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Americans Favor Moratorium On New Nuclear Reactors 964

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-in-my-backyard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "While a drop in public support for nuclear power would be expected after an incident like the Fukushima reactor crisis, the nuclear disaster in Japan has triggered a much stronger response among Americans. When Japan — the nation that President Obama held up as an example of safe nuclear power being used on a large-scale basis — is unable to effectively control its considerable downside, Americans are understandably leery about the same technology being used even more extensively in this nation. And safety concerns about the existing nuclear plants also deserve serious attention."
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Americans Favor Moratorium On New Nuclear Reactors

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  • So uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:12AM (#35637214)

    Seeing a large nuclear disaster has made people wary of nuclear power.. now that's just shocking!

    All seriousness though, between the American media fear mongering and the fact that there is actually something to be afraid of, this isn't too surprising.

    I still personally think that nuclear power is the best bet. I imagine (and this is an uneducated opinion) all the junk coal and oil plants pump out under regular circumstances is probably going to kill more people than the japan nuclear crisis over the long run, and alternative energy just isn't close enough for people to wait.

    • Re:So uh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:23AM (#35637336)

      I still personally think that nuclear power is the best bet

      For today probably, in the long term certainly not.

      • Re:So uh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:47AM (#35637596)

        This is true. People don't realise it but when you are thinking about energy policy, you are making a 50-year bet. So now the bet looks something like that:
          - there will be no oil
          - there will be lots of coal
          - there will be uranium
          - there should be wind and sun

        but also
          - geothermal might become practical
          - carbon sequestration might become practical
          - solar cells might become more efficient
          - most cars will be electric
          - global warming is a threat
          - oil/gas producers are not always nice nations.

        So demand in electricity will go massively up as oil is phased out. But you don't want to release too much CO2. Biofuels are probably not a good idea. So you are left, now with two possible strategies:
          - use coal as a stopgap for renewables/fusion
          - use nuclear as a stopgap for renewable/fusion
          - maybe gas is an option. If you don't mind dealing with bloody tyrants.

        If you believe in climate change, you will go down the nuclear route. Unless you are so committed against nuclear power that coal is the only option no matter what (Germany, a very, very green country battles against carbon caps in the EU, because they know nuclear is politically toxic and coal is their only option -- in my opinion this is crazy stupid).

        Of course you must develop all alternatives as much as you can. This is the only long-term solution, but in energy, this means 40 years. And elections are every 4...

      • by nten (709128) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:56AM (#35637742)

        Fusion is a great long term proposition, even if we never learn how to make a reactor other than the one we are orbiting, but I think we will. The thorium won't run out before we figure out fusion. But right now we need to be worried about if fossil fuels will run out before we get the thorium reactors built, not whether they will be prone to the same incidents seen in 30yr old reactors essentially designed as nuclear weapons refineries.

      • Best Bet? (Score:4, Informative)

        by wytcld (179112) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:15AM (#35638032) Homepage

        Thing is, with nuclear, you don't want a bet, you need a sure thing, at least in safety. GE has lately been pointing out about the Mark I reactor design, that they've run for 40 years without a major mishap. That's with 23 in the US, and how many others abroad? Let's pretend in total there are 40 of them. Then of 40 Mark I reactors over 40 years only 6 have partially melted down! If we project that out to a century, there will only be a 37.5% failure rate for this design. What, you say they won't run for a century? But the NRC has recertified the plant of this design in Vermont for another 20 years, and issued that after the Japan meltdowns. Surely if they can recertify it now, they can do it twice more.

        This is a design over which 3 top GE engineers resigned in the 70s, saying it was unsafe. The AEC at the same time considered ordering all Mark I plants shut down, but declined to because of the political implications for atomic power. And that containment vessel that's been leaking in the Japanese Mark 1s? In the US they're routinely packed with 5 times the spent fuel they were engineered to hold safely, while in Japan they are only at 2-3 times engineered capacity.

        Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

    • Re:So uh (Score:5, Informative)

      by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:36AM (#35637472)

      According to New Scientist, coal kills about 13,000 Americans per annum. In a chart in their most recent edition, coal is by far the most lethal power source per billion GWh generated.

      • Re:So uh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Solandri (704621) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:11AM (#35638906)
        Statistically, nuclear is the safest power generation technology Watt-hour for Watt-hour [nextbigfuture.com]. Hydroelectric power accidents kill about 40x more people, wind power accidents about 4x more people, than nuclear accidents (projected, since most of the deaths from Chernobyl are cancer deaths that haven't happened yet). If you remove Banqiao and Chernobyl from the statistics (both were outdated and dangerous designs), both hydro and wind kill about 100x more than nuclear . Solar is a bit trickier to nail down because most of the deaths associated with it are classified as construction deaths (falling off rooftops), and not attributed to solar directly. But the linked-to site makes a decent attempt and solar comes out worse than wind.

