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Power The Almighty Buck United States

Funds Dwindle To Dismantle Old Nuclear Plants 315

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Associated Press reports that the companies who own almost half the nation's nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough money to dismantle the reactors, so many plants may sit idle for decades, posing safety and security risks as a result. The shortfalls in funding have been caused by huge losses in the stock market that have devastated the companies' savings and by the soaring costs of decommissioning. Owners of 19 nuclear plants have won approval to idle their reactors for as long as 60 years, presumably enough time to allow investments to recover and eventually pay for dismantling the plants and removing radioactive material. But mothballing nuclear reactors or shutting them down inadequately presents the risk that radioactive waste could leak from abandoned plants into ground water or be released into the air, and spent nuclear fuel rods could be stolen by terrorists. The NRC has contacted 18 nuclear power plants to clarify how the companies will address the recent economic downturn's effects on funds to decommission reactors in the future, but some analysts worry the utility companies that own nuclear plants might not even exist in six decades."
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Funds Dwindle To Dismantle Old Nuclear Plants

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  • Re:Weird (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @06:53PM (#28875041) Homepage

    In a world where we all know that radioactive energy brings with it unsolvable polution.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor [wikipedia.org]

    In a world where they tells us that is ok and not true

    Of course; one should never let the truth stand in the way of their agenda...

    Let me guess, if we trace back all the ownsers of said company, somewhere in that spaghetti of companies there is a company that has spend big time on this US president or the former US president. This just ain't happening without some very powerfull people getting paid in powerfull cash.

    Now this is probably true, but it applies to so many areas, I really can't fault nuclear power for the actions of a few companies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:10PM (#28875235)

    With the demise of Yucca Mountain, the spent fuel [Radioactive Waste], which the US Government is supposed to accept, will remain stored on-site for the forseeable future.

  • by MaizeMan (1076255) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:11PM (#28875249) Homepage

    We really are not ready for this kind of power as mankind. Once we find a solution for the radioactive waste we will be. Till that time... there is always the sun..

    I once tried to write a python script. Instead of doing what I wanted it crashed my computer. I've decided I'm not ready for the power of programming. Once I'm a good programmer, I might try writing code again.

    If we give up nuclear power now we're never going to find a solution. With no nuclear reactors there isn't going to be any incentive. And that doesn't get into the definition of a solution. Yucca mountain and breeder reactors are both solutions, they just weren't acceptable solutions to people such as yourself.

    Let's us be honest. You say not now but what that means is not ever.

    Aside: I'd much rather live next to a nuclear plant than a coal fired one. If solar becomes economically viable that'd be great too.

  • by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:19PM (#28875317)

    I think that your computer crashing is an acceptable cost of you learning python. I don't think a nuclear power plant "crash" would be worth it.

    Just my 2c

  • Re:Weird (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:19PM (#28875323) Homepage

    We really are not ready for this kind of power as mankind.

    That's irrelevant. The genie is already out of the bottle. Nuclear power is not going away. Even if you ban it in one place, another place will be more than happy to invest in it. Some countries, like France, would be in a lot of trouble if there were a unilateral ban on nuclear power plants and even the U.S., which doesn't have that many plants, would be in dire straits considering nuclear power is an essential part of the grid in several major U.S. cities.

  • by jon_cooper (746199) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:24PM (#28875373)
    Looks like the nuclear industry looked at the big bank "too big to fail" strategy and liked it. Why bother cleaning up the mess when they can just let the taxpayers pay for the clean-up.
  • by sunspot42 (455706) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:30PM (#28875445)

    Good luck with the insurance policy. As AIG shows, what makes anybody think the insurance company will have the money - or even be around - in 60 years to cover the cost of dismantling a reactor?

    The only way you can get nuclear power to pan out financially is if you have the government own and run all the reactors on what amounts to a non-profit basis (as in France, with EDF, which is something like 80% government-owned). You can't even get private insurance for the things (and I wouldn't trust private insurers to pay out in the event of a major incident, anyhow).

    Even in France, EDF isn't in great financial shape. They don't have enough money to support their pension obligations and all decommissioning expenses, although presumably the French government has made enough money off EDF over the years they could pick up some of that tab and still ultimately leave taxpayers in the black.

