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UK's Chief Scientist Backs Nuclear Power Revival 438

Posted by Zonk
from the i-love-fission dept.
Timbotronic writes "The UK government's chief scientific adviser has sent his clearest signal that Britain will need to revive its nuclear power industry in the face of a looming energy crisis and the threat of global warming. In an interview with the Guardian, Sir David King said there were economic as well as environmental reasons for a new generation of reactors." From the article: "His remarks come in the build-up to international talks in Montreal on how to address the threat of climate change when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. He denied suggestions - sparked by comments from Mr Blair that he was changing his mind on whether international treaties were the best way to tackle global warming - that Britain was moving closer to the stance of the US, which has refused to back Kyoto-style emission reductions."
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UK's Chief Scientist Backs Nuclear Power Revival

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  • Nuclear Power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cowclops (630818) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:29PM (#13849535)
    I personally don't see a problem with this. What with modern technology, it seems like we should be able to build nuclear power plants much safer and more efficient than anything in the past. The threat of the radioactive biproducts is an issue, but it is a much less immediate (and, in the long term anyway, less of an actual threat) than dumping tons of smog in the air until we're out of coal and oil.
    • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662)
      Ah, but it will only be a matter of time before the anti-Nuke people will rear their ugly heads once again.
    • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:33PM (#13849567) Homepage
      Which brings up a question that's been on my mind. How much nuclear fuel is on earth. If we replaced all the fossil fuels we use, with nuclear fuel, how long would our supplies last? And how much nuclear waste would be created as a result? If nuclear fuel just replaces fossil fuels, and ends up creating the same problems in another 100 years, then we really should be thinking of a solution that works out better in the long term. Like wind, geothermal, and other types of clean, renewable, energy.
      • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aaronl (43811) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:49PM (#13849657) Homepage
        Power in the future isn't going to be wind, geothermal, etc, because it doesn't produce enough power. Obviously, the more we can get that way the better, but they are highly inefficient, and require specific placement. That means you have a limited amount that you can put online.

        We have a very large amount of uranium ore around, but it isn't easy to get. The process of creating fuel from it is also complicated. Our best bet is to use fission while we refine the passive generation (solar, hydro, etc) and research fusion. If we figure fusion out, then we don't have to worry about the other forms, though solar is a good idea to continue researching.
        • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Insightful)

          by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @01:11AM (#13850788) Journal
          Power in the future isn't going to be wind, geothermal, etc, because it doesn't produce enough power.

          Even though I am a fan of nukes, I have to say that is patently false. In fact, just read some of the earlier articles here to find out that wind alone can put out more than double what we use (That is total energy, not electricity), let alone the other alternative energy (solar, geo, wave, etc).

          In fact, you will find a number of companies who are creating wind energy plants all over the world and then selling the energy. More importantly, they are making LOTS of profit at it. [windustry.com]

          The real issue is how to deal with varying power. Instead of focusing on power generation, we should focus on how to store it. Right now, Colorado is testing conversion of electricity to H2 and then use the H2 to drive an internal combustion engine to drive a generator (how inefficient can you get). The one nice advantage of researching storage is that it will allow a mixture of alternative a nukes to generate electricty/other energy that is stored close to the site of usage.

      • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Informative)

        by Phanatic1a (413374) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:01PM (#13849721)
        How much nuclear fuel is on earth. If we replaced all the fossil fuels we use, with nuclear fuel, how long would our supplies last?

        There's about 50 years of uranium reserves right now, a bit over 2 million tons.

        Reserves are ores that are economically exploitable. In other words, reserves increase when you find a less expensive way to get the ore, or when the price of ore rises. If the price of ore goes up by 50%, we more than double our reserves to 5 million tons. If it goes up much more than that, oceanic reserves [sarov.ru] come into play, and there are 4.5 *billion* tons in the oceans.

        Now, that's talking about U235 burned in a PWR. There are other things you can do which vastly increase reserves. There are reactor designs that can breed U238 into U235. That presents a proliferation concern, but you can also just burn U238 in a CANDU reactor or other design. You can breed thorium into U233 and burn that.

        And the thing is that nuclear fuel is so much more energy-dense than chemical fuel. Coal has an energy content of about 24 MJ per kilogram, assuming perfect conversion to electricity, and I think good coal plants with top-of-the-line turbines and boilers and everything can get up to about 70% overall thermal efficiency, but hell, let's say 90%. Figures I found for the US in 1982 indicate that all the nuclear power plants in the US consumed 540 tons of fuel and produced 1.1E12 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which means *after* all those efficiency losses (PWRs are less thermally efficient because you've got to transfer heat across coolant loops), we were getting 8 million megajoules per kilogram of fuel.

        8 million megajoules per kilogram, versus 21.6 megajoules per kilogram. What that means is that your *fuel* cost can rise significantly, but your cost per kilowatt-hour at your meter will see only a very small rise.

        So to sum up, there's a hella lot of nuclear fuel available.
        • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:2, Interesting)

          by cluckshot (658931)

          The highland rim of Tennessee fairly cooks with Uranium. None is mined there. The stuff is a lot more common than most any calculations based on current mines say. Nuclear is safe by all measures over its competition technologies in a utility grid setup.

          The whole problem with energy is an issue not of supply but of control. If the powers that be are not going to be in control of your energy supply they are going to fight you tooth and tong. The list of alternative technologies is nearly endless.

          Imagin

          • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Informative)

            by kesuki (321456) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:55PM (#13850549) Journal
            thank goodness i know how to build a solar cooker, to use the same solar cooker to create ice at night time, and know how to create fire from wood for heat, how to convert virtually any vegatable oil into biodiesel, know how to build a simple electric generator, know how to build a windmill, that turns said genenrator, and know how to build batteries from mason jars, lead, a strong acid and purified water, how to distill and purify water, and/or strong alchohol, basic first aid medicine, etc etc...

            and most important of all, i know how to hide from the crazy sob who doesn't know how to do any of that and who would gladly try and kill me for all that i had in a post apocyliptic world. Still I would have to agree, people seem to be seeking the 'short sighted' solutions of fossil/non renewable fuels, when 2/3rds of the earth's surface is already covered in water, and could sustain enough algae 'energy' belts to convert about a thousand times our 'current' global energy reserves every year from solar energy into renewable natural oils... that when burned provided the carbon dioxide needed by the floating tracts of algae.

            What's worse of all, is that we spend triple what it would cost to build an infrastructure of 'algea' belts in a year to provide all our 'renewable' energy needs in just trying to find and exploit new 'non-renewable' energy resources.

            Why? in part because the economies of scale required to 'bring' the cost of algea farming down to 'reasonable prices' would virtually require completely replacing coal electric production, and oil refining combined. but it's also because 'energy' companies are run by fools who don't 'get' it. maybe con agra will 'get' it someday, and develop practical algea farming so they can crush the fools behind fossil fuel exploitation.. seriously 'growing' the entire world's energy supply is probabbly the biggest possible market anyone could 'dream' of creating and most of the technology has been developed, but they're scattered like a jigsaw puzzle now.. no one has put them together to bring a fully realistic method of 'growing' all the enegry the world needs.
        • Honestly, if it wasn't for proliferation issues I would be all over this technology like a dog ready to hump. By why not nuclear FUSION? I've seen or heard little progress in its research. Sure, we've read about some technologies that can aid in the process but I have yet to read about them being applied right now. Why is it we don't have "Manhattan project" on a global scale using the worlds best scientists and engineers available to boot-strap with yet?

          I admit I am naive and ignorant when it comes to fusi
          • Re:Why not fusion? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Helios1182 (629010)
            Because every none method of creating fusion reactions takes more energy than is produced. We are still a long way from any sort of economically viable fusion energy source. It would be nice of course. Here is some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power [wikipedia.org]
          • Re:Why not fusion? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Phanatic1a (413374)
            Because it's fucking hard. There's a big test reactor that's going to be built in France, and that's *still* not going to get us to commercial fusion power, simply because of the material issues involved. In DT fusion, *every single atom* in your reactor vessel is going to be displaced by flying neutrons *hundreds* of times over the life of the reactor, and that does really bad things to all known materials. Right now, we don't even have adequate neutron sources in order to begin exploring that regime; t
        • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Informative)

          by zerus (108592) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @12:43AM (#13850705) Homepage
          I'm guessing you don't mean breeding U238 into U235. The breeding reaction with uranium, that I'm assuming you meant, is where the neutron is absorbed in the U238 which makes U239 which will beta decay into Np239 which beta decays into fissile Pu239 and then upwards with each subsequently absorbed neutron. There is no way to breed U235 effectively and in great abundance. You could have a high energy neutron that knocks a neutron out of U236, but the cross section for that is on the order of nanobarns whereas the XS of first chance fission has resonances near that of the total absorption XS, so it's not too likely. You can run a thorium cycle which can produce U233 which is also fissile, but has many reprocessing steps to remove the U233 from the thorium if that's the desired fuel type, and if reprocessing is the desired route, then breeding U238 into plutonium and reprocessing the fuel into a high burn up MOX would work best. I don't quite agree with your number of 50 years of nuclear fuel either. It's more like 150 years with the gen4 reactors that have the better flux profiles and can utilize high burnup fuelsmore effectively than the modified current versions. That fuel will last even longer once reprocessing becomes economically viable. Technology-wise we can reprocess spent fuel with very little loss of burnable fuel, with Cogema's diamex or JAERI's DIDPA solvent extraction processes that can get 99.97% of U, Pu, and minor actinides with very little contamination by some of the more annoying fission products. In short, you're right, there is a whole helluva lot of nuclear fuel available for many generations
      • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:5, Informative)

        by fredmosby (545378) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:05PM (#13849749)
        It depends on what kind of process is used to make power. Most reactors use U235, and there's only enough of that in the current uranium mines to last 50 years. If a plutonium process were used (turning the U238 into plutonium) the same amount of uranium could power the world for around 1000 years. There's also about three times as much thorium, which can be turned into U233 to produce power.

        So that's around 4000 years mining the uranium and thorium that is economical to extract at todays prices. With higher uranium costs more could be extracted.
      • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SeaFox (739806)
        If nuclear fuel just replaces fossil fuels, and ends up creating the same problems in another 100 years, then we really should be thinking of a solution that works out better in the long term. Like wind, geothermal, and other types of clean, renewable, energy.

        PESSIMIST MODE ON

        The problem with renewable energy sources is they aren't as easy to control as non-renewable ones. There's no "reserves" to have possession of. You think the power companies would give a hoot about other energy sources if there was sti
      • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FleaPlus (6935)
        And how much nuclear waste would be created as a result?

        Not only that, but I'm also curious as to how much waste (both radioactive and chemical) would be released into the air by the equivalent amount of fossil fuels?
    • by portforward (313061) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:54PM (#13849682)
      I've been thinking about this for a long while. I wonder what would happen if the US (like some commentators have suggested) embark on a "Manhattan Project" for energy. If the US highly encouraged oil exploration, solar, wind, nuclear, hybrid (like the plug into your wall to charge the batteries), Sterling engine, biodiesel, thermal depolermersation (you know, turkey offal and sewage into oil), microwaves and mining the moon and Jupiter for fusion fuel. What would happen if through alternative energy initiatives we could drive the price of oil down to $10 a barrel. I'm not saying it will happen, or even if it could happen, but what would happen to the Saudis, Iran, Venezuela and all the other dictatorships that run on oil? What would happen if America could export its energy technology instead of importing oil?
      • by ProudClod (752352) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:06PM (#13849751)
        Hate to be a pedant, but Venezuela's not a dictatorship.

        There's certainly a lot of domestic opposition to Chavez, but there's a lot of domestic opposition to Bush too - the fact remains that both were democratically elected by the people.
        • There's certainly a lot of domestic opposition to Chavez, but there's a lot of domestic opposition to Bush too - the fact remains that both were democratically elected by the people.

          Not to troll, but George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein were elected by their people. Of course, Floridian optical voting machines were programmed to throw out misformed ballots in "black" areas while they asked for a new, correct ballot in "white" areas. And of course, Iraqi polls were not anonymous. So being "elected by the peo

      • If you were to eliminate most of the funding of religious fundamentalist terrorists by driving the cost of a barrel of oil down to $10, there would be (nearly universal) world peace -- a new Pax Americana.

        There are powerful lobbies within the USA that would fight "tooth and nail" against either widespread semi-autonomous power generation (energy & power companies), cheap fusion power production (energy & power companies), or a reduction in worldwide conflict (military-industrial complex). Consideri
    • Unless we go the way of fast breeders the energy cost of large amounts of nuclear power makes it pointless - processing low grade ore into fuel insn't easy (and a lot of conventional fuel will be burned in the process), and there really isn't a lot of high grade stuff about. Fast breeders have not yet succeeded on economic grounds, and there are other problems.

      They should certainly put some money into research, but the nuclear power industries insistance that they are perfect since the 1950s has helped en

      • Fast breeders aren't the only kind of breeder. Some thermal reactor types achieve breeding ratios very close to 1 with the Th-U cycle. As an example, CANDU reactors work well with this cycle, and have excellent neutron economy, Recent advances in heavy water production [cns-snc.ca] will help reduce the cost of CANDU plants.
    • I personally don't see a problem with this

      The problem isn't nuclear power per se, it's the arbitrary limitations of liability for nuclear plant operators. In the USA, the Price-Anderson act limits that liability to $200 million. If the act were repealed, then we'd either get no nuclear power plants, or power plants whose owners have proven to the satisfaction of their insurers and investors that they're safe to operate.

      I'm in favor of nuclear power in principle, but I really don't trust governments to op
    • Re:Nuclear Power (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dfn5 (524972)

      I personally don't see a problem with this. What with modern technology, it seems like we should be able to build nuclear power plants much safer and more efficient than anything in the past.

      I would tend to agree. However, I was reading an editorial in the latest issue of Home Power [homepower.com] magazine which stated that nuclear power plants are not as economical as we have been lead to believe. The government (read U.S. gov) subsidizes some aspect of the operation to make it profitable.

      I have never heard this

  • in the face of a looming energy crisis and the threat of global warming

    If the world is facing "Peak Oil", then the "global warming crisis" will subside once production is on the decline curve.
    • Except that in the US electricity is produced by burning coal, not oil. I don't think anyone actually burns oil for electricity.
      • Re:Well which is it? (Score:5, Informative)

        by aaronl (43811) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:00PM (#13849716) Homepage
        The US certainly does burn oil in quite a few generation plants. There are statistics for it all over the 'net.

        To quote PG&E "Most electricity in the U.S. is generated using coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or hydropower. Some production is done with alternative fuels like geothermal energy, wind power, biomass, solar energy, or fuel cells."

        To quote the DOE: "Coal was the fuel used to generate the largest share (50.8 percent) of electricity in 2003 1,974 billion kilowatthours(kWh). This is over one and a half times the annual electricity consumption of all U.S. households (1,273 billion kWh). Natural gas was used to generate 650 billion kWh (16.7 percent), and petroleum accounted for 119 billion kWh (3.1 percent)." They also list nuclear as accounting for 19.75% (764 billion killowatthours). The remaining 9.65% was mostly hydro (7.14%).
    • Not true at all. Burning oil is not the only source of CO2 emissions.

      Burning coal is a huge one, and there's a huge amount of coal still in the ground to be burned. Hundreds of years worth of reserves at current prices.
      • Our ability to extract coal is entirely dependent upon cheap oil (makes/powers the mining and transportation equipment). If we pass the decline curve for oil, there will be alot of homes going without power along with other necessities.
        • Our ability to extract coal is entirely dependent upon cheap oil (makes/powers the mining and transportation equipment). If we pass the decline curve for oil, there will be alot of homes going without power along with other necessities.

          No, gasoline is simply the most cost efficent portable fuel. There is no technical reason at the moment that it couldn't be replaced by biodesiel and/or electric power (fuel cells, etc) ... its just not cost efficent - yet.

          The closer we get to the decline curve, the mo
          • There is no technical reason at the moment that it couldn't be replaced by biodesiel

            It takes more energy to produce biofuel than you get from the biofuel

            and/or electric power (fuel cells, etc)

            fuel cells are method of storage, what are you going to "charge" them with once we are on a decline curve?
            • It takes more energy to produce biofuel than you get from the biofuel

              That's debatable, and IMHO doubtful. Besides, the energy yield doesn't matter that much, the advantage of biodeisel is that it is a substitute for gasoline (and uses the same infrastructure, etc). The fact that it costs more energy to make is irrelevant when the other energy source in question - electricity (via coal/nuclear) - is not in short supply. Quick read [wikipedia.org]

              fuel cells are method of storage, what are you going to "charge" them wi
              • The decline curve that we're forseeing is for gasoline, not coal, not nuclear, and not natural.

                The decline curve is for light sweet crude and natural gas. Both of which are irreplaceable and critical for maintaining the world's 6.5 billion people. The green revolution in farming is based on pesticides and fertilizers made from those two resources.
            • It takes more energy to produce biofuel than you get from the biofuel

              Yes, when you limit "biofuel" to human-edible corn.

              Expand "biofuel" to, oh, the whole plant and various yard waste, and it suddenly becomes almost break-even.

              Expand "biofuel" to oil-heavy algae, and you've got an amazing cost-reduction. I'd wager that the wait is partly due to the oil-industry slanted administration, but mostly due to the time and investment necessary--and a desire to wait until we can maximize profit rolling them out.
        • Our ability to extract coal is entirely dependent upon cheap oil

          This is simply wrong. We could mine coal with equipment powered entirely by liquid fuels derived from the coal. Fischer-Tropsch diesel from coal would actually be cheaper than the current price of diesel fuel, now that oil is close to $60/barrel.
          • Fischer-Tropsch diesel from coal would actually be cheaper than the current price of diesel fuel, now that oil is close to $60/barrel.

            The energy inputs to the current Canadian tar sands is cheap oil pumped from the ground; that's why it's economical to mine at $45/barrel. As a self sustained system it is a much more expensive proposition, one that would price out the average suburbanite. The NAZIs used slave labor to get their system workable.
            • Re:Well which is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by tehdaemon (753808)
              Error - $45!>$60 your statement does not compute.

              If your breakeven point is $45/barrel (earnings=costs, selling at $45) and *worst case* all of your costs are due to oil at current $60/barrel, then you will make a profit of $15/barrel if you use your own oil.

              This means that a self sustained system would be less expensive, not more.

              The error in your statement stems from "cheap oil pumped from the ground" Hint. It is not cheap now. This means that either a) it is not economical at $45 any more (ie you a

  • by Solr_Flare (844465) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:33PM (#13849568)
    Better to tackle the "looming energy crisis" head on and use human ingenuity to come up with a better, more environmentally friendly, solution. Simply settling for something that works but has problems is the same attitude that has gotten the world into this rediculous oil mess, all the while destroying the very planet we live on.

    I'm not saying Nuclear power might not be the best answer for a short term emergency, but short term solutions tend to become long term ones when government is concerned.
    • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:45PM (#13849630)
      Simply settling for something that works but has problems

      Oh, really?

      *Everything* has problems. I mean, come on, just wave your hands and come up with your ideal hypothetical, theoretical scheme for energy production, and I guarantee it will have some sort of problem.

      The suggestion that we should wait to fix our current problems until we've figured out a way to eliminate *all possible* problems is not only silly, it's dangerous.

      all the while destroying the very planet we live on.

      Please. The planet has withstood enormous meteor impacts, global firestorms, earthquakes, enormous floods, and devasting environmental shifts far beyond our ability to cause, like the development of organisms which excrete oxygen as a waste product (You know, "plants").

      The *planet* is doing just *fine*. The planet's survival is not at issue.
    • Nuclear power might not be the best answer for a short term emergency

      It's not a short term solution by any means - plants take years to build and we still need more research to produce better designs - perhaps the first full scale pebble bed reactor could be built to see if the design actually works properly.

      The worst thing about nuclear power is the vast quantities of politically driven bullshit surrounding it - anything that actually works properly is usually exagerated by an order of magnitude, and the

  • Let's go for it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wheelbarrow (811145) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:33PM (#13849570)
    Nuclear power generation is safer and less polluting than burning fossil fuels to generate power. The new pebble bed reactors [wikipedia.org] offer a significant safety improvement over the old fuel rod design that is in older plants lile Three Mile Island. It's time to use the brains we have and provide the safe and cheap power that nuclear fission can offer.
  • Good on him (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jonnty (910561)
    As nice as wind turbines are, you're never gonna get enough to gnerate enough power, nor are you getting enough people agreeing to have them built. Nuclear's our only option. At least, if you're that worried, build them to go on until we have enough other means of power generation. Unless, of course, Fusion becomes viable, which (I hope, at least) will probably happen in the next 25 years. Ah well. C'est la vie.
    • As nice as wind turbines are, you're never gonna get enough to gnerate enough power, nor are you getting enough people agreeing to have them built.

      It might be a good time to push for them soon. It will help reduce bird flu. ;)

  • is a nation wide awarness campaign on how nuclear power works, why it is BETTER for the enviroment, and how it will help allow
    Talk about the new technologies.
    • I know Canada's nuclear commission has been airing a lot of TV commercials, hyping up nuclear power, and telling you to visite their website to learn more. Nuclear power has a really bad rap, and most people think it's the worst thing in the world, when really, it's much better than our current approach.
    • is a nation wide awarness campaign on how nuclear power works, why it is BETTER for the enviroment
      Haven't the nuclear lobby spent missions over the years in the USA doing exactly that, and hasn't it actually worked in that people associate the word "clean" with it despite the fact that it is not a washing powder but an industrial process using stuff that kills on contact?
  • Nuclear Safety (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AtomicRobotMonster (891499) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:42PM (#13849615)
    Reactor designs have progressed a long way from the 50's. Pebble bed reactors are an inherently safe (being relative) design... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble-bed_reactor [wikipedia.org] Couldn't we just make these into sealed units and run them until they stop being radioactive?
  • by failure-man (870605) <failureman@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:54PM (#13849680)
    People around here always seem to fall into one of two groups on this issue: those that dance around talking about how clean nuclear power is, and those that shout "what about the fuckin' waste?"

    What about the enrichment though? What about all the noxious chemicals involved in separating the fissile isotopes from the 99+% useless U-238? What about the huge piles of toxic and somewhat radioactive U-238 that you get at the end? Nobody ever seems to bring that up.

    I'd like to see what the pro-nuke side has to say about dealing with the environmental effects of this part of the system.
    • I'd like to see what the pro-nuke side has to say about dealing with the environmental effects of this part of the system.

      They'll insist, insist mind you, that the harmful effects due to the waste are exaggerated. "It's all Hype!" they'll say. "Oil and Coal are worse" they'll say.

      I'll wait to hear what Greenpeace have to say. They mightn't be the most neutral organisation in the world, but it'll be interesting to see which they think is worse.
    • I grew up in a town that mined uranium [miningwatch.ca]. there was 0.1% uranium in the ground. For every tonne of rock they mined, they got a tonne or tailings. Which is a big chemical mess that's still not cleaned up 10 years after the mines are closed. There's a lot of waste created from mining uranium. I've seen lakes full of waste because of this stuff. I wonder if those pushing nuclear power think about this kind of stuff when they tout the advantages of nuclear power.
    • by m50d (797211) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:29PM (#13849880) Homepage Journal
      What about the enrichment though? What about all the noxious chemicals involved in separating the fissile isotopes from the 99+% useless U-238?

      You can centrifuge so you don't really need any chemicals, and so little fuel is needed to get a given amount of energy that the amounts used are miniscule compared to what would be used digging up the same amount of coal/oil/etc.

      What about the huge piles of toxic and somewhat radioactive U-238 that you get at the end?

      Ever seen a slag heap? The amount of waste is again going to be miniscule compared to what you'd produce getting the coal or oil needed to get the same amount of energy, the radiation danger is a tiny fraction of what you get from the radon you'll release mining coal. The toxicity is overstated, it's not really any worse than lead - yes it's not something you'd want to be too near, but neither are the much larger piles of stuff used for mining and oil-drilling.

    • What about the huge piles of toxic and somewhat radioactive U-238 that you get at the end?

      Do you own a house in the suburbs? If so, the soil in your yard probably contains several pounds of U-238. It's a rather common element.
  • At random I caught an interesting debate on BBC24 between 4 MEPs. They were discussing the need for nuclear power. There was an interesting claim by the Finnish chap that nuclear power produces no carbon output. The German Green countered that this was ignoring the carbon cost of plant construction, maintenance, production of rods, waste disposal, decommissioning, etc. Her general point was that those who argue that nuclear power is cheap and efficient ignore the overheads and invisible costs.

    Another inte

    • Her general point was that those who argue that nuclear power is cheap and efficient ignore the overheads and invisible costs.

      In the U.S., the industry is heavily subsidized [riverkeeper.org]. It is a credit to wind and solar that it has achieved as much as they have, with the negligible subsidies. I've noticed that the portable construction highway signs are now powered by solar. Very cool. Maybe if just a tad bit more of that money went to other, renewable energy sources...

      According to a July 2000 report by the Rene

    • The greens countered that they were also trying to address the demand side of the energy problem, unlike the nuclear lobby who seek only to replace existing supply.

      Yeah, because demand's gonna go down when countries with more than 2 billion additional people make the transition from agrarian to industrialized nations and we start to replace oil (and coal and natural gas) as energy sources for heating and transportation. We just got to remember to switch off the lights when we leave a room.

      Of course they

    • Re:carbon neutral (Score:3, Informative)

      by msevior (145103)
      Grrr I can't stand it any longer.

      We're still constructing the site but here it is anyway...

      http://nuclearinfo.net/ [nuclearinfo.net]

      That German Green person is way out to lunch. We prove it on the site. Scroll down to:

      (There is some bug in our twiki that prevents direct links..)

      http://www.nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower#Greenhouse _Emissions_of_Nuclear_Power [nuclearinfo.net]

      Nuclear Power emits less Greenhouse Gases than any other form Energy generation including Hydro and Wind. There are far less invisible costs in Nuclear Energy than anything
  • by ddx Christ (907967) on Friday October 21, 2005 @08:59PM (#13849712) Homepage
    Is akin to a situation where someone tells you to lift a supposedly cold glass, but it's actually boiling. That's what initially happened with nuclear fission. Now that same person is asking us to pick it up again, but can we be sure it's inherently safe to do so and we won't receive 3rd degree burns? I'm not saying this is my point of view, but what I usually encounter when talking to others.

    A bad reputation is very difficult to eliminate. Whereas a good reputation is ruined by one bad action, the same cannot be said for the converse. Nuclear power has clear advantages as well as disadvantages; technology has improved. But if we can't deal with mercury, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants, what are we going to do with nuclear waste? If we have a plan and are ready, then go ahead, but we should still look for alternatives and improvements.

  • If we've got the likes of (Massachusetts Senator) Ted Kennedy opposing [dcexaminer.com] something as benign as offshore wind farms [capewind.org] with obvious NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) arguments, how can we expect people to agree to deal with transportation and storage of spent fuel rods which have a half-life [wikipedia.org] in the tens-of-thousands of years?
  • by mattotoole (872355) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:01PM (#13849723)
    The problem with nuclear power is that the nuclear industry is so enmeshed with top secret military programs that no one knows what its costs really are. They say it's cheap, but to what degree is it being subsidized? We'll never know. Also, nuclear power further encourages an overly centralized power grid, with too few, too-large power plants. For both national security and efficency, we should be moving toward a more distributed model. Smaller plants require less investment too, so they can be added/upgraded more easily as technology improves. I'm for millions of solar roofs; microturbines and fuel cells with co-generation; and everyone's meter able to run backwards.
  • by CDPatten (907182) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:11PM (#13849782) Homepage
    the world stops it's need for oil? We are starting to see many alternatives, natural gas, nuclear, current solar tech, new solar (e.g. nano-solar), fuel-cell, etc. Even harnessing the oceans waves are becoming practical. France already gets about 80% of its energy from Nuke power.

    At present the Middle East doesn't do anything but sell oil (http://www.tompeters.com/entries.php?note=006683. php [tompeters.com], 270 international patents in 20 years). There are approx. 270 million Arabs in the middle east and the majority living off of oil profit. If things like Britain's initiative spill over into all the world's nations, the Middle East could very quickly loose its primary source of income within the next 20 years. Cars are quickly moving to electric engines wich will feed fuel-cell, and I can't imagine new jet tech is far off. The new scientist has pieces on projects to conserve up to 80% fuel costs.

    Since the middle east (for the most part) doesn't make anything, do you think they will turn into a society similar to the warring African nations or step up to the plate and joining the world in creating/innovating?
  • by Quirk (36086) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:15PM (#13849798) Homepage Journal
    James Lovelock the framer of the Gaia theory [wikipedia.org] ("...a class of scientific models of the geo-biosphere in which life as a whole fosters and maintains suitable conditions for itself by helping to create an environment on Earth suitable for its continuity...")

    "Lovelock was among the first [wikipedia.org] researchers to sound the alarm about the threat of global warming from the greenhouse effect. In 2004 he caused a media sensation when he broke with many fellow environmentalists by pronouncing that "Only nuclear power can now halt global warming". In his view, nuclear energy is the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfill the large scale energy needs of mankind while also reducing greenhouse emissions."

    As an environmentalist, though not a proponent of Dr. Lovelock's Gaia theory, I endorse the development of nuclear power. Further, I think, environmenatlist should step up, admit their error in attacking nuclear power, and, actively push a nuclear power agenda.

  • I wonder if he's being forced to say that by one of these guys [bbc.co.uk] who is secretly building a giant bomb on top of a time-fissure in Cardiff!

    Nah, that couldn't happen. It's about as likely as hmm, a Doctor Who spinoff series starring a bisexual army captain. Oh wait, nevermind.
  • My concerns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Y-Crate (540566) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:30PM (#13849883)
    I have no problem with nuclear power, modern plants are safe and quite useful.

    However, I do not exactly trust the upper management of such facilities to always do the right thing, after years of shoddy practices by some owner/operators. In the past, I've encountered many stories of rather remarkable safety oversights and downright irresponsible decisions that have made certain reactors unnecessarily dangerous. Sure we have the NRC, but history has shown that they are not always on the ball...or quite far from it.

    As with virtually every major reactor incident that has ever occurred, the human element is the potential problem, not the technology.

    So fellow nuclear power supporters, please understand when some of us have genuine concerns about construction of new plants, and please do not lump us all in the "OMG ATOMS!!!!" category. In fact, fellow environmentalists here in Florida are only asking for a large exclusion zone around a new plant that is being considered. Obviously, they are going to get the zone for a variety of reasons, theirs being that it makes a fantastic nature preserve.
  • i would love to have a nuke plant in my backyard - but alas, the environmentalists prevent any form of nuclear power in the US from growing.

    i would love to get hydrogen from that plant - but alas, the envrionmentalists refuse to take SUV's out of the equation - SUV's powered by hydrogen piss them off too.

    please - put a nuclear power plant in my back yard - i'm in Southern California.
  • It's already been proven that nuclear is the safest form of power time and time again, even without all these new cool designs.

    It's already been proven that nuclear is the most environmentally safe power time and time again.

    It's already been proven that nuclear is the cheapest if irrational regulations are left off.

    It's already been proven that nuclear releases LESS radioactivity into the environment than other forms of major energy production like residue isotopes in coal.

    If these haven't convinced people
  • by badfish99 (826052) on Friday October 21, 2005 @09:42PM (#13849954)
    If nuclear power is so great, we should encourage every country to use it. We wouldn't want to be striving to save the world ourselves, while other countries are just pumping out pollution, would we? That would be stupid.

    So we must encourage Iran, North Korea and so on to build as many nuclear power stations as they like.

  • We're locked in a life and death battle between nuclear and petro fuel warriors. Both of whom will pump poison into the environment on which we depend. We're screwed, unless an Internet-style surprise deployment in alternative energy upsets the entrenched chiefs and their industrial bribers^Wcontributors who keep us all in the dumps with their tired old approaches.
  • Nukes please! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uncadonna (85026) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sibotm)> on Friday October 21, 2005 @10:26PM (#13850141) Homepage Journal
    Greenhouse gases are a big problem and getting bigger.

    A ton of uranium yields as much energy as 16000 tons of coal. We bury the nuclear wastes in a small hole. (Work out the size of a ton of metal.) We bury the much larger coal wastes in the atmosphere, where they change the radiative properties of the planet, not to mention various other toxic side effects, including radiation emissions.

    It's really a no-brainer. Of course, sometimes it seems that society has no brain.

    The right doesn't want to admit it was wrong about global warming and the left doesn't want to admit it was wrong about nukes. So we go on merrily pursuing a thoroughly avoidable catastrophe.
  • by shummer_mc (903125) on Friday October 21, 2005 @11:23PM (#13850413)
    There is a reactor designed called an advanced breeder reactor. It's as close to an energy machine as I've ever seen... This type of reactor uses U238, which we (the US) are currently storing as waste (at huge expense). As a by-product of the consumption of this fuel it creates plutonium (the downside), as well as enough fuel to 'seed' another reactor (breeding, in a sense). This reactor was slated to be built, but due to the weapons-grade plutonium by-product, it was deemed unsafe and discontinued. According to people that I know (I used to work at the Idaho National Lab-- a cornerstone of US nuclear reactor design and development) there is enough U238 in storage-- as waste-- that we would could provide the energy needs for the US for several hundred years.

    So, to answer one question, there's plenty of fuel. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as I'm concerned. This technology has been known for 30 years. There are bound to be technological leaps and bounds in the science of nuclear energy, but collectively we're afraid to try. As evidence of our collective fear, I point to the, IMO, over-zealous regulation/legislation, which makes it impossibly expensive to investigate making nuclear power *more* safe (I believe that it's safer/healthier than coal now).

    Okay, having said that... there is a problem with our ability to improve our nuclear technology. That problem is the last 30 years-- where nothing was done in the field (due to FUD). In those 30 years the leading minds have forgottem and gotten old and sometimes have left the US in favor of work in more reasonable countries. In essence, I'm not sure that we have the expertise any longer. It will be expensive and difficult to get the US nuclear programs working again. I only guess that the UK is the same.

    Is it worth it for the US, or any country? Yes. I think so. However, you've got an oil industry crony in the W.H. and trillions of lobby dollars spent by US energy corps and, according to many, the old KGB and other foreign govs, which have instilled a real fear about nuclear energy (according to the stories the old USSR didn't want us to develop *infinite* energy to feed our economy).

    There is currently an initiative to build what they call the Gen 4 reactor. There has been some discussion as to which design to try. 'Pebble Bed' was discussed, but there are cooling issues to overcome (I can't speak intelligently on that... I wrote the software which tracked the nuclear waste-- IANANE). El Presidente seems enamored with hydrogen reactors, last I heard. My bets on whether we actually do it are placed on 'no.' The current project is woefully under-funded and crazily mis-managed.

    Regarding waste... I know a bit about what is stored as waste... Mainly, it's PPE (personal protective equipment-- rubber gloves and the like) and junk. Anytime something even remotely (and I mean REMOTELY) connected with nuclear fuel, or waste, or contamination is discarded it becomes waste. The VAST majority (99%) of waste isn't nasty. Quite a lot can be permanently disposed of in a safe manner, but people start to freak out (FUD again). The other 1% can be stored until we figure out a cost-effective manner to send it to the sun. Right now, we store it all, and that contributes to more FUD.

    I probably sound a bit like a fanboy... maybe I am. There IS an energy crisis. Renewables are nowhere near (at least as far as I know) ready to produce the amount of energy that nuclear does/can; it has been operationally tested worldwide.

    Solving the political problems... That's another matter.

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