before you reply. That's a third of the land ice off Greenland and Antarctica.
Yes, you are going to live to see it. Burning coal is polluting the atmosphere sufficiently to wreck the economic world we take for granted.
As Robert Heinlein wrote, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
Coal = CO2 choking us to death. Funny though, the trees love it...to a point
Wind = Turbines in every living room killing every bird in the sky
Solar = You'll never see the sun or sky for all the solar panels needed to power our modern world
Hydro = Natural ecosystems and rivers will be altered for the sake of central air-tree huggers are still worried about tiny fish that are so rare, nature has put them on the fast track to natural extinction
Nuclear = Eventually, all those "cool" but still highly radioactive reactor cores will start piling up (even underground) and start threatening our soil and water.
Pedal Powered Generators = We can't get our fat butts up to take a walk around the block, and we are going to be expected to pedal for up to four hours a day?
Chose your poison.
Hydrogen powered cars and trucks. Burn hydrogen, get energy and water. But, where to get the hydrogen? You get it from water, split the H2O into H and O. But how do you split H2O? That takes enormous energy. Use nuclear power. Where to get nuclear power? US Navy has plenty of decommissioned ships. Use their power plants.
What a great cartoon by Arnold Roth! Really something special.
Turns out "The China Syndrome" should've been about coal instead of a nuclear meltdown. Of course, it was that movie that helped to send EVERYONE running for coal under the persuasive power of fear. The modular reactors are particularly attractive because they can be placed strategically in the basements of big buildings with gravity fed coolant easily stored above ground in case of an emergency.
Monbiot is right about solar power . Solar is, it can readily be understood, a better idea in Arizona than in Aberdeen. He may have a point about wind power in the UK, but where good onshore sites are available, it's far from hopelessly inefficient. And he's absolutely right about the merits of nuclear power. There are dangers, but they pale in comparison to the dangers associated with mining and burning coal and the consequences to the climate of the resulting CO2.
While it's gratifying to see some well-known greens leaving the fold the reason for leftie opposition to nuclear power isn't based on the economics of power production but on the urgent necessity for the morally and intellectually superior - the left - to guide and protect their inferiors. That means the vast majority of lefties will ignore this schism in preference to the pretense that they're society's and humanity's saviors.
Not to say the schism won't have political value since effort and money will be diverted to the punishment of these apostates but to the vast majority of lefties this schism will, like water to a duck, just roll of their backs.
I'm all for it. And I've heard interesting things about the use of thorium. Is the US, FWIW, self-sufficient in nuclear fuel?
Love the Roth cartoon.
What? Is that a Pig I see flying by?
What we have here is the spectacle of traditionally "green fascisti" groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and others realizing that they have adopted positions against every source of energy known to mankind. They find themselves nakedly advocating a return of our species to at least the Bronze Age. In the light of day, these greens are occupying positions that cannot be defended morally or even politically.
People with functioning brains have been saying since 1970-something that nuclear power is the obvious answer to practically every energy problem we face. Even electric cars could be made economically palatable if the cost of electricity for charging those damned batteries could be brought down enough -- and with widespread application of smart nuclear technology, that could happen.
Unfortunately, thanks in large part to political pressure exerted by green groups (see above) our national government has regulated the private utilities almost completely out of the nuclear business. I recall a stunning example of a nuke plant in Ohio some years back that was 99% complete, ready to fuel. But the cost of getting that last 1% done under the NRC's regulations was so high that the company decided for financial reasons to remove the reactors and retrofit coal-fire boilers instead.
We need as a nation to get out of our own way.