    The reality is, fission power never has and never will make much financial sense. When France went nuclear in the post WWII era there weren't any viable alternatives for them, but clearly that's no longer the case today for many nations, the United States included.

  • Re:Weird (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:34PM (#28875471) Homepage

    "There are no solutions, only trade-offs." - Thomas Sowell

    Nothing is perfectly safe; everything involves risk and negative outcomes. There are plenty of negative consequences of using pure solar energy, not the least of which is the impact of manufacturing the tools to harness it.

    "It has less change of a meltdown, but if that meltdown occurs, and it will, it's no difference from chernobyle, except this one wil be bigger"

    Evidence? Support? Simply saying something is true doesn't make it so.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:50PM (#28875609) Homepage

    Gas stations have to put a certain amount in escrow to allow for digging up the storage vessels and decontaminating. Why don't nuclear reactors have to set aside the money before they're even allowed to build?

    Probably because back when they built 'em, decommissioning wasn't an issue.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:51PM (#28875615)

    Many of them are already on extended licenses. The issue is that steel gets weaker when exposed to radiation for decades, so to keep operating a plant, you have to rebuild much of it, which is pretty close to decommissioning it.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:57PM (#28875673)

    Not really, since burying the radioactive "waste" is a huge waste; more than 99% of the energy has yet to be extracted from it. (Which is also why it is so dangerous and long lived.) This "waste" can be burned in fast reactors though, and there is enough to supply them for hundreds of years before any further mining is necessary.

    All that needs to be done is build the reactors. General Electric even has a design ready for a commercial reactor, called the S-PRISM. This is modeled after the Integral Fast Reactor, a modern design which addresses all of the concerns about nuclear power.

  • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @08:12PM (#28875821)

    Trains aren't profitable either, but those aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

    Sometimes the government subsidizes private business for the greater public good (although most of the time they subsidize business due to "campaign contributions").

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @08:14PM (#28875835) Homepage
    Capitalism is like any other tool in that in the hands of idiots it can be deadly.

    As we found out last year, Capitalism in the hands of very smart people can cause worldwide havoc. So, in summary, Capitalism in the hands of both idiots and very smart people can be deadly. So, why are we using it again?
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @08:24PM (#28875947)
    Inflation isn't low. It is the official government numbers for inflation that are low. In recent years there has been a very big difference.
  • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tuxgeek (872962) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @08:24PM (#28875951)

    Wow! Your first link makes the "Breeder Reactor" sound just so wonderful.
    Unfortunately you omitted to mention that it still produces a waste that is beyond lethal for 25,000 years.

    If you care to bring the facts to bear about nuclear energy, mainly what do we now do with the waste as well as the spent facility when all's said and done with ... for the next 25,000 years! The only answer anyone can give, a stupid blank look and shrug, will only indicate complete incompetence and a lack of thinking this one through, so don't bother.

    Worse, now the companies that own and operate theses plants are going belly up and walking away from the retired facilities and leaving them for the states, counties and towns to deal with.

    Sounds criminal to me. Sure the power was cheep. But the leftovers pose too many new problems that will have to be dealt with for thousands of generations to come. I've never been a fan of nuclear technology. Now my reservations are verified by the incompetence of the corporations, lobbyists, and politicians involved in producing this resulting product.

    I remain unconvinced that nuclear technology is worth the trouble, expense, and/or effort.
    I have a much better idea, lets invest some effort in harnessing the power of the sun and call it a day.
    Instead of this exercise in stupidity.

  • Re:Weird (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @08:47PM (#28876153)

    At some point it'd be nice if someone just said "hey... we're using too much power... we need to find ways to cut back on that" instead of "full speed ahead! Breeder reactors!"

    ...and like every douchebag, environmental, leftist nut-job, you point the finger at everyone else and expect them to change while you sit on your pillar, barking orders from on high.

    Well, I have one finger extended, and it's not pointing at you.

    Why don't you lead the charge, get rid of your energy hungry computer and internet connection, and go drink down a room temperature cup of STFU?

    I say this as someone who has cut his electrical usage by almost 50% without sacrificing "standard of living" or buying into the whole green-energy-solar-wind bullshit or goes around expecting a medal. I don't demand that other people do it and I could give two rats asses about the planet; I am a greedy fuck who enjoys sending $500+ LESS to the POCO each year. But that's just me.

