Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Hacking

Former Anti-Nuclear Activist Does A 180 912

Posted by Zonk
from the need-just-a-bit-of-radiation dept.
palegray.net writes "Wired is running a story on how Gwyneth Cravens, a former nuclear power protester has changed her views on nuclear power as a viable solution to the world's energy needs. Said Cravens: 'I used to think we surely could do better. We could have more wind farms and solar. But I then learned about base-load energy, and that there are three forms of it: fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear. In the United States, we're maxed out on hydro. That leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power, and most of the fossil fuel burned is coal.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Former Anti-Nuclear Activist Does A 180

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:37PM (#21637223)
    ...who is going to pay to take care of the waste for the next 100,000 years? No human institution has ever lasted that long and yet we build reactors that can only work for 40 years or so but have this waste that is hot and nasty for at least 100,000.

    Insanity.
  • Re:Renewable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by avalys (221114) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:46PM (#21637309)
    Oh, for fuck's sake. Everything will eventually run out. At some point, the sun will go dark, and even your "renewable" sources like wind and solar will be useless. Hell, hydroelectric power isn't renewable either - it's slowly sapping energy from the moon.

    Nuclear fusion, which we will figure out sometime in the next few decades, will provide enough energy for millenia. That's fine for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:47PM (#21637325)

    ...who is going to pay to take care of the waste for the next 100,000 years? No human institution has ever lasted that long and yet we build reactors that can only work for 40 years or so but have this waste that is hot and nasty for at least 100,000.

    Insanity.
    Who cares? It's very likely that humans won't exist 100 years from now, hell, I'd say we'd be lucky if humans make it another 20.
  • Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Helios1182 (629010) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:49PM (#21637337)
    It is unfortunate that the damage is done. People are convinced that nuclear is a dangerous, dirty, and impossible to maintain power source. Building one is next to impossible due to the misinformation. It will take another 30 years to convince people that they are ok.
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:50PM (#21637347)
    Well, there is always Uranium 238 that you can convert to fissible fuel...unless you have a crazy society where you have to fear about the possible abuse of Plutonium to threaten your neigbours. And there is Thorium, that you can convert to Uranium 233 that is also fissible. Anyway, I doubt that it will run out as soon as the fossil fuel, and it is also quite hard to create plastic from sunlight and uranium, so we shouldn't burn organic fuel anyway. ;-) Oh, and don't forget CO2, even if we stopped producing it right now, the nature won't recover anytime soon. Stop burning fossile fuel right now and build those damned reactors, I'd say...
  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:53PM (#21637369)
    http://claybennett.com/pages2/godzilla.html [claybennett.com]

    By Clay Bennett.
  • It's Amazing... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:57PM (#21637415)
    What a little education will do for ya.
  • by loconet (415875) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:00AM (#21637453) Homepage
    Joking aside, I recently learned in a history class the clever theme that is Homer working there. It makes fun of and illustrates one of the main things that went wrong with the nuclear program - The technology was developed by geniuses but run by idiots. It was rushed out of labs after WWII by governments and industries who promised the public endless energy.
  • Re:Vanadium Redox (Score:2, Insightful)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:01AM (#21637465)
    Look: giving up our way of life is not an option. And I don't care about your agrarian fantasies, and neither does anyone else. All these people crying "conserve, conserve, conserve!" are wasting their breath.

    If you truly care more about the environment than dismantling modern civilization because you just don't like it, then advocate solutions that the average person can live with. Like renewables, and yes, Virginia, like nuclear power.
  • by AaronW (33736) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:12AM (#21637587) Homepage
    Everyone keeps claiming that nuclear waste is a huge long-term problem or that we'll run out of U235. This is a political problem and not a technological problem. Technologically, the problems have been solved, but due to a federal mandate from President Carter we are stuck with the current mess.

    It is well known how to convert U238 into plutonium as a usable fuel, and the isotope of Pu is not suitable for bombs either. Thorium is also readily available as a fuel as well with a much larger supply than Uranium.

    The other problem that always comes up is nuclear waste. When a fuel rod is removed from a reactor, it still contains a lot of usable fuel, which can be extracted and reused. If we use breeder reactors, the long term nuclear waste can be burned up so the only remainder is stuff that has a half life in the hundreds of years instead of thousands or tens of thousands of years, and it would be a fraction of the amount of waste. France already does this. It's expensive, but cost can probably be greatly reduced as the process is improved and the scale grows.

    Granted, we do need to have very strong safety standards, but modern designs for nuclear reactors are a lot safer than the old designs. And the cost could also be drastically reduced if we stopped making each reactor a complete custom one-of and had a bunch with the same basic design.