        The statistical comparison to fossil fuels is completely off the scale. Coal plant emissions are estimated to kill 1 million people each year (primarily by inducing lung cancer - basically the same mode of death as the majority of the deaths attributed to Chernobyl). That's like 250 Chernobyls every year. Yet people want to hold off on nuclear plants because "they're too dangerous" when the only viable alternative is more coal plants. It's madness.

        And for the folks who say that average statistics aren't important, you have to look at what the worst-case potential devastation is, the worst power generation accident in history was a hydroelectric dam failure [wikipedia.org]. Chernobyl was pretty much a worst-case nuclear accident (active core completely exposed to the environment accompanied by a fire and a government which disregarded the safety of nearby residents), and Banqiao was much, much worse. So by those folks' reasoning, we should be getting rid of hydro in favor of nuclear.

        Basically people interact with water, hunger, and disease every day, they're not freaked out by the prospect of death by dam failure. Radiation on the other hand is something they don't deal with every day (or at least they don't think they do, as they eat a banana split on their granite counter-top after getting home on a transatlantic flight from Europe). The mere mention of the R-word even with no deaths attached completely freaks them out.
    • Re:So uh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:49AM (#35637622) Journal
      I suspect that most of the public reaction is, indeed, a visceral response to the current incident. Emotional, and not likely to last all that long(particularly given that, with incomes flat or declining among the bottom 4 or 4.5 quintiles, and energy costs rising, people are going to grasp at anything that pretends that they will be able to keep on living their familiar suburban existence.

      What I find disconcerting about the whole thing is not so much that a given 60's era reactor design didn't cope all that well when exposed to atypically gigantic earthquake and tsunami conditions; but that plant HQ has, apparently, been slimy and dubiously transparent about their somewhat cavalier risk management practices for decades, they've only just had it bite them public-ally.

      The "zOMG, nuclear power always causes 3-eyed rats and flipper babies made of pure cancer!" brigade is out to lunch. However, unfortunately enough, the "nuclear power has the potential to be safe; but its operation always seems to end up in the hands of penny-pinching scumweasels who do their best to fail to live up to that promise." is more history than hypothesis.

      Until the engineers manage the historic leap of creating a design that managers can't fuck up, certain concerns will remain entirely valid(to be fair, most of those concerns validated, often with grotesque callousness, on a daily basis in other forms of power generation, just ask a coal miner...); but it is true that nuclear designs tend to underperform their theoretical engineering maximums for reasons that come down to frankly untrustworthy management.
      • by khallow (566160)

        What I find disconcerting about the whole thing is not so much that a given 60's era reactor design didn't cope all that well when exposed to atypically gigantic earthquake and tsunami conditions

        Indeed to the contrary, it worked well. And the plant management, whether you consider it competent or not, is dealing with the problem.

        but it is true that nuclear designs tend to underperform their theoretical engineering maximums for reasons that come down to frankly untrustworthy management.

        I imagine the real reason is that the theoretically engineering maximums were too optimistic.

    • Re:So uh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stepnsteph (1326437) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:10AM (#35637952)

      I agree with Anrego here.

      As a psychology major with, of course, an interest in sociology and human behavior in general, I don't really watch the "news". I watch the behavior of the presenters. I notice the emphasis that's added to certain words or syllables, the unnecessary dramatic pauses, the music & sound effects that are used, the flashy graphics, etc etc.. and then I think of the general uneducated public that's watching this.

      It breaks my heart in a way, to be honest. Our (or "U.S." for those elsewhere) media, and interest groups, are riding on the coat tails of the very real tragedy. Then turning on themselves (eg the "human shield" tripe) between the FUD.

      That's to be expected, I suppose, but it's why I turned (long ago) to the Internet to get real news. Thank goodness for international news sources and multi-lingual support.

      Of course the general public is afraid of tsunamis and 9.0 earth quakes and vague, unnamed super disasters.

      We need more high capacity power plants, and we need people to stop rejecting everything that's not a magic cure-all silver bullet because that's NEVER going to exist.

      I've written this before my first cup of coffee this morning, so my apologies if this doesn't come across quite as clearly as we would all like. Now I have to get ready to go. You folks have a great day.

  • What happened? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SniperJoe (1984152) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:13AM (#35637228)
    I am beginning to think that my fellow Americans are afraid of success. We claim we want energy independence, but do very little to achieve it, despite valid and workable options staring us in the face. New reactors are precisely what we need in this situation (with more modern safety features compared to the reactors in Japan as well as decreasing our reliance on foreign energy).
    • by hubie (108345)
      I wouldn't call it afraid of success, I think it is just plain old NIMBY.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What happened? Free enterprise happened. Deregulation happened. Cosy relationships between Industry and regulators happened. Marketism happened.