    In short, "fuck you".

  • by Burdell (228580) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @09:54PM (#28876629)

    Because a nuclear reactor doesn't last forever. The steel and concrete (and the steel reinforcing structure inside the concrete) absorb a lot of neutrons over the years, and that weakens them. Now, you could replace it all, but that costs as much as (or more than) building a new reactor in a new location and shutting the old one down (especially when you consider the changes in technology over the life of the reactor).

    Now, in some cases, it may be possible to build a new reactor on an existing site next to the old one, but that is touchy (lots of heavy construction == lots of shaking of the ground == sometimes cracked walls in nearby structures). That would save on upkeep for the shut-down reactor, as things like the security and technical staff can be shared between facilities.

    Even fusion produces neutrons that will limit the life of the reactor (if someone could ever build a net-power-producing one).

  • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @10:13PM (#28876747)

    The last few years alone have shown great strides in truly clean energy production (not to be confused with the often mistaken for clean clean-now-hide-the-dirt-til-later energy production, like nuclear).

    You mean like solar? No I guess that's more of a hide-the-mercury-chromium-PVC-silicon tetrachloride-waste-post-production-"now-it's-clean"-hide-the-disposal-of-EOL-panels-til-later kind of clean energy. Or are you talking about those practically-useless-residential-wind turbines? OR maybe the hugely-devastating-to-the-aquatic-ecosystem-hydroelectric-plants?

     

    There are dozens, if not hundreds, of new ways to get to this clean energy... smart people keep mixing it up and it really is quite amazing.

    Really? Name one form of "clean" energy. The problem is more like stupid people keep believing marketing BS about what "clean" energy is. There was a time when nuclear actually had a similar vibe as solar does now. Then over time the truth came out about the storage life of the waste and the possible dangers. Now it's become the pariah of clean energy. There are some seriously underplayed issues with solar panel production and disposal. If you think there are no issues with the byproducts from the composites that are used for wind-turbines then you are fooling yourself.

     

    Its only a matter of time, and time calculated in decades (not the nuclear standard of calculating time in millennia), before one, or my guess, many new clean energy alternatives become not only viable but very profitable. Nuclear energy is just too expensive (when you add up the cost of the R&D, the educations required, and especially 4000-40000 years of waste storage, and last, not least, the whatif disasters like a chernobyl-scale (not chernobyl-like) disaster).

    So you predict that magic pixie dust power generation is only decades away? Cool!

    Seriously though, I'm not against solar, nuclear, wind, or even fossil fuel energy production. As far as I can tell, all forms of energy production cause some sort of harmful waste or environmental issue in one way or another. Perhaps geothermal being the one with the least problems, however it's not terribly practical other than in Iceland and a few other areas. I think a better approach is to try to maximize the efficiency and lower the toxic byproducts of what is possible while we work on something better and start to get away from the non-renewables. But that's just what I think.

  • Big Lies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TomRC (231027) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @10:47PM (#28876971)

    "During the past two years, estimates of dismantling costs have soared by more than $4.6 billion because rising energy and labor costs, while the investment funds that are supposed to pay for shutting plants down have lost $4.4 billion in the battered stock market."

    Labor costs have risen in the last two years? Really? I thought we were in a recession with nearly 10% unemployment?
    Energy costs? Oil is now back down to 2005 levels. Natural gas hasn't been this cheap since 2002.
    If those are really their excuses, they should be jumping on the opportunity to decommission NOW, before prices go back up!

    And as to them losing money in the stock market - boo hoo. They could have put the funds into inflation protected treasury notes, but they wanted the extra profits to reduce how much they had to pay out. They gambled, they lost, they should have to pay up. If they can't - we have bankruptcy laws just for them (which we should have immediately applied to the banking mess too). Or they could take out a nice fat loan - interest rates are pretty low, I hear.

    I'd love to say I can't believe they're getting away with this - but given recent history of forgiving the villains and putting the burden on the taxpayers and individual investors, I just can't muster disbelief any more.

  • Re:Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EraserMouseMan (847479) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @10:55PM (#28877011)
    With all due respect to the parent, the non-government-owned companies who build submarines, aircraft carriers and other nuclear powered vessels are not government owned or run. They are 100% non-government-owned free market capitalistic companies. They play by the rules that govern what it takes to get a government contract in the free market. They have built credibility in their field. And they only bid on projects that their non-government-employed board of directors deem that they can turn into a profitable endeavor. Electric Boat, General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and every other military contractor are all owned by United States citizens (not a single share owned by the US government).

    Unfortunately this post will be modded down because of the tone that nuclear powered vessels are not built by the US government (implying that companies owned by "free marketers" are the ones to credit for the US Navy's nuclear success).
  • Re:Weird (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:12PM (#28877117) Homepage Journal

    and producing LESS but MORE DEADLY waste!

    To be more precise, the waste would have a shorter half life. What does that mean? More dangerous in the first year, much less dangerous in the 20th, radiation wise.

    Something with a half life of 100 years vs one with a halflife of 10.

    Radiation Year 1: 1 vs 10, Year 100: .5 vs .01

    I am sick to death of nuclear proponents throwing breeder reactors around like they are the Second Coming or something. At some point it'd be nice if someone just said "hey... we're using too much power... we need to find ways to cut back on that" instead of "full speed ahead! Breeder reactors!"

    Conservation GOOD. However, look at some of our proposed conservation efforts - plug-in hybrids and electric cars rather than gasoline engines. Heat pumps vs traditional hydrocarbon fired furnaces.

    Notice a trend? We can cut our actual energy usage by an order of magnitude, but because we're concentrating on eliminating hyrdocarbons such as oil and coal we actually INCREASE our usage of electricity.

    Look at energy star - my appliances generally use a fraction of the equivalents my parents used when I was a kid. I buy energy star. BUT, populations are still rising, we still need power, we have populations in China and India who are moving away from lifestyles not unknown in the 12th century towards 1st world living standards and the accompanying energy usage.

    Every American and European could use an order of magnitude less energy and the world would STILL use more energy if the rest of the world simply caught up with our new, lower, energy usage level.

    So we still need power. Us nuclear proponents by and large see that there's plenty of support for wind, solar, tidal is unproven, etc... Thus we support nuclear power. We still need a mix of power, after all. There's studies out there that say that the power grid can't handle more than 30% renewables.

    My power mix:
    1. Nuclear - Baseload, charging electric vehicles at night
    2. Wind - Baseload again, put a number of users such as hybrid drivers, electric water heaters, some heating/cooling systems on a 'off-peak' system that, instead of shutting off during high demand(peak), also shut off during low supply due to low winds.
    3. Solar - AC systems during the day and such.
    4. Hydro - capable of providing moderating ability, but you'll probably still end up running some nuclear plants in a load following mode.
    5. Other - probably less than 10% of the mix, consisting of geothermal, natural gas standby, cogeneration plants, etc...

    1) they are not clean, because
    2) the waste they produce is even deadlier than regular nuclear waste, and
    3) they're not a solution for the current problem of what to do with the current waste as that waste is stored all over, and can't safely be transported

    3. It can be safely transported, but we don't have a politically acceptable spot to put it yet, so why move it? Besides, the difficulties in moving the stuff is mostly political as well. It's also a problem that reduces itself by just waiting. Arsenic, mercury, etc... Won't go away with time.
    2. More dangerous for a shorter period of time. Isn't most of the complaints about nuclear waste that it remains dangerous for thousands of years? Breeder waste starts out more radioactive, but that doesn't even last a single human generation. After that, it's LESS radioactive. Don't forget that we'd be generating 1/10th or less of the stuff per GWh produced.
    1. It's clean because the stuff isn't released. Compared to coal plants that spew a LOT of their waste into the atmosphere.

    Further, if we gave the clean alternative energies a fair chance, they'd end up producing cheaper energy than fission in a very short time, a decade, two at most.

    People have been saying that for decades. I'm not holding my breath, but if yo

  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:14PM (#28877127)

    Looks like the nuclear industry looked at the big bank "too big to fail" strategy and liked it. Why bother cleaning up the mess when they can just let the taxpayers pay for the clean-up.

    A temporary dip in the stock market, and you're talking like this is the subprime/default credit swap debacle. These decommissioning funds have been around longer than you have been, and being invested in the stock market, they took the same hit everyone else did. Fortunately they're in it for the long haul, not the next 'gotcha!' headline.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:25PM (#28877197)

    Ok, lets continue with the computer analogy:
    What if the computer is slowly degrading (memory leak?) and the only way to keep it from certain crash (global warming) is to accept the (minimal) risk of programming?

    But lets try looking at it a different way:
    How much harmful waste was released by TMI?

    release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive noble gases, but less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly hazardous iodine-131

    (source: Wiki [wikipedia.org])

    What are the odds of such an accident happening again?

    How much harmful waste does a coal plant create to generate the same amount of power as nuclear plant?

    Electricity generation using carbon based fuels is responsible for a large fraction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide; and for 41% of U.S. man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

    A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could release as much as 5.2 tons/year of uranium (containing 74 pounds (34 kg) of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons/year of thorium.

    (source: Wiki [wikipedia.org])

    Of course, even mentioning Chernobyl in the context of modern reactors is dubious because it's not a plausible scenario any more but feel free to include it in the calculations.

  • Told You So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:26PM (#28877207) Homepage

    That's exactly what I said the other day (and got slammed for) in the "first new nuke plant in US" story that was so widely cheered here.

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1310417&cid=28775389 [slashdot.org]

  • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:57PM (#28877405) Homepage

    The biggest problem with the reactor at Chernobyl is that the design did not include a concrete vault capable of containing the clouds of debris ejected from the event site.

    Yeah, exactly. With the simple expedience of a concrete dome, the Chernobyl disaster would have been substantially smaller, like Three Mile Island was, where nobody died in the immediate aftermath. Three Mile Island, which was the worst-case failure scenario -- coolant failure and all control rods locked out of the core. So the core got too hot and melted and fell into the graphite bed beneath, slowing the reaction and ending the threat. Combined with the containment shell, very little contamination was released into the environment. It was a disaster to be sure, but a small one in the grand scheme of industrial accidents. It was a design that took failure into a account and thus minimized the impact. And designs have only gotten better since then.

    Honestly, people act like they still think nuclear reactors can blow up like atom bombs. "Oh my god, humanity is not ready for this power!" Yeah, nuclear weapons maybe we weren't ready for, I think fission reactors to light up our homes are within our acceptable risk level given every other human endeavor ever.

  • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sketerpot (454020) <sketerpot.gmail@com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:28AM (#28877619)

    The problems with Chernobyl go way past that. Here are a few:

    1. Positive void coefficient of reactivity. Once bubbles started forming in the reactor coolant, it sped up the reaction, causing a positive feedback loop. This is, of course, not the case with light water reactors.

    2. The SCRAM rods actually sped up the reaction because of their graphite tips. There's a pretty crazy design defect.

    3. It was physically possible for those morons to disable the safety systems.

    Compare this with a truly modern design like China's HTR-DB modular pebble bed reactors, and the difference is striking. The HTR-DB has a strong negative temperature coefficient of reactivity, so all the feedback loops are very negative. They can actually shut off the cooling systems and the reactor will simply shut off because it's not able to sustain a reaction without active cooling. Overheating inherently kills the reaction. Nice, isn't it?

  • by lennier (44736) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:31AM (#28877633) Homepage

    "They did. They just set aside the money in the stock market."

    So nuclear power is perfectly safe as long as your underlying civilisation and economy doesn't do anything outside very narrow margins? And when things do go belly-up....?

    Yeah, that's what I thought, and that's why I'm cynical about nuclear safety. If the companies running this stuff can't even manage to cover normal operating and decommissioning costs which are scheduled and predictable... just how prepared are they for really catastrophic events?

    Remember, the thing about fission that scares people is not how clean and safe it is when everything's running perfectly. That's admittedly pretty impressive. It's about how gracefully it degrades under stress and how rapidly it all goes nonlinear when the unexpected happens - and about the transparency and trustworthiness of the entities operating it. And since even the pure science of fission is 'born secret' if it overlaps with how to build bombs, the nuclear industry gets to live in its own deep little pond of the defense-contractor world, in which all sorts of corruption can breed.