    The other form of energy I'd like to see tapped is geothermal, since that's almost free.

    I consider myself green and am looking into installing Solar when the price drops a bit more.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:15AM (#21637617)
    Solar irradiation at the Earth's surface is approximately 150,000 TW.

    Mankind's projected peak power needs by 2020 or so amount to about 22 TW. Yeah. 22, not 22,000.

    So throw stupid statements like "three forms of base-load energy, fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear" in the rubbish bin of irrelevancy, and tap what is effectively an infinite supply (and if that's not enough, place solar arrays into LEO).

    There are hundreds of times more permanently irradiated deserts in the world than would be needed to supply Mankind's power needs for the forseeable future. What's more, they're spread around the world, so base load is as easy to supply as peak, without storage. All that's lacking is the will to do so --- especially the will to act against the greed of those who are currently making megabucks off fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear.

    So dear Gwyneth, think again. You've just been sold the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a costly mistake.
  • by rmerry72 (934528) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:20AM (#21637657) Homepage

    I consider myself green and am looking into installing Solar when the price drops a bit more.

    Oh we all consider ourselves green here and I have no doubt when the price drops a little more then we'll all install solar. Say when it becomes cheaper than anything else, such as base-load coal generated power.

    And I'm pro-American too and will consider buying good old USA goods when the price drops a bit more - say to just a little bit less than the Made In China stuff we all currently by.

    . What smells around here?

  • by deniable (76198) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:20AM (#21637659)
    How about C-L-O-U-D or N-I-G-H-T?

    That being said, solar thermal is looking good for daytime supplementary power. It's just not good for base load. The article indicates that some people have discovered this need.
  • who is going to pay to take care of the waste for the next 100,000 years? No human institution has ever lasted that long and yet we build reactors that can only work for 40 years or so but have this waste that is hot and nasty for at least 100,000.
    No, it isn't. If it were HOT and nasty, we could just stick it in a box, heat water, and use the power.

    We have a boat-load of stuff that is "bad for you to hand around with", and will be that way for thousands of years. And we have even more "don't use this if the paint falls off" stuff. And a very little ammount of "touch this and die."

    Most of the last is or can be used as a fuel, somewhere. The rest is, on a planetary scale, useless.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:36AM (#21637793) Journal
    First, there are years worth of uranium even at lower prices (more mines are being opened up right now). But if W. would restart the IFR project, then uranium would not be needed by the west for another 50-100 years. Sadly, the only man who had the vision on that was Poppa Bush (though Clinton did not want it shut down, he did it as part of a deal). All that W. has to do, is restart it, and in 10 years, we would be building new plants that would use nothing but American waste for the next 100 years.

    I really wish that folks like you would simply stop. You solve nothing and force US (and probably EU) back to coal.
  • by Soko (17987) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:37AM (#21637807) Homepage
    Your bias is showing.

    Solar is well and good, but it's not exactly reliable, as in you need the fricken Day Star to be shining in order to generate power. Clouds, night time, space needed, protecting the space needed from damage - lots of things can go wrong with current Solar generation methods. Your Solar-Power-Station-in-LEO idea has a lot of merit, but that solution is in the order of 50 years away. We just don't have the needed infrastructure to flip the switch and use Solar in a time frame that makes sense.

    Nuclear is here now - and we don't have to invent a bunch of things to get it working with our current infrastructure. As a 40-50 year solution, it's about the best we've got. I'd rather have a few tons of nuclear waste vitrified in a mine somewhere that another 100 billion tons of carbon spewed into the atmosphere while we come up with something cleaner.

    Soko
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:38AM (#21637809) Homepage Journal
    Sure, take it seriously, just like we take train routing seriously, plane maintenance seriously, handling of ammonia hydroxide seriously, etc...

    Just because we have to take the safety of something seriously doesn't mean that we can't use it.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:42AM (#21637857)
    Just so long as we keep Republicans and private enterprise the hell away from it. The last thing we need is fucking Enron-style bullshit with the nukers. Run public utilities as non-profit monopolies operated in the public's best interest. Treat any free market deregulation dittohead as a saboteur to be shot on sight.
  • "Just" Learned? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:48AM (#21637921) Journal

    So, a guy like me goes to school for six years, learns some things, and can't for the life of me get my friends take a fair look at nuclear power. They used to go on and on about Browns Ferry and Yucca Mountain and all that. They just took their youthful rebelliousness and ran with it.

    So, one such person, this woman, years later, finally decides to learn what "base load" power is? And she's been mouthing off all these years to anyone who will listen without knowing?

    Young people. Sheesh.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:54AM (#21637965)
    I really wish that folks like you would simply stop. You solve nothing and force US (and probably EU) back to coal.

    I agree. You know, some people wave their ignorance around like a badge of honor (or honour, if you prefer.) Me, I was raised by a nuclear physicist and electronics engineer, I have multiple Ph.Ds in my family, and while I'm just the village idiot in comparison, I am continually astounded at the sheer number of people that complain vociferously about that which they do not understand. I wasn't taught to look upon ignorance as a virtue, yet that is exactly how many Americans look at it. Scary, really.

    It's not a matter of intelligence, or lack thereof, it is a matter of realizing the limits of one's knowledge, and rectifying that situation when necessary. This is the Information Age ... arming oneself with basic facts on any subject is neither difficult nor time-consuming. At least on Slashdot, if you post ignorantly you'll be flamed into a state of crispy enlightenment in a matter of seconds.
  • Re:Vanadium Redox (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Paua Fritter (448250) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:55AM (#21637979)

    Look: giving up our way of life is not an option.

    Indeed not. It is essential.

  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:03AM (#21638037)

    who is going to pay to take care of the waste for the next 100,000 years?

    I'm going to deserve my flamebait mod points, because you guys are so full of shit. What the hell do you know, fool, how do you know that in 200 years we'll have found a way to deal with these things for good or simpler yet that we won't have drilled a hole to the core of Earth to dump that waste with the rest of the inner Earth radioactive stuff, or even sent these things into the Sun (I would expect that in 200 years it will be fairly trivial to reach the 30 km/s needed in space to make something fall into the Sun) which is a huge nuclear reaction anyways?

    Sudden break out of common sense? Please make the retarded hippies who tagged this line up so I can shove some sense up their arses. Fool, every scientist that hasn't been bribed by Washington agrees to say that we have the climate situation so far up our gastrointestinal system that even if we stopped rejecting gases in the air we'd still be fucked, and that the way things are going it's going to be twice as bad, and you retards are concerned about a few tons of underground waste? Are you fucking retarded?!? YOU'RE GONNA DIE IN HURRICANE KATRINA x10 YOU TRIPLE IMBECILE!! All because instead of pressuring the government to move to nuclear energy that would save our arses as much as we can you morons are going "but, we could do it all if we built more wind mills than there are trees and if we covered half the midwest of the country with solar panels". Wake up, you licensed cretins, if we don't replace our coal power plants with nuclear power plants soon enough it will only make things worse. Blame that on all the mother fucking so called Earth-loving hippies when a tropical tornado kills all your relatives in Scotland, because they've slowed the adoption of nuclear power more than any other lobby.

    Yay, way to change the world dude, and by change I mean ruin!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:11AM (#21638115)

    Might want to do a little fact checking. Where is this Carter's fault?
    Carter signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which banned reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. This limits current reactors to a once-through fuel cycle, which means they only consume ~0.5% of the useful material (U235) in a given quantity of fuel.
    It's not a problem for modern fast reactors (which the parent erroneously calls "breeder reactors"), since they can consume more than 90% of the fuel in a single cycle.
    Fast reactors are the reason Greenpeace is full of shit. (Well, they're a reason, anyway.)
  • Re:Good to see. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by feed_me_cereal (452042) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:12AM (#21638125)

    You're equaling paradigm change to belief change, and they are totally different (though sometimes they overlap).


    I'm not sure they meant "every time an activist changes their opinion". Personally, I would agree with the GP if they meant that this case proves that this particular activist is *willing* to change their mind. Too many people are not *willing* to change their mind (see current US govt) and are more concerned with saving face than being correct or doing the right thing. It's refreshing to see proof that someone doesn't operate under those restrictions.
  • Just so long as we keep Republicans and private enterprise the hell away from it. The last thing we need is fucking Enron-style bullshit with the nukers. Run public utilities as non-profit monopolies operated in the public's best interest. Treat any free market deregulation dittohead as a saboteur to be shot on sight.

    I'm probably biting on a troll post, but it's possible you really could be that ignorant. Enron's golden years were during the Clinton administration, which pretty much let companies get away with murder when it came to accounting. The Bush administration is the one that wielded the hammer and sent people to jail (Lay got 45 years, too bad he died first), not to mention blowing up Arthur Andersen. Note also that Sarbanes-Oxley was passed during the Bush administration.

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:36AM (#21638307) Journal

    There's no where to put the radioactive waste

    Ya know, we do have the technology to reprocess the "waste" and convert most of it into fuel that can be used again. The United States chooses not to use such technology due to concerns about proliferation -- but it's around. The French have been doing it for quite some time now.

    Nuclear power is NOT the answer

    Why? Mankind learned how to harness chemical reactions (fire). Then we learned how to split the atom and harness nuclear reactions. Sounds like a natural progression to me.

  • by m2943 (1140797) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:42AM (#21638357)
    First of all, there are many different kinds of nuclear waste. Some are fairly safe, others aren't. Your analogy to Hiroshima is bullshit; exposure to a nuclear bomb and nuclear fallout is not the same as exposure to nuclear waste.

    Second, there is no safe permanent nuclear waste disposal at the moment; all nuclear waste is stored above ground in temporary storage because there is no agreement on where to put it for the long term. That's not just political wrangling; it's simply that nobody knows what storage locations are stable over the long time.

    Third, currently deployed nuclear reactors are irresponsibly wasteful of nuclear energy; they extract only a small fraction of the energy and generate high-level dangerous waste.

    I think what you're saying is that nuclear energy could be safe. But it is not safe using current or planned reactor technologies and current nuclear waste disposal techniques. So, let's go ahead with nuclear technology after adopting efficient nuclear power plants and after getting consensus on waste disposal.
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:50AM (#21638419)
    The CSIRO also identified the base load issue as a red-herring - hint: in a geographically large country such as Australia, the US, or Canada, the wind is always blowing somewhere.

    ??!!?!11! WTF? How many turbines would we have to construct to take advantage of all the 'somewheres' around? How much environmental damage are we willing to do in the name of wind power providing base load? I hope that is a very poor interpretation of their argument, whatever it is. Australia, the US and Canada are all very large countries. I don't think that argument truly respects the difficulties in transporting "base loads" from the northern midwest where the wind is blowing down to Southern California where it isn't.

    Wind & Hydro provide the base load for other renewables (solar, tidal, wave, geothermal)

    Wait, aren't the waves and tides always moving somewhere? What about geothermal?
  • by kestasjk (933987) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:57AM (#21638463) Homepage

    Spell it with me people: S-O-L-A-R

    It comes down to this:
    - a roof has a large surface area
    - sun ain't going to burn out any time soon
    - solar panels can't be made into bombs

    I don't understand why we are still arguing about this.
    Well maybe you should find out why before posting then. Do you really think solar is a viable option but we're not considering it just because we don't want to make our roofs look ugly? There's a reason no-one is using solar power on a large scale.

    sun ain't going to burn out any time soon
    Nuclear fuel isn't going to run out any time soon either.

    solar panels can't be made into bombs
    You really think nuclear power plants are needed for governments to create bombs? Japan has the largest nuclear plant in the world, but is strongly opposed to nuclear weapons. The number of nukes has decreased massively since the Cold War, so if your logic goes more plants = more bombs = bad the data completely contradicts you.
    Most types of reactors aren't useful for creating nuclear weapons; reactor grade fuel doesn't have to be enriched as much as a weapon grade fuel, because you don't want reactor fuel to be critical. Conveniently it's much harder to enrich uranium to weapons grade nuclear fuel than reactor grade fuel.

    Fuck nuclear. Oh, yeah, great "all we have to worry about is this extremely toxic waste... but that's not a problem because all we have to do is store it safely! it'll never get into the water supply! we'll always have room to store it! people will never make bombs out of it. there'll never be another hiroshima/nagasaki/chernobyl"
    Yeah, that's pretty much how the argument goes.. Though there's no need to mention hiroshima and nagasaki because nuclear power has nothing to do with it.

    Seriously, has the world gone stupid or something? Ok, MORE stupid. How on earth can you people convince yourself that nuclear waste is acceptable? What is wrong with you?
    You really think you've seen the light and that all the policy makers and scientists in the world just haven't heard of solar power? They'll slap their foreheads after reading your post and say "Wow ddoctor, why didn't I think of solar?!"

    Waste arguments aside... why the hell are we, as a civilization, pursuing nuclear technology, given nuclear annihilation is probably the #1 most likely reason we will become extinct?
    Because an energy crisis would cause huge conflict, possibly including nuclear war (oh what an irony that would be). I don't think the effects of global warming would decrease political tensions either.

    Most of all it's because we don't have a choice. Fossil fuels are running out and causing problems anyway. Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, gerbils running on wheels, etc, won't scale (unless a huge breakthrough in efficiency is made). Hydroelectric power sources are limited, and can have huge environmental impact.
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:04AM (#21638511)

    Nuclear may well be the best available alternative. We'll never know, because it's so heavily subsidized market forces don't apply. Alternatives like wind, tide and solar (or a decentralized mix of them) are still in their infancy because oil and nuclear suck all the air (air = government money) out of the room.

    And I have a problem with the definition of "energy needs". Direct and indirect subsidies make energy so cheap we're careless and stupid with it. We could make major reductions in energy use with no effect on our lifestyles. One easy example: a national no-idling law. If you're going to leave your car/truck running for more than a minute, you'd better have a damned good reason. Otherwise, you pay a fine. Sort of like a "selfish asshole tax". HUGE energy savings. Another: use compact fluorescent lights temporarily while we develop full-spectrum LED's. Again, huge savings, low cost. (I know fluorescents aren't 100% enviro-cool, but the total cost is less than regular light bulbs.)

    My former boss has a place at the rural/urban boundary area. He's gone off the grid completely, and is doing fine. He hadn't planned on it...just figured he was nearly there anyway and wanted to see how easy it would be to go whole-hog.

    We also have to face one sad fact: Nuclear reactors and their waste are attractive targets for terrorists. One incident could have major, long-term, EXPENSIVE consequences. Even tailings from uranium mining operations have had some nasty environmental effects. You don't want to think about the contamination from a pulverized shipment of spent fuel rods if it got blown up.

  • Base load? Feh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:04AM (#21638519)
    "Base load" is a bad phrase to use for this issue (to the extent it's an issue). Today, the base load is the electrical demand that's always there, 24/7. It's met by sources like coal and oil and nuclear that can't be started or stopped slowly (or are just too expensive to allow to sit idle); we've got stuff like natural gas plants that we switch on quickly to meet the occasional peak in demand. In a renewable energy future, the problem is that occasionally, it's nighttime and the wind slackens off and suddenly you need to get a crapload of power from somewhere. You don't solve this problem with a slow base load station: this is an intermittent spike problem, you solve it with a fast-starting, cheap-to-idle supply like a gas plant. Which brings me to two points:

    1) Who cares if there are a few jobs that renewables can't fill? Use fossil fuels to make up for their shortcomings. Insisting on a 100% renewable future is overly idealistic: I say, if we can fill 95% of our energy needs with renewables, go ahead, use natural gas or whatever when you need to. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    2) There are plenty of renewable forms of "gap-filling" energy. People have mentioned biomass burning. Here's another one: TFA quotes the "prote" as saying that "hydroelectric is maxed out." Well, it's not. It's maxed out as far as its *average* power output, because of limits on available water supply to the reservoirs. But we can get a lot more out of it if we use it to fill in the gaps left by solar and wind. Shut off the hydro plants during the day when the solar plants are running, run them twice as hard at night, and you're good to go. Need more nighttime power? Use solar electricity to run a pump to pump water *up* the dam into the reservoir in the daytime, then run the plants even harder at night. The gap-filling potential is almost unlimited.

    3) The main reason modern-day "base load" is so high is because major industrial power users (aluminum smelters, etc) shut off operations during times of peak demand, when they get charged extra for electricity: they make up for it by sucking up cheap power in off-peak hours. Change the pricing structure, so they get charged extra whenever supply dwindles. I can guarantee you that if you tell an aluminum plant "Tomorrow night's gonna be calm: if you want wind power then, you're gonna have to pay triple per kWh", they'll stop the smelters tomorrow night.

    4) There is one overall problem: I'm describing an electrical system with much more variability. Everything, from the hydro turbines and generators to the high-tension lines to the substations, has to be built to handle higher peak power draws. That costs money, but it's not a fundamental problem.
  • by LeafOnTheWind (1066228) on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:09AM (#21638559)
    Actually, it's rather simple - as long as you're not Iran. Western nations, even those with pathetic infrastructures like the USSR, were doing it for years. Nuclear power isn't even complicated - I had probably learned most of the fundamentals in physics AP in high school. The reason it's so difficult for Iran is because we make it :-p
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Monday December 10, 2007 @03:00AM (#21638853)
    in a geographically large country such as Australia, the US, or Canada, the wind is always blowing somewhere.

    Because transmitting power over very long distances, and wasting the majority of it pushing the smaller part to its goal, didn't contribute to the current problem, and we should keep doing it, right?

          You make a lot of good points. Yes the current plans involve who is retaining or expanding political power, often more than any considerations of physical power generation. Some types of resources lend themselves to political domination much more than others. Oil and Uranium are two that do.

          Further, I agree wind has good potential to be a fast switch source similar to hydro. Yes, and nuclear doesn't lend itself to fast switch at all, at least in its current emphasis. The best prospective nuclear designs, i.e. pebble bed, are going to be much better at replacing coal and oil plants than any other sources.

          Still, the 'red herring' opinion ignores a very important, indeed fundamental point - wasting huge portions of generated power to cross continental distances is such a serious part of the reason we have a mess on our collective hands, that it should always matter a great deal to the final opinion. No solution that treats typical 1,000 km + transmission losses as a minor consequence is going to be a good solution.
  • by vandan (151516) on Monday December 10, 2007 @03:33AM (#21639009) Homepage

    The stuff is safe, as long as its contained


    Yes. This is the problem that no-one has solved, or even attempted to solve. No-one can contain anything for millions of years. No-one. Even if they could, they could never prove that they could, because their life will be up well before the proof is completed.

    But let's pretend that someone has proved that they can contain radioactive waste for a couple of million years. Who's going to guarantee it? You see, someone is going to profit INCREDIBLY from the power generation & waste disposal, and THEY are going to have to guarantee that it's safe. But wait! They're not going to be here in a couple of million years, so their guarantee is useless. They can promise whatever they want, profit, die, and then ALL future LIFE will have to pay the costs.

    It's at this point that mature societies reject nuclear power.

    You prove to me that something ... anything ... and then in particular a corporation that I can sue for damages ... will be around in a million years, and I may change my mind.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday December 10, 2007 @03:38AM (#21639035) Homepage
    And wind turbines are built and maintained for free by magical elves!


    Well yeah, the magical elves are a nice feature, but the thing that really makes wind-farm maintenance less of a hassle than nuclear-plant maintenance is the fact that no radioactive materials are involved. That means that you don't have to give every employee a six-month security screening to make sure they won't start passing out free uranium samples to al-quaeda, and you don't have to make your wind farm 150% earthquake-proof, hurricane-proof, and hijacked-airliner-proof. You don't have to surround your wind farm with maximum-security fencing and a legion of armed guards, either. Nor do you have to deal with all of the health and safety protocols required by OSHA to keep your employees from getting cancer, and finally you don't have to figure out which group of NIMBYs to send off your spent nuclear waste to, how to settle the resulting lawsuits, or how to deliver that waste safely to the disposal site.

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday December 10, 2007 @03:48AM (#21639093) Homepage
    Al Gore is trying to save the planet but not at an inconvenience to him, he uses far more energy than the average person does.


    Some questions for you: (1) is the extra energy Al Gore uses coming from renewable/carbon-neutral sources? and (2) when you balance that extra energy he uses against the benefit he's provided by promoting climate change as an issue that ought to be taken seriously, do you find it to be a net positive?


    Because I'm sure Mr. Gore could well have reduced his carbon footprint to zero, perhaps by spending the rest of his life as a hermit in a cave; it's just not clear how that would have helped people realize that global warming was a serious problem that needs to be dealt with.

  • by arminw (717974) on Monday December 10, 2007 @04:30AM (#21639331)
    .... fossil fuels are so fabulous because you only need to expend the energy necessary to go dig them up to be able to use them.......

    The US has enough coal to last for centuries. Where did all that carbon in coal come from originally? We call coal, oil and natural gas "fossil fuels" because they were produced by living things, mostly plants. These plants needed sunshine and therefore were on the surface of the earth using up the carbon in the atmosphere. These living things were then buried, leaving the earth with much less carbon in the air. Without the activity of man, the a balance between carbon production and carbon removal was reached long ago.

    Now if we liberate this carbon from the past, the plants will grow better because they have more CO2 to use. Also, plants grow better in warmer conditions. At some point there should be a new equilibrium where the amount of carbon the plants remove equals the amount we put back by burning them and/or their ancestors. This would likely happens long before we have liberated all of the carbon now stored underground. All that carbon used to be in the air, making the globe warmer than it is today. So global warming might not be such a cataclysmic thing it is made out to be. As the earth gets warmer, less energy is needed for heating. Solar absorption panels can be used for cooling. Global warming could even be beneficial in the long term!
  • by scbomber (463069) on Monday December 10, 2007 @04:40AM (#21639369)
    Hi, I just wanted to point out that your Hiroshima/Nagasaki argument is utter crap. Because:

    The fact that loads and loads of the people who WOULD have died from radionuclide exposure had INSTEAD ALREADY been killed by direct blast effects is NOT a valid argument for the safety of radionuclide exposure.

    An analogous argument would be that being burnt to death with kerosene is not so bad really because plane crash victims mostly died of impact trauma and very few of them died by being burnt up with kerosene.
  • All that carbon used to be in the air, making the globe warmer than it is today.

    Not exactly. All that carbon used to be in the air millions of years ago, FOR millions of years. Our fossil fuels didn't spontaneously form one day, sucking all the carbon dioxide out of the air. This was a very slow process, where over millions of years layers of plants were buried in sediments, slowly leaching carbon out of the atmosphere.

    It is true that as temps go up, plants grow better. And if we were releasing this stored carbon on the same timescale as it was stored, it wouldn't be an issue. The issue is that we're releasing all of that stored carbon over perhaps three centuries, rather than a few million years. It's not the magnitude that has scientists worried - it's the timescale.

    Really, the big issue is that our climate has been pretty stable for about ten thousand years. What has everyone all excited is that it's now pretty obviously changing. This means populations will eventually have to move, countries may change size and shape, and centers of agriculture may have to move. All this upsets the stability that we as humans take for granted.

    Once again, it's not the magnitude, it's the timescale. Humans have always been forced to move around by climate changes. Now we're looking at it happening over a human lifespan, rather than several.
  • by joshv (13017) on Monday December 10, 2007 @08:56AM (#21640515)
    "You could waste 99% of the wind or solar electricity, and that won't be an issue."

    Yeah, because wind generators and solar panels cost nothing to build, don't require any fossil fuel inputs in their manufacture, and never break down or require maintenance. So sure, why not waste 99% of their output.
  • by Smidge204 (605297) on Monday December 10, 2007 @09:02AM (#21640559) Journal
    Solar panels are about 30% efficient

    In a lab, maybe. In practice, commerically, not so much. 15% is more like it, but that's when they're new. After a time they drop to about 12%, so that's what you design at. Then 85-90% for the inverter unless you're using direct DC.

    You also say "700 W/m^2 during the day" - what part of the day? Those measurements (available at your local weather data collection agency) are figured for surfaces perpendicular to the direction of sunlight. Do you plan to install a tracking mount for your panels? If not you have to derate the capacity.
    =Smidge=
  • by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Monday December 10, 2007 @09:27AM (#21640763) Journal
    Actually hemp paper was used for centuries and only really was replaced by wood fiber because somehow, for some reason, both the UK and the US, some hundred years and some spare change ago, used the treaty loophole to stop each other's citizens from growing hemp. One has to wonder why, but then all the OTHER prohibitions on mostly harmless hobbies and habits have been for no real apparent reason as well, except of course, to be used by ONE group of voting lottery winners to tell the OTHER group of lottery losers what to do, how to live, and where and why. Nothing new. Tyranny carries on, whether its lots of small tyrants or a few big tyrants. Men love their slavery and will fight to the death to prevent its end.
  • Re:Good to see. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daem0n1x (748565) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:24AM (#21641393)

    You are mistaking "activist" by "fanatic". Most people make a choice to be activists because they know more than the others, not the opposite.

    Fanatics, on the other side, simply don't want to know. Their faith is above any evidence. Of course, some activists are fanatic, but let's not label everybody the same way.

  • by djh101010 (656795) * on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:46AM (#21641629) Homepage Journal

    And a message to you environmentalists, especially greenpeace which is a front for coal (they stop all nuclear options in the 70s/80s) and the result?
    Doubling of coal usage.... bloody morons greenpeace are, they are Pro Coal, pollute the earth idiots with zero brains.

    I'm not sure I'm prepared to believe that Greenpeace is a front group for the coal industry, but I'm sure that "big coal" (if there is such a term?) sees them as "useful idiots". Personally, I think it's criminal that nuke plant production hasn't happened here in way too long. Not sure which is the bigger problem, people scared of things they aren't qualified to understand (such as, why a Chernobyl-type event could not happen with our reactor designs), or if it's because people understand but want to leverage FUD to keep nuke plants from being built.

    This is one of the things that makes it so hard for me to take people seriously when they tell me I should change my lifefstyle in this way or that in regards to power. If we had been building nuke plants all along for the last couple decades, we'd be in a VERY much different carbon situation right now. The anti-nuke people are partly to blame for this.
  • by djh101010 (656795) * on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:57AM (#21641781) Homepage Journal

    And there will be no shortage of uranium... the supply needs to last only for 30 to 40 years. Fusion power plants are expected to replace current fission nuclear plants in that time and they require no uranium to run (well, maybe for starting them up) and they run on clean fuel - hydrogen (afaik it also requires lithium catalyst), and 'waste' product is helium.
    Where can I read more about this working fusion technology, please? Because I was of the impression that it doesn't work yet, so your 30-40 year statement is somewhat at odds with that. Much as I'd love it to be true, can you show me some facts on this?
  • Re:Good to see. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Muad'Dave (255648) on Monday December 10, 2007 @11:27AM (#21642211) Homepage
    I've always wondered why our politicians get criticised for "flip-flopping", "back-flips", "u-turns" etc.


    They get criticized because they never really believed in their position in the first place. They espouse whatever is politically expedient, and when the political wind changes, they spin around like a wind vane in a tornado.

  • Re:NOT for "us"! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jadavis (473492) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:11PM (#21642863)
    The environmental movement is unable to acknowledge tradeoffs. If you ask an environmentalist to choose between coal and nuclear, they will say "neither". But that strategy does nothing except maintaining the status quo... and in this case the status quo (coal) is environmentally worse than nuclear.

  • by dloose (900754) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:37PM (#21643365)

    Unlike a reactor, wind farms typically don't melt down leaving the whole area contaminated for miles and miles around
    I just want to be sure I read your post right: Is it your position that the "typical" nuclear reactor will catastrophically melt down at least once (can reactors melt down twice?), leaving the whole area contaminated for miles and miles? Do you live in some alternate universe in which the US Navy hasn't been safely operating a fleet of nuclear reactors for 50 years? And in this alternate universe, did Three Mile Island leak enough radiation to turn all of Pennsylvania into a mutant empire hell-bent on the destruction of all human beings lacking a third arm?

    But still, when it comes down to building one or the other in my back yard I'd take the wind farm every time if it was actually capable of producing continuous power.
    Wind isn't capable or producing continuous power, so I guess that means you'd rather have the nuclear reactor in your backyard, right?

    Since it's not we need to continue to look for a better answer. Nuclear IMHO, is not it.
    Steady as she goes, right? Nuclear may be good, but it's not perfect, so we should stick with coal, which is bad. Sounds like good logic to me.

    Add to that the lack of available storage for radio active material for several hundered years, all the while ensuring it doesn't leak, isn't stolen and used in a dirty bomb, isn't disposed of improperly, etc. The bad idea we started with just looks worse all the time.
    I just don't understand this position. Coal is the only viable alternative to nuclear at the moment. Coal is worse for the environment than nuclear at the moment. Seems like a pretty easy equation to solve to me. 2 choices: Choice A is bad, Choice B is less bad. Somehow you pick Choice A? Why? Because it's already there? Look, I don't particularly want a nuclear reactor in my back yard either. Thankfully, I haven't heard of any plans to build one there.
  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:55PM (#21643665)
    And crap efficiency. I didn't say it's not possible, but it's a LOT harder than moving oil around, which is WHY we use oil -- not some giant conspiracy. When you pump oil through a three thousand kilometre pipeline, you DO have oil left at the end. If you run electricity through a three thousand kilometre wire you DON'T have any left at the end.

    Suppose your electrolysis project is 75% efficient, which is pretty good. Then you ship it around the world. Then you've got to turn it back into electricity... let's say at 75% efficiency again. Okay, you've done a lot better than a powerline would have... you still have half your electricity. So you've only doubled the price of solar! Oops, solar started out being more expensive then pretty much anything else. Of course shipping hydrogen around is more expensive than shipping oil. Unless you use expensive cryogenics the energy density of hydrogen is lower (which is why we don't just use it in all our cars).

    In making your hydrogen you'll be using a LOT of water. Most places are short of fresh water, and sea water doesn't work very well for electrolysis because there's a lot of gunk in it. Even places that aren't short of fresh water (they tend to be the ones that aren't good for solar, by the way) WILL be by the time you get done supplying half the world's power.

  • by sjames (1099) on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:23PM (#21645125) Homepage

    Since we already have a bunch of 'spent' fuel rods in storage, we need a way to safely dispose of them. The crazy schemes to keep it sequestered for 10,000 years just isn't looking that practical.

    Fortunatly, we know how to seperate the waste roughly so that the most radioactive 5% need only be stored for 500 years (which is a LOT more likely than 10,000). That leaves the other 95%. The best way to 'dispose' of that is to feed it into a reactor and convert it into the short lived waste (oh yeah, and produce many Terawatt-hours of useful energy).

    My off the cuff guestimate is that it'll take us about 50 years to complete the treatment process on our existing waste if we get going full speed right now. Oh yeah, we'd also get rid of that whole energy shortage thingy and reduce greenhouse gasses.

    We don't do that now because of a decision Carter made in the '70s. Maybe it was a good decision for the time and circumstances and maybe it wasn't. However, circumstances and technology have moved on, so perhaps it's time to revisit that decision. Personally, I think it's really cool that in terms of ton-years of waste storage, the best course of action is to start generating power ASAP. There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in this case we at least get a really nice discount.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

Working...