      As more details emerge, one thing is becoming clear: This accident did not happen as a result of any tsunami. The tsunami merely kicked in the door of a rotten structure which swiftly collapsed. Cost cutting, poor safety, inadequate oversight, etc, etc; These are the real causes of the radiation leaks happening at Fukushima at present.Some very dirty laundry is bein

      • Re:What happened? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HappyHead (11389) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:44AM (#35638468)

        As more details emerge, one thing is becoming clear: This accident did not happen as a result of any tsunami. The tsunami merely kicked in the door of a rotten structure which swiftly collapsed. Cost cutting, poor safety, inadequate oversight, etc, etc; These are the real causes of the radiation leaks happening at Fukushima at present.Some very dirty laundry is being aired in very public view.

        Wow, you're just full of crap today, aren't you?

        This accident did happen as a result of a Tsunami. Giant freakin' wave of ocean water shredded the reactor buildings and destroyed the control equipment. Cost cutting, poor safety, inadequate oversight, etc, etc, are not to blame. All of the extra money thrown at the reactors, all of the additional safety features (which were by the way, far from poor), and all of the oversight in the world would not have stopped a nuclear plant that had just been through a NINE POINT FREAKIN' ZERO earthquake, followed by a TWELVE METER WAVE OF SALT-WATER SMASHING THE BUILDINGS from breaking. Seriously! Get a clue. Yes, deregulation for things like public utilities is bad - it never turns out well, but absolving the worst natural disaster in history of any guilt in the devastation it caused? You're delusional.

        • by HappyHead (11389)

          Quick addendum - I'm not saying that deregulation doesn't lead to problems (I did say it's bad). It does lead to reduced safety, increased costs, politicians and inspectors getting their pockets lined to ignore safety issues, and more. I'm just saying that even if those things had not been problems, this still would have happened, and claiming otherwise is just pants-on-head retarded.

      • Re:What happened? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:59AM (#35638696) Journal

        Tell me, since you don't come out and say it exactly but your post seems to imply that a public entity could run a Nuclear power station more safely. I don't think this is true because they will be subject to the same fiscal pressure a private corporation is.

        Case 1: Chernobyl, was run by a communist government. They cut corners on the desing and materials used to build the plant, and finally on training and staffing to run it. The result was the worst accident in the history of nuclear power generation. Why did they cut corners? Well obviously they wanted to direct those resources elsewhere, it makes not difference whether it was to some officials pocket or to bread for orphans.

        Case 2: New Orleans and Katrina. The Army Core of Engineers had informed the city government that the levies needed to be repaired in places and that they needed to be re-enforced and made higher in general. The local government was aware of this for years prior to the disaster. There was not even a project going to complete the work. Why? Because they were spending the tax revenue elsewhere (largely social programs).

        If you put a public body in charge of plant maintenance they same thing will happen, managers will always place some perceived need of today over mitigation of some risk in the future. There is always going to be pressure to minimize the cost of operating these plants and its always going to push operation below the margin of safety.

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:14AM (#35637234)

    With something like 20% of the US's electricity presently coming from nuclear power and *all* of those reactors approaching or already past their lifespan, all those Americans need to decide what exactly they want to replace them with.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:34AM (#35637448) Homepage Journal

      all those Americans need to decide what exactly they want to replace them with.

      Something better?

      You know, maybe the problem isn't that there's something unsafe about nuclear power, but rather there's something unsafe about letting private industry run nuclear power. Now that it's coming out how there were "cost-cutting" measures taken with the cooling systems in Japan which directly led to loss of containment and that safety measures in some cases were completely ignored because "it was too expensive", I think this is a very instructive moment for us.

      Maybe, when it comes to the really big stuff, like nuclear power and maybe the entire energy system of a nation, it's inherently unsafe to put it in the hands of private industry. Health care comes to mind as well. Maybe the best thing we can do is take the profit-motive out of it.

      • by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:09AM (#35637938)
        Ahhh so quick to blame the private enterprises. Maybe you don't actually pay attention but the nuclear industry is the most heavily regulated industry in existence. An operator can't fart in the control room without authorisation from the NRC. You know all those expired leases on ancient reactors which are renewed are the result of the NRC extending the licenses, not the evil private enterprise doing their best to milk old equipment. If you want to start replacing the old reactors with something better then maybe you should start pointing the fingers at the government.

        Also if you've ever been exposed to anything to do with engineering, there's always cost cutting. You know the entire incident in Fukushima could have been contained if they built a giant lead dome over the city too right? But that option was knocked down as too cost prohibitive. But on a more serious note there's always an extra redundant system that could have been put in, the design scope could always have included securing against a mag 9 earthquake instead of the magnitude 7.9. There's always room for an extra quadruple redundant cooling system, