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Power Science

The Nuclear Power Renaissance 927

Posted by samzenpus
from the fire-breathing-lizards-soon-to-follow dept.
Actual Reality writes "It is ironic to me that much of the same sentiment that thwarted the nuclear power industry back in the 80's is partially responsible for reviving it. Nuclear power is very clean compared to any power source that burns fuel. The US has missed several advancements in nuclear technology. We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again stifle our progress."
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The Nuclear Power Renaissance

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  • The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 (807168) * on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @08:55PM (#21357407) Homepage
    We KNOW that converting to nuclear energy would largely solve the global warming problem.  Have a nice gander people, the solution to this seemingly intractible problem is staring us in the face.

    No, nuclear isn't perfect.  But in combination with electric cars, the CO2 problem is solved.

    Then we just have to worry about the CO2 we've already put in there.
  • bleh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @08:56PM (#21357425) Homepage
    We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again, stifle our progress.

    Environmental concerns as an "impediment" to changes in our oil-based economy is a red herring.

    We don't use nuclear because it would put the oil barons out of business, not because it's dirty or unsafe. Most of France's power comes from nuclear, and they don't have any problems with it.
  • I'm in favor of nuclear power - as long as no-one tries to run it at profit.

      Trying to run the thing at a profit, even a hugely government subsidized profit, leads to cutting corners, which means that waste is not properly disposed of (which is by far the leading relevant concern) and that proper precautions are not taken to prevent sabotage or attack (which is still a concern with a modern nuke plant, even though meltdowns are not.)
  • by MOBE2001 (263700) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @08:57PM (#21357441) Homepage Journal
    The US has missed several advancements in nuclear technology.

    Well, this is good because it means that the US has the opportunity to move straight to the latest and safest state of the art nuclear power plant technology.
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:00PM (#21357453) Journal
    When I try to explain the benefits of Nuclear power to some of my friends, many come back with the (rather cliché) horror stories of Three Mile Island and of course Chernobyl. What many don't know is the computational power to safely keep a reactor going was generally greater than what was available and the failsafes there were not entirely figured out or developed. We have had many years to develop the technology and as TFA points out:

    among the 104 reactors currently online in the United States, none have had any disasters since the infamous Three Mile Island incident in 1979.
    The technology has vastly improved, the safety measures are in place, it's time to go Nuclear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:02PM (#21357481)
    While I have no technical expertise, I do believe it's theoretically possible to run safe fission reactors. But we shouldn't even consider building any until we have a *completed* (very) long-term storage/disposal solution for nuclear waste. Deferring it to the next generation is not OK.
  • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:02PM (#21357487)
    I'm in favor of nuclear power - as long as no-one tries to run it at profit.

    As opposed to someone who's working in the non-profit sector who will do anything to make his numbers?

    Non-profit is just a tax status. Meaning, there's a restriction to what you can do with the profits: there's nothing restricting you from making as much money or as much profit as you want - you can get rich off of a non-profit.

    My wife works for a non-profit and there's plenty of meetings where they are encouraged to cut costs. So, sorry, not making "evil" profits won't make the plant any safer. Neither will having it run by some Government bureaucrat. Do you really want the caliber of person that works at the department of motor vehicles running those plants?

  • Troll news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vthornheart (745224) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:06PM (#21357533)
    While I agree it's interesting that *some* environmentalists are rallying around Nuclear power, I think we need to make a few things clear that the poster of this news article seems to have missed.

    1) Most environmentalists supporting the Nuclear option do so only because it is the lesser of two evils, the latter of which (Global Warming) was not known of or understood back when the Nuclear Power protests were going on. This isn't ironic, it's evolutionary. It's the scientific process at its finest: new data comes in, and those looking out for the best interests of everyone reevaluate their previous conclusions based on that new data. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

    2) The "We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again, stifle our progress," is a bit more blatent of an example of flamebaiting. The reason that environmental concerns occasionally "stifle our progress" is because it would be foolish for anyone NOT to think of environmental concerns. Would the poster of this article rather that environmental concerns never be taken into account in the case of new technology? It would be like a scientist intentionally ignoring a key variable in a study. You wouldn't tell a clinical group performing studies on a new (for example) vaccine to ignore if the vaccine causes heart attacks just because said vaccine is supposed to cure cancer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:10PM (#21357575)
    Nuclear power and oil power largely do not compete - oil is used to power internal combustion engines; for the most part very few power plants run on oil; most run on either coal or natural gas.

    You might have had an argument had you said "coal" barons, or "natural gas" barons. I'm not denying that there are some pretty fucking evil oil barons, but this is not their handiwork.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:11PM (#21357583) Homepage Journal
    Amazing -- every time I make this point on Slashdot, I get a swarm of deluded people flaming me. Now that there's an article on it, maybe people will begin to see that if they're really serious about things like Global Warming, switching from Coal to Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it. All other sources of non-emitting power cost about ~3x as much per kilowatt. According to the DOE (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2emiss.pdf) 40% of all CO2 generated in America is produced from electricity generation.

    The stupid, stupid environmental prejudice against nuclear power has come back to bite us all on the ass. If we had all nuclear power plants now instead of majority coal plants, we'd have eliminated almost half the CO2 production from our country which is MUCH MUCH more than reductions mandated by agreements like the Kyoto protocols, which specify either minimal cuts (8% for Europe) or capping increases (Australia can go up by 8%).

    If you're an environmentalist, you should be for nuclear power. Either shit or get off the pot -- if you just talk about "climate change" and then live in some sordid China Syndrome fear of nuclear power, you're not just an idiot, you're a hypocrite. If you're not an environmentalist, you should also be for nuclear power, since it's cheaper than all the alternative energy sources being pursued right now, and everyone likes low power costs.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:14PM (#21357621)

    If you think spent nuclear fuel is clean, why not make useful consumer goods out of it?
    Umm... we do. Don't you have a smoke detector?
  • Re:I disagree. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:15PM (#21357639)
    Remember what gave America the most reliable phone system on the planet for almost a century? That is, a heavily regulated private sector organization that lived under strict quality-of-service standards with severe penalties for failure. The problem with any such endeavor, as I see it, is that our government is probably too corruptible nowadays to reliably enforce such standards, and as far as the corporate world is concerned ... well. Heck, we can't even maintain the rest of our infrastructure properly anymore ... would we really be able to handle a network of atomic power plants? Don't misunderstand me: it's plain that we're not going to be able to keep the lights indefinitely if we don't make a move to nuclear, in a big way, and fairly soon. I'm just asking the question of whether or not we're truly up to the task of building the things and then running them with a reasonable degree of safety.
  • by physicsboy500 (645835) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:16PM (#21357643)
    Troll much?

    The point of TFA is that Nuclear power has vastly improved since those days. Additionally Chernobyl was a product of a bad set of safety procedures and fail safes. an entire account of what happened that day can be found on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] which is as follows:

    The workers were performing an experiment with the reactor's safety systems. Problems occurred during the tests, the reactor did not receive enough coolant, had built up too much heat in the core and had fully withdrawn control rods, all of which contributed to a very unstable and unpredictable reactor operation. When the control rods were reinserted in an attempt to regain control of the unstable reactor, there was a sudden increase in reactivity, caused by the design of the RBMK reactor and its control rods, and an uncontrollable runaway reaction occurred. The reactor produced tremendous amounts of steam, eventually causing a steam break/explosion, which destroyed part of the reactor. Graphite fires broke out, due to the high temperatures of the reactor and that the graphite was exposed to oxygen, causing it to burn, which occurred after the reactor was damaged from the steam explosion.
    While it's true Nuclear has been overlooked and underdeveloped for the last couple of decades in the US, we are to the point where it would be highly (if not completely) unlikely that a disaster of even a fraction that size would occur.

    TFA points out there hasn't been a Nuclear disaster on US soil since 1979's Three Mile Island and while yes, it could theoretically happen, We've also gained much knowledge to either stop or prevent such a disaster

    Yes there were failures in the past... bad failures, but with that comes the knowledge to fix the problem.
  • Re:Nah, fuck off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:17PM (#21357653) Homepage Journal
    he waste remains deadly for hundreds of thousands of years.

    Guess how radioactive something is with a half-life of 100,000 years? Answer: Not very.

    I'd really wish there was like a prerequisite of high school physics before people were allowed to start talking about the energy issue in America.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:17PM (#21357655) Journal

    Trying to run the thing at a profit, even a hugely government subsidized profit, leads to cutting corners, which means that waste is not properly disposed of (which is by far the leading relevant concern) and that proper precautions are not taken to prevent sabotage or attack (which is still a concern with a modern nuke plant, even though meltdowns are not.)


    How does having it government run not do the same thing? Chernobyl was government-run, and it's the worst reactor disaster in history.

    I don't have a problem with private nuclear plants, providing the safeguards are in place, and that includes government inspectors with the independence and know-how to do it.
  • Re:bleh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m4cph1sto (1110711) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:20PM (#21357689)
    You gotta be kidding me. We don't use nuclear because it would hurt the oil industry? First off, there's a difference between oil, which runs our cars, and coal, which runs our power plants, which you don't seem to grasp. Second and more importantly, the real reason we don't have much nuclear power in the US is because for decades "environmentalists" have been waging a misguided war against nuclear power. These activists eroded public support for nuclear energy, and their lobbyists got our politicians to impose such stringent roadblocks and regulations that it became impossible for any company to even think about building in a new nuclear power plant in the US. Thanks to their ignorance and short-sightedness, these activists contributed in a major way to the problem of global warming, which they now say will be the doom of us all. And what makes it even more ironic is that the activists are still at it today. Sure nuclear is not perfect. But the safety issue was settled long ago. So the only downside is waste disposal, and the technology to process nuclear waste is advancing rapidly. And anyway, the stuff comes out of the ground, so we just have to put it back there, and make sure it stays there. All this talk about nuclear waste being a terrible hazard and environmental concern for the "next 10,000 years" is ridiculous. Some time in the next 500 years we'll figure out an even better way to handle, or use, nuclear waste, and it'll become a null issue (unless global warming kills us all by then of course).
  • by vandan (151516) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:21PM (#21357711) Homepage

    Nationalise all the coal mines then shut them down. (Any which are still operating, by any rate.)

    Great. But in the US, it'll never happen. But great so far.

    Slap a large carbon tax on import coal for power plants.

    Also great. But again, the US will never do it.

    Power generators which run on natural gas or oil, slap a carbon tax on those, too

    OOooo yeah baby!

    Hydro, well the enviromentalists hate hydro because it interfers with the social lives of fish, such as the snail darter so bust the dams

    There's no blanket rejection of hydro. In some cases, it makes a lot of sense. It's just that in others, it doesn't. There are forms of hydro that don't include dams on rivers. Wave generators, for example.

    Enviros also hate those wind generators, which kill wild fowl with their big blades, knock 'em down.

    Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on this one. Talk to ANY environmental activist, and they'll bring up wind power. I just went on the Walk Against Warming march in Sydney on the weekend ( 30,000 here, 30,000 in Melbourne, approx 150,000 Australia-wide ). The place was literally covered with windmill things on poles, and Greens banners. It was amazing. I think the only people who complain about wind are actually arsewipes from the big oil & nuclear industry, trying to throw a spanner in the works. NO serious environmentalist brings up the issues in your point.

    The last battleground and current battle ground for decades, where to bury the waste from Nuclear Power

    That's where it falls apart completely.

    1) We don't have any technology that will last more than a couple of hundred years. Nuclear waste lasts for millions of years. We simply can't contain it.

    2) Forgetting point 1 for a second, WHO exactly is responsible for the waste? A corporation like Enron? Do you realise that ALL corporations are like Enron, or at least similar enough not to matter? The waste will be around LONG after the corporations that profited from the mining and power conversion have closed up shop and left the country. This means that the responsibility will then fall back onto ordinary people. We'll have to pay taxes for MILLIONS of years to maintain the containment of waste which most people never benefited from, because they weren't around then. In particular, they weren't around then to MAKE THE DECISION, so why should they be responsible?

    That pretty much sums up the problems with nuclear ( other than the weapons side, which I've addressed briefly in other posts ). Nuclear is all about short-term profits, and long-term irresponsibility. That's exactly how we got to where we are with CO2-based climate change. Do we really want to fuck ourselves and all future generations up the arse with nuclear waste as well? I really, really hope not, but there are a few very greedy people, and then there are lot of idiots who buy what they say ...
  • Re:Troll news? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:24PM (#21357739)
    My response to your second point has always been that the environmentalists who fought every nuclear power plant since the 70s did do the wrong thing. And now global warming concerns are coming back to bite them. What the environmental activists should have done is pick the guys from their groups who do understand nuclear power, and power production, and business models, and insisted these guys get put in charge of safety and operations at a new plant.

    This would ensure that the plans are the safest design available, and that the standard operating procedures (SOP) are also safe and, more importantly, adhered to. Imagine if the chief of operations cared about the environment, and had the authority to shut the plant down immediately with no reprisals. We would have clean, safe power for millions of electric vehicles now, rather than the mess we are in.
  • Re:Disposal? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:26PM (#21357783) Homepage Journal
    Couple of points:

    1) Most nuclear wastes isn't even radioactive. This would be equipment used around a plant.

    2) The DoE was working on an IFR; which used sodium. The IFR could take nuclear waste, use it. The resulting half life was about 4-500 years. Not to bad, really.

    3) Yucca mountain safety is only in question because ignorant people turned it into a political issue inseat of a science issue; whixch is what it should be.

    4) What Nuclear waste is flowing into the columbia?

    5) It is a lot cleaner then coal.

    6) We could make it into glass brick and dump it into the trench. (Radiation isn't contagious the way most people say it is.

    7) It's disposal really isn't that difficult, there are several good choices that could hold it securly for 1000s of years, but as soon as the ill informed public hears 'nuclear' they think radiation is coming though their wires.(In one person I saw interview, they literally believed that.)

    8) exactly 0 people died from three mile island, however because people wouldn't let them restart the other reactors, approx. 50 people have dies from the pollution from the coal plants they now use.

    9) Look at some of the newer French designs, they are awesome. Some of the stuff Japan has on the drawing board is incredible.

    10) Chicago is about 90% nuclear, there cost per kilowatt is about a nickel.

    When a coal plant opens up, I always remember to thank an anti-nuclear environmentalist.
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:42PM (#21357971)
    The technology has vastly improved...

    Nuclear fission technology hasn't changed nor improved. Large quantities of long-lived radioactive isotopes are produced as waste and even after 60 years we still don't have any place to put them. The reactor containment on a fission reactor hasn't changed and would allow chernobyl-type contamination to spread if it fails due to operator or equipment failure. Significant portions of several states (Washington, South Carolina, Nevada, Tennessee) are contaminated with historical fission wastes that are poorly contained and could contaminate much larger areas as corrosion, wind, and rain allow them to spread. Large quantities of commercial fission wastes are stored in temporary facilities at nuclear power stations waiting for a safe long-term storage site to be available. Nuclear wastes don't 'go away' and don't decompose, at least in normal historical timespans. They just stay around and accumulate, requiring ever-greater expenditures and effort to contain them. Intentionally planning to produce even more of these wastes than we are already producing is ... insane. Windmills, bicycles, sweaters, walking, transit, oil, coal, gas, hydropower, and solar cells are all much better alternatives.
  • Re:The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:57PM (#21358107)
    The CIA world fact book says 2004 electrical production (not counting transportation energy, etc) was 17.4 trillion kW-hours, so we'd need at least 2 TerraWatts of capacity. A relatively large nuclear reactor produces about a GW of electricity, which translates to 2000 plants. Add in other energy needs currently met by fossil fuels and account for capacity factors and that CalTech professor you reference is probably within an order of magnitude of the actual need.

    The problem with that argument is it only demonstrates the scope of our energy needs. It says nothing about the feasibility of nuclear versus other technologies, and ignores the fact that the exact same challenge applies to any energy source. To cover our needs with just coal (currently 25% of the world energy supply and something like half of the electrical supply) would similarly require about 10,000 coal plants. You want to it with wind? You need roughly one million of today's highest capacity wind turbines. Solar? About $20 trillion dollars worth of solar panels near the equator will do it. Hydro? Well...forget about that one. Hydro power options are mostly in use in developed countries.

    We'd run out of nuclear fuel in decades (actually, I've been told centuries) if we continued to utilize it as poorly as we currently do. Reprocessing, however, can dramatically increase the available energy from existing fuel and potentially the economics of developing new mines. Not to mention reducing the waste by 90% or so.

    Don't forget we're just talking about nuclear fission here. If we can get fusion working commercially, the picture changes.

    Anyone who thinks we'll get all our energy from one source in the foreseeable future, however, is out of the loop.
  • Re:The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ttfkam (37064) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:03PM (#21358177) Homepage Journal

    But, really, the only reason we don't have space based solar power already is because it would devalue fuel and energy and destroy every power structure on earth that relies on it, and that's a tough sell politically. Capitalism relies on scarcity to keep everyone obedient.

    That or the fact that no one has ever beamed energy from a satellite to a terrestrial site. Ever. Remember that thing called "an atmosphere?" So we're talking lasers, right? You want to show me where the prototype exists to convert a very-high-powered laser beam to an electricity source? Just one will do. Go on. Show me one example.

    Won't sell because of a power conspiracy? Give me a break. If a company could do this already, they'd be launching satellites on a daily basis. Think about it for a moment: you could be the company that supplies most of the world's power while waving the banner of environmental responsibility. But *no one* has even built *a prototype* because of your supposed cabal?

    I think your tin foil hat needs to be cleaned; you've been wearing it far too long already.
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:19PM (#21358335)
    You go read something. I am quite aware that the Chernobyl reactor was graphite and burned very easily releasing lots and lots of radioactivity. I also know quite a bit about the exercise that was being conducted at the time.

    Do you know anything about any of the reactor accidents elsewhere. Our own 3 Mile Island accident was also a result of an exercise. It also released radioactivity - and we were lucky -- It could have released a whole lot more had the hydrogen bubble exploded and blown the top off the containment building.

    How about the Enrico Fermi reactor? Know anything about that one? It was just by the thinnest of margins it didn't explode and hevily contaminate Detroit. It also happened right at the perfect time - a temperature inversion that would have kept the fallout concentrated and a light breeze that would have carried the cloud right over Detroit.

    The moral of the story, asshole, is that things can and do go wrong in nuclear reactors. That's probably the harshest environment on earth - high radiation, lots of heat, lots of pressure. Even the slightest chance of a disasterous set of circumstances is too much because when you get lots of reactors running, the chance something goes wrong to cause contamination goes up proportionately.

    Even if you have a perfect reactor design (impossible), nuclear power plants are still going to be attractive targets for terrorism or even internal sabotage by some deranged idiot. Ther is no way that humans, designing for a "practical" balance of safety vs. cost, are going to be able to design a reactor that can't be destroyed intentionally - and that is how far you have to go. You have to make it physically impossible for someone to defeat interlocks, defeat safeties, and run a reactor up to and over design and shut down the cooling.

    You go read something.
  • nuclear waste (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2ms (232331) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:22PM (#21358377)
    To those of you who think that nuclear may be worse than coal power because of the nuclear "waste". Just checking: you are aware of the phenomenon called radioactive half-life right? If you keep a radioactive material isolated (for example, underground geological storage), it decays until it is no longer radioactive. The most radioactive constituants go inert in only a few days. The ones that take a long time are less radioactive in proportion to how much longer they take to decay. Meanwhile, your body itself is composed of radioactive materials like carbon40. Just living, you are constantly exposed to cosmic radiation, radon, etc. in levels that are very high relative to anything you'd be exposed to from open plutonium240 or any of the other nuclear wastes that take more than a few decades to decay.
  • by h2_plus_O (976551) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:22PM (#21358383)

    I do oppose raising energy rates and reducing consuption because it's anti-progressive, or as I prefer to say, regressive. Any extra burdens imposed on the cost of energy are going to disproportionately hurt the poor, and they've had it bad enough. Besides, it's totally unrealistic. Of course we should be doing more to insulate houses, and I strongly support government subsidies for doing that. But in a choice between reducing energy use and not reducing it while taking the risk of global climate catastrophe, Americans (maybe people in general) will choose the latter ten out of ten times.
    They will choose the latter because it's cheaper in the short term- that's how most of us budget.

    I agree, it's unrealistic and unreasonable to ask people to accept a reduction in the quality of their lives- they won't do it. That said, if you want to be realistic, you have to consider that the primary factor people respond to is price. If we really want people to change the fuel they consume, we have two options: provide some alternative that is cheaper to them, or make hydrocarbon fuels more expensive to them. I think we should do both, frankly. This may sound insensitive, but without a pain point to respond to AND a better option worth switching to, nobody that hasn't already will change their behavior.

    Yes, there's stuff we can do to facilitate conversions (from coal to nuclear, from gas to electric, etc) and make the conversion process less painful, and we should do that. There's stuff we can do to drive efficiency (like help people insulate their houses) and we should do that. What we shouldn't do is protect anybody from price pressures. Yes, it'll be painful, but in the end it should be painful to do stupid stuff.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:26PM (#21358445) Journal
    Here's an interesting factoid: In the U.S. alone, pollution from coal power plants kills over 30,000 people each year [sierraclub.org]. Of course, this is just a fraction of the worldwide number, and a fraction of those suffering health ailments from coal pollution. If you look at air pollution in general, the WHO estimates 2.4 million annual deaths worldwide [wikipedia.org].

    This means that every few years (or less), more people die from coal than have died in the entire history of nuclear weapons and accidents, including Hiroshima (140,000), Nagasaki (80,000), and Chernobyl (4,000, although this has been argued about).
  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FroBugg (24957) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:40PM (#21358583) Homepage
    I'd love to see some numbers for this miracle cheapness you're talking about.

    Nuclear power plants cost ridiculous amounts to construct and operate. Lifetime cost per kwh, including amortized construction, fuel, maintenance, etc, for nuclear is approximately double that of a fossil fuel plant (coal or natural gas).

    If you want to address non-polluting sources of power: Hydro is actually cheaper than anything else we're using, but it's already maxed out in much of the developed world. Wind has seen tremendous growth in the last fifteen years or so, and is actually cheaper than nuclear. Solar still has a ways to go, but right now it's only about double the prices of nuclear per kwh. Geothermal has great potential, but I don't know what the costs are right now.

    This doesn't even begin to address the waste disposal problem. Every nuclear plant in the country has decades worth of waste piling up on site because we never figured out a place to put it.
  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:45PM (#21358649) Homepage
    There are few things more painful than watching "enviornmentalists" spill their idiocy of how nuclear destroys the world. Nuclear energy can provide gigawatts and gigawatts of electricity. The carbon produced, even by secondary effects like uranium mining is lower than almost any other means of generating electricity. The "waste" can be recycled and the only remaining material which is not usable is tiny in volume and short in half-life. It's economically doable and it's been proven safe and reliable.

    People trust their lives to reactors while living next to them for months on end...in a sealed vessel under thousands of feet of saltwater!

    Compared to coal, even natural gas, the amount of waste and nature of it is extremely minor. Nuclear energy has had only one major incident and that was in an inherently unsafe reactor which was improperly built and operated. There are always concerns, and reactors do need redundant active and passive safety features, but I will glady live nextdoor to one.

    The fact is renewable won't cut it. They just can't get the job done. Generating the terawats of energy the US and other countries need will never be possible from wind or solar. And we've run out of rivers to dam.

    Power generation accounts for 33% of CO2 emissions. Moving to plug-in hybrids and electric-centric transportation will only increase that. It's nuclear or coal. There's not enough methane around and wins and solar can't cut it. Nuclear or coal. We need nuclear before things get any worse.

    Admittedly I am a bit biased but then again, I do like the earth and I breathe air, so that's kinda a vested interest. But I researched the whole thing quite a bit and I can only come to the conclusion that nuclear is the best bet for replacing carbon-based energy. And this is why "environmentalists" or as I call them, members of the eco-stupid movement hate me so.
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:46PM (#21358661) Homepage Journal
    And they've been saying this for how long for oil? We haven't even put 1% of the effort into finding uranium supplies than we have oil.

    Smart usage, like breeder reactors, would give us centuries more with our existing nuclear reactors. Heck, the energy density of nuclear power is such that with thorium reactors we could pull enough out of seawater for it to be an energy positive measure.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:48PM (#21358691) Journal

    You no doubt know that the fallout from Chernobyl circled the globe? That it contaminated neighboring countries fairly heavily?
    ...and the only people that died were those in the immediate vicinity.

    Just like anything else, distance decreases risk.

    A population center with a lot to lose and no way to evacuate in short order in the event of an accident will work very hard to make the plants as safe as they can be.

    Work as hard as you want... Nothing in the world is 100% safe, and going out of your way to put extra people in danger is just idiotic.

    Maybe it'll be a couple centuries, but sooner or later, there will be an accident.

    Putting them away from population centers wastes a lot of energy in the transmission lines

    It's not "a lot" of energy, it's a very small amount. And there plenty of progress being made on high temperature superconductors, which might be practical in such circumstances.

    and also gives people a false sense of security

    No, it's a very real sense of security. It would be even better if it was not just a distance away, but could be put behind a mountain range, or in a deep valley, that will naturally contain any potential fallout.

    The Enrico Fermi reactor that melted would have contaminated the whole northeast corridor.

    "Contaminated" != killing everyone.

    and think setting them 50 or 100 miles away makes them safe. It doesn't.

    It certainly makes you safer than being located closer to it. Like any other contaminate, the contamination disperses more the further you are away from where it's released... With a nuclear fallout, 100 miles away could be the difference between "radioactive poisoning" and "3% increased risk of developing cancer".

  • Re:The thing is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:50PM (#21358707) Homepage
    We KNOW that converting to nuclear energy would largely solve the global warming problem

    So would solar + tidal + geothermal + wind. And those would have the added advantage of not leaving behind exceedingly toxic pollutants that will haunt us for ever (in practical terms).
  • by bremstrong (523910) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:50PM (#21358727)
    If nuclear is so cheap and low cost, why do we need $50,000,000,000 in govt. subsidies to get it restarted?

    If you put $50B into solar energy, there'd be no need for nuclear (although solar is technically fusion power with a space-based reactor).

    What we really need is a level playing field. Too often the politically connected funnel taxpayer dollars to their own source, be it ethanol, oil, coal, or nuclear. Wind and solar currently receive a small but sensible per kWh subsidy. All new forms of power should be changed over to the same per hWh subsidies, with no additional subsidies. Then they would compete on the level.

    With a per kWh subsidy that was the same for all new energy sources, the market would determine the most efficient way to supply the needed energy, not the number of lobbyists each industry could afford.
  • Re:The thing is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:11PM (#21358891) Journal
    That or the fact that no one has ever beamed energy from a satellite to a terrestrial site. Ever. Remember that thing called "an atmosphere?" So we're talking lasers, right? You want to show me where the prototype exists to convert a very-high-powered laser beam to an electricity source? Just one will do. Go on. Show me one example.

    Won't sell because of a power conspiracy? Give me a break. If a company could do this already, they'd be launching satellites on a daily basis. Think about it for a moment: you could be the company that supplies most of the world's power while waving the banner of environmental responsibility. But *no one* has even built *a prototype* because of your supposed cabal?

    I think your tin foil hat needs to be cleaned; you've been wearing it far too long already.


    If you'd read the study, which I linked to, which was commissioned for the US government by the DoD:

    For the DoD specifically, beamed energy from space in quantities greater than 5 MWe has the potential to be a disruptive game changer on the battlefield. SBSP and its enabling wireless power transmission technology could facilitate extremely flexible "energy on demand" for combat units and installations across an entire theater, while significantly reducing dependence on vulnerable over-land fuel deliveries.

    Also, you could also look at the story that was on the front of slashdot a scant few weeks ago:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/solar101107.xml&headline=NSSO%20Backs%20Space%20Solar%20Power%20&channel=space [aviationweek.com] Of course, any human being that doesn't recognize this late in the game that the agenda of the US government is in large part driven by the interests of oil companies probably isn't going to be able to digest any of this, but what the hell. Here, have some pearls.
  • Re:The thing is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:14PM (#21358915)

    You want to show me where the prototype exists to convert a very-high-powered laser beam to an electricity source? Just one will do. Go on. Show me one example.

    Shine laser on big, black, unreflective object. Object gets REALLY FUCKING HOT. Heat turns steam turbine.

    You didn't say it had to be 100% efficient. Why would it have to be, anyway? The sunlight is free.

  • Trade-offs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:22PM (#21358957) Homepage
    Increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration puts more people at risk than nuclear meltdowns do. It's not like we have some magical technology that will make all the problems with energy production go away.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:28PM (#21358997)
    It goes to show that you can view a tacit concession of overstatement as a rebuttal, if you want it to be so badly enough. Dun wasn't denying that things can and do go wrong in nuclear reactors, just that responsible nations' infrequent accidents don't at all "circle the globe".
  • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:29PM (#21359009)
    I disagree about solar using existing technologies. I don't think its anywhere near feasible.

    However, future technologies in solar might help, but I don't think we're there yet.
  • Re:The thing is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Philotic (957984) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:32PM (#21359025)
    Uranium is also present at significant enough concentrations in the ocean that it could be economical to recover in the future, provided the price is right.
  • by kestasjk (933987) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:55PM (#21359203) Homepage
    Well the problem is that Generation IV reactors, which will be cheaper and safer, are still in development now. This means nuclear reactors built now will be Generation III, which are still safe etc, but not as cheap or efficient or modern as Generation IV will be.
    If America, and the rest of the world, had embraced nuclear power we might have a lot more R&D invested in it, and it would be that much better.

    This topic is actually a very relevant issue in Australia at the moment, our entire nuclear future is being decided this week!

    To all Australian /. readers about to vote: Kevin Rudd and the ALP are completely opposed to nuclear power.

    We live in a uranium rich, dry, stable country, but Rudd knows that the Australian public is scared of nuclear, and so he's making it an election issue. To combat global warming he favors clean coal [alp.org.au], which won't be ready for another 20 years.

    They plan to have one $50M carbon capture plant in Queensland by 2011, and to invest money in clean coal R&D. Gee, that'll do a lot of good. He'll be gone by the time his first demonstration carbon capture plant is ready. i.e. his policy is: We'll leave CO2 reductions to a future government, but pay lip service to it to get voted in. (Note that nowhere does he specify how many of our 200M tonnes of CO2 will be taken out of the atmosphere by this $50M plant.. Avoiding exact figures when making promises is completely typical in this campaign.)

    Because the ALP is so pro-union the coal industry will be more powerful, and more able to resist being partially replaced by nuclear.

    Chris Evans, Federal Labor Leader in the Senate, Shadow Minister for National Development, Resources & Energy [alp.org.au]:

    Labor's renewable energy target will deliver approximately half the new capacity needed to meet our growing energy demands out to 2020. Which means all existing capacity, including coal fired power stations, will be needed to meet future energy demands.
    So they're boasting that no coal fired power stations will be closed down. Great for the coal industry, not so great if Rudd is sincere about cutting emissions.

    If you want a sane resources & energy policy; vote Liberal.
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:07AM (#21359283) Homepage Journal
    Large quantities of long-lived radioactive isotopes are produced as waste and even after 60 years we still don't have any place to put them.

    Don't really need to put them anywhere, actually. A year's worth of radioactive fuel/waste for a gigawatt reactor is about a railcar's worth. Besides, it's still about 95% fuel, so when the price of uranium rises a bit more, we can take our decades old waste that's sitting in above ground casks and recycle it. Separate out the short lived waste isotopes, put the long lived usable fuel isotopes back in the reactor. You use the old stuff because while it's still radioactive, it's much less so than stuff fresh out of the reactor, so it's easier and cheaper to handle.

    Result: 20x more power from the same amount of fuel. 5% of the waste needing medium term(much less than a thousand years) storage.

    (Washington, South Carolina, Nevada, Tennessee) are contaminated with historical fission wastes that are poorly contained and could contaminate much larger areas as corrosion, wind, and rain allow them to spread.

    I've looked at many of these concerns, and I've found pretty much one constant: It's all nuclear weapons production waste, not commercial power waste. Bad on us and our nuclear weapon production program during the cold war. It was dirty as all heck.

    Large quantities of commercial fission wastes are stored in temporary facilities at nuclear power stations waiting for a safe long-term storage site to be available.

    This is because the feds messed up. By federal law the feds essentially forced the nuclear industry into a contract that has them pay a fee per kwh in exchange for permanent disposal of their waste. The feds haven't solved the problem, so they came up with their own solution - one that'll work for the next hundred or so years actually.

    Nuclear wastes don't 'go away' and don't decompose, at least in normal historical timespans.

    Yep, like mercury, arsenic, and lead will decompose over time.

    They just stay around and accumulate, requiring ever-greater expenditures and effort to contain them. Intentionally planning to produce even more of these wastes than we are already producing is ... insane. Windmills, bicycles, sweaters, walking, transit, oil, coal, gas, hydropower, and solar cells are all much better alternatives.

    Let's see: Oil leads to pollution that kills tens of thousands each year, coal power spews more radioactive particles into the air than nuclear power produces, windmills still use concrete and steel in job lots, are only effective in limited areas, solar cells are currently six times as expensive(and require nasty chemicals to produce), and the rest are conservation measures that can be enacted even with nuclear power.
  • by NullProg (70833) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:21AM (#21359393) Homepage Journal

    Because waiting for America to get off its fat ass and do something is pointless. We'll all be freezing in the dark by the time anyone perks up their ears and by then it will be some draconian horrorshow of rations, forced relocations and law enforcement.


    I'm not sure what America you live in. The one I live in overcomes and adapts.

    - During the 70's we implemented EPA/factory controls to all but eliminate the ACID rain in the northeast.
    - During the 80's we mandated catalytic converters to eliminate the SMOG in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and every other major and minor American city.
    - During the 90's we increased Federal mandates on auto makers to increase the MPG on vehicles sold in the United States.

    Our "Fat" Asses are....

    - Recycling More. Do you recycle your beer cans and plastics? 40 Percent of us do now versus 10 percent a few years ago.
    - GWB tried to increase the MPG on cars sold in America, but was shot down by the Democrat and Republican Congress.
    - Everyone on slashdot uses more electricity to power their game stations, Computers, cell phones, cable boxes, DSL connections than their parents used in a lifetime. But nobody wants a new powerplant. Trying to get a new Nuclear or Coal fired plant is blocked by the Environmentalist (Nuke) or Global warming fanatics (Coal).
    - The USA is buying into the Toyota Pirus and other "Green" technology. Toyota can't keep up.

    Stop with the negative vibes. Either mankind overcomes and adapts or we will be extinct. Its not up to me, its up to my kids. If I were them, for every inch of ice cap melted, I'd desalinate an inch of ocean and pump it into the farmlands. We have the technology.

    For the record,
    I like wearing shorts and I like girls wearing bikinis year round even better. Life on planet earth during global warming is a lot better than an Ice Age on planet earth.

    Enjoy,

  • by m2943 (1140797) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:44AM (#21359549)
    We could have clear nuclear power by using breeder reactors [wikipedia.org]: efficient usage of fuel and little left-over radioactivity. However, the kind of nuclear power plants we have right now are incredibly wasteful of the nuclear fuel (only a few percent of the energy are extracted), and they leave a highly radioactive and dangerous nuclear waste that we have no way of disposing of. The irresponsibility of burning coal pales in comparison to the irresponsibility of burning nuclear fuel in the kinds of reactors we have today.

    Why don't we have breeder reactors? Mostly because of US concerns about proliferation. Breeder reactors can theoretically be used for turning non-weapons grade uranium into weapons-grade plutonium. It would really be practical, but there you have it anyway.

    So, the write-up for this article is extremely biased. Nuclear technology, as we have it right now, is not "clean"; rather, it leaves us with a huge unsolved waste disposal problem. Until people start building breeder reactors or other types of reactors that use nuclear fuel efficiently and leave little high-level waste, nuclear power is environmentally unacceptable.

    Overall, however, it is still not clear why you would even want nuclear power. Wind, solar, water, geothermal, and ocean power are abundant and can satisfy our energy needs many times over.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:54AM (#21359641) Journal

    I'm not sure if a few tons of plutonium distributed into a cloud by the explosion at that altitude would have wiped out life on earth as we know it,
    Oh, for fuck's sake, it's radioactive material, not a RAVENING DEMON OUT TO CONSUME YOUR VERY SOUL.

    Guess what? There's already orders of magnitude more plutonium in the world, distributed naturally. Along with Uranium! And Radon! And radioactive carbon! And an endless stream of cosmic rays!

    If we'd tone down the mindless fear of OMG Radiation!, and treat the subject rationally, we may well not have the problems we do now, having switched to nuclear power a couple of decades ago. But no, people who's education on the topic of radioactivity comes from 1960s B monster movies continue to dominate the discussion.

    You know what the most likely outcome of a shuttle explosion is? A whole lot of hand wrining, a whole lot of scare mongering, and... well... not a hell of a lot much else, since most likely it ends up in deep ocean, which doesn't have as much life as you'd think (mostly around the shelves), where it would promptly sink to the bottom, what with it being a dense metal and all. Even the volatiles wouldn't be that big a deal, though you wouldn't know it from the press coverage. Any ol' oil spill is way worse, it happens in a way worse location.

    Now, that's the likely outcome. If it exploded soon enough, something might actually manage to land in Florida itself. It's still probably not the best idea. But it's not going to wipe out life on Earth. That's just mindless scaremongering. It's not anywhere near that easy with any real materials; only OMG Radiation!!1! can cause that sort of damage, and that only exists in the aforementioned movies.
  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dbIII (701233) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:20AM (#21359835)

    Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it.

    Cost effective and nuclear power do not belong in the same sentance unless you subscribe to the idea that the Brits, Russians etc are stupid and you have a high enough clearance level to know the US costs and know they are far less than anyone expected.

    Intersting to see the little bullying insults for anyone that dares to take a different opinion to one only based on conjecture. Nuclear power should be argued on it's own merits and not on perceived personality defects of it's detractors.

    Please do not state a guess or perhaps even outright lie passed on to you third hand as a fact. Every now and again on this site I ask a nuclear troll "what is the name of this cheap plant you talk of?" and have never received an answer to that question.

  • by h3llfish (663057) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:24AM (#21359867)
    Exactly. Coal burning releases a veritable who's-who of heavy metals and other nasties into the air. If you generate power by nuclear means, very bad stuff is certainly possible, but the ecological damage caused by burning coal is a certainty.

    Again, I don't have half the education that I'd need to really make a good call on this issue, but from where I sit, nuclear energy may well be better than most of the alternatives. That said, I sure do hope we can figure out some greener ways to generate power, and in a hurry.

    But where do you store the spent rods? I think that moving them is far too risky, and could lead to scary Jack Bauer type scenarios. Reactors should probably be built in such a way that they have enough storage on site to hold all the spent rods the plant will ever generate. Anyone have any thoughts for me on why that is or is not feasible?
  • Re:The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:21AM (#21360323) Journal
    The military would be interested in satellites that can transfer lots energy from the sun accurately to targets on the ground.

    Other countries might object a lot though ;).

  • by Bruce Dawson (1079221) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:31AM (#21360401)
    He didn't say using current solar generators, he said using current solar technology. Obviously we'd have to build some more solar plants to generate significantly more power. But good job knocking down the straw-man. It won't be getting up again.
  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:51AM (#21360519) Homepage
    I actually spent a lot of time discussing this on my blog here: http://depletedcranium.com/?p=86 [depletedcranium.com]

    Earth may receive a lot of energy from the sun, but it's an issue of converting it to electricity. Solar is at best about 20% effecient. It won't ever be above 50% because of the thermodynamic issues involved and 100% is obviously the limit. The energy density at any given place on the earth's surface is too low to do it economically. Solar is inherantly expensive because it's a semiconductor. Solar thermal fairs little better. You can do the math. There's simply no way that any extension of current technology or even theoretical technology could ever power society on solar.

    MASSIVE amounts of money are spent on "renewables" which are simply not capable of having a high enough energy density to consistantly provide the power needed, especially when you factor in the capacity factor vrs the actual expected generating capability. Yes if you could convert the energy in every cubic meter of air in the world to electricity it would be plenty, but that ain't gona happen

    The billions spent on R&D can not ever change the energy density over an area problem. There are a few areas suitable for it, but not enough

    And I certainly do not "ignore" the real problem with nuclear waste. The entire nation of france is powered by nuclear energy. They generate enough high level waste each year to barely fill a one-car garage. ANd that's AFTER it's been turned into a synthetic glass and encased. With fuel reprocessing, the waste can be reduced dramatically. With transmutation by fast neutron reactors it can be reduced even more. And the waste you're left with is not only small, it decays to safe levels in reasonable amounts of time, like centuries. That's geologically no problem to dispose of. It's way safer than much of the chemical waste already generated and also the massive amounts of CO2 currently generated. And there is more than enough uranium and thorium in the earth's crust to last for centuries or millenia, it's nearly unlimited because the energy density is so extremely high. You don't need very much for a HUGE amount of power.