    These guys can't even manage their money with the number of nines required to meet their contract obligations, but we can trust them to do everything else perfectly that must be done perfectly.... because they say so, because we need nuclear right now darnit so the technology MUST be reliable because we don't have any other options so we must build build build.... right?

  • by sketerpot (454020) <sketerpot.gmail@com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:36AM (#28877661)

    Nuclear power is a great cash cow once you've paid off the amortized cost of building the plant. The cost of operations and maintenance, including the complete fuel cycle and the regulatory paranoia, is so small that electricity from the US fleet of nuclear plants is now cheaper than electricity from coal on a per-kWh basis. The problem is building the plants: you need to raise billions of dollars for licensing, politicking, and the construction of one of the modern gigawatt behemoths. The financial risk is so large that few investors are willing to finance construction of a plant that would be very lucrative in the long run. After all, nuclear plants last at least 60 years, and you only have to build them once.

    As for government subsidies, the nuclear industry is actually getting a negative subsidy if you include all the billions of dollars they have to pay the US government to "put their waste in Yucca Mountain", which of course hasn't happened and probably won't happen ever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:21AM (#28878157)

    "because it's not a plausible scenario any more "

    You mean irresponsible equipment operation causing grand failure isn't a plausible scenario anymore?
    Man, what color is the sky in that world of yours?

  • by cliffski (65094) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:02AM (#28878383) Homepage

    I'm guessing your crashing python script just caused a blue screen or a hard reboot, not a Chernobyl style meltdown?

    I'm pro-nuclear. When it is economically viable, after the waste disposal, decommissioning and security costs have been taken into account by the producer, rather than the government, and when the company operating it has no record of lax safety measures or trying to cover-up previous problems.
    That would seem to rule out every nuclear power station and company on earth right now.

    Not everyone who opposes nuclear power is scared of the whole concept. The current execution just sucks big time.

  • by bogjobber (880402) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:39AM (#28878869)
    Just because there are issues with nuclear (and despite your strawman, nobody with knowledge of the subject thinks there isn't) doesn't mean it isn't the most effective and clean option we have to meet our energy needs. How much do you have to spend to clean up a decommissioned coal plant? How many environmental cleanups and Superfund sites are from coal power plants and their waste?
  • by daver00 (1336845) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:34AM (#28879507)

    Chernobyl had both a positive temperature coefficient and a positive and very high void coefficient. What these numbers mean is that when the reactor gets hot, it gets hotter, and when the coolant gets hot and begins to boil, the reactor gets hotter still. Modern designs are nothing like Chernobyl, they are designed such that the higher the temperature they reach, the less energy output is produced and thus there is no runaway reaction.

    Chernobyl was a stupid design, do you think we would have gotten far if we stopped building bridges after the first one that collapsed?

  • by mpe (36238) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:56AM (#28879663)
    Kicking the ball 60 years down the road just means that the responsible corporate entity will be long gone.

    As will also be the case for most of the short lived isotopes in both the spent fuel and the irradiated parts of the structure.
  • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @07:52AM (#28880037)

    In America, yes. How about taking a look at Europe or Japan where the train systems are a major part of many people's commute?

    The only reason they're not as successful is because the feddy is too god damned cheap to invest what they should invest in trains.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:37AM (#28881085) Homepage

    Here's the really fun part: the waste, of which it produces very little, becomes exponentially less radioactive over time, becoming safe to handle with bare hands in about 300 years -- not hundreds of thousands of years.

    Uhuh... did you miss this part of my post, or did you just choose to ignore it?

    And breeder reactors don't solve the waste problem, they just transmute it to more energetic isotopes that decay faster. In the end, you still have material to dispose of, and there's just no fool-proof way to do that, aside from squirrelling it away and hoping it stays put until it decays sufficiently.

    Look, at the Hanford site the US government couldn't safely store nuclear waste for *50* years, let alone 300. Are breeders better than traditional reactors? Yes, in that the waste they produce doesn't need to be stored for as long. *But*, the waste they do produce is *highly* radioactive (which is why it decays so fast), and *still* needs to be stored for *generations*.

    Breeders are *not* a panacea. Quit pretending they are.

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