    Finally, yes, nuclear is the be-all end-all for the future of energy if mankind is ever to truely break the bounds of our reliance on very limited energy sources it will need to be nuclear. Nuclear energy is many thousands of times more energy bearing than chemical energy of any type. You ever notice how in science fiction the stuff is always nuclear powered in some way? That's because there is no other conceivable way to power a star ship or whatever. It may not be fission. It may be fusion or isoptic decay or neutron activation or isomers or photofission or some other nuclear reaction. But nuclear is the be all and end all. The only thing beyond it might be antimatter.

    No matter how much money you spend on R&D you can't extract more energy than there is in a given area. There's a solar power plant in Germany. It produces a nominal output of about 4 megawatts. That's like... roughly as much energy as a big diesel locomotive. So that plant is like one less locomotives running. It COST HALF A BILLION DOLLARS! You could cut that down by a factor of 10 and it's still ridiculous! If you think solar can fulfill energy needs, you need to do some research. I wish it could. It can't. Sorry.
  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zoxed (676559) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:59AM (#21361163) Homepage
    > if they're really serious about things like Global Warming, switching from Coal to Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it.

    Do you (or anyone) have any links to a complete life-cycle costing of nuclear power ? I mean everything; including the waste disposal (or storage for n thousand years, and including accident insurance (ie not subsidized/underwritten by the govt ?) I keep hearing it is cheaper, but see little evidence ?

    And ditto for a full environmental analysis, not just plant side CO2, but including the mining of the uranium, and the impact of the long term storage facilities etc.

    (FWIW my main answer to energy problems would be tackle the depend side with improved efficiency.)
  • Ugly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MichailS (923773) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:16AM (#21361273)
    > We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again stifle our progress.

    Even looking at this phrase with my most benevolent goggles, it still looks like a terrible thing to say.

    "Progress" in contemporary society does not automatically denote "that which is beneficial to mankind", a lot of people equal it to "profit". Or "winning" whatever race they imagine we are having.
  • by elwinc (663074) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @07:16AM (#21361901)
    Actually, most of the plutonium on earth was manufactured in breeder reactors, in the form of Pu239 (half life 24100 years). The longest lived isotope of plutonium, Pu244 has a half life of 80 million years http://http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium [http]. That means all but an unmeasurable amount of original Pu244 has decayed naturally over the 5 billion years (60+ half lives!) of earth's existence. Some miniscule amounts are created during the decay of naturally occuring U235, and that's the main source of natural Pu.

    As for the toxicity of plutonium, reports are all over the map depending on whether they're talking about immediate chemical toxicity or long term cancer. The body tends to treat it like lead or other heavy metals, and concentrates it in the liver and bone where its radioactivity can slowly raise your risk for cancer. Noboby wants to inhale more than a microgram or so. As for the naturally ocurring U235 on earth, if it weren't safely buried in the ground, if it were a finely divided aerosol distributed by the wind, life on earth might well be very different.

    In summary, radium and carbon14 are not retained by the body like heavy metals, and it's unfair to compare uranium in the ground with a potential cloud of plutonium dust in the air.

  • Re:The thing is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr. Cody (554864) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:46AM (#21362349)
    Hydro? Well...forget about that one. Hydro power options are mostly in use in developed countries.

    More accurately, hydropower is fully-developed in countries. Hydropower resources are something that, even in their hayday, had to be fought tooth and nail for. There simply aren't enough undeveloped/unpopulated areas left to fit that much more hydropower capacity in. It's not just a matter of finding a gorge or some rapids and building a dam. Any potential hydropower project would have to justify what it displaces in a power market with so many other options--unlike when most of the current sites were installed.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:52AM (#21364875)
    Coal plants don't give Chernobyl style disasters.

    Neither do nuke plants not called Chernobyl being run in a proper manner.

    the fact that its been a long time since a Chernobyl disaster does not mean it can never happen.

    "We can't do anything that isn't 100% safe!" is not a practical way to run a civilization. The risk can be reduced and managed.

    whenever people tell me that US reactors are 100% incapable of having such problems, I'm reminded of the assurances that the twin towers were designed to withstand a plane hitting them.

    They were designed to withstand the *impact*, not having planes slice through them and blast a raging kerosene based jet fuel fire into their innards. Despite what the conspiracy lunatics claim, the *fire* led to the collapse. No one thought to design for that because architects are generally not batshit insane fundamentalists.

    In the UK, the nuclear industry has been caught lying through its teeth on pretty much every topic. they are not trusted, and with good reason.

    "Some folks over here lied about stuff, therefore we can never trust a totally different group of people around the world" is not a practical way to run a civilization.

    I think the chances of another chernobyl are very very low myself, but concerns about nuclear waste,

    A political and engineering problem. The recycling of fuel was banned by that sanctimonious son of a bitch President Carter, and newer types of reactors simply produce little waste.

    proliferation,

    Of what? Nuke plants across the US? If you mean terrorists, then "We can't do this because of the small chance terrorists may get some" is not a practical way to run a civilization.

    and the insane cost

    Again, new tech and some standardization will fix this. France is, what, 75 to 80 percent nuclear? This works. We have a real world example.

    huge history of UK govt subsidies to nuclear,

    Relevance?

    combined with the fact that we waste a stupid proportion of our energy at the moment,

    Granted, but that's not a reason not to plan for the future. We can enact better conservation AND build nuke plants. It's not an either-or thing.

    means I'm still opposed to new nuclear.

    But your reasons are either irrelevant to the issue or out of date.

    When we start seeing some vague concern about fuel efficiency in domestic appliances and new building design as a matter of routine, I'll accept that we have done what we need to do and might have to look at undesirable energy sources. This is not yet the case.

    Again, we don't have to choose one or the other. I'm sorry, but this is a silly POV, and not a practical way to run a civilization. We can build nuclear plants, find ways to be more efficient, continue trying to get solar more efficient and explore many other things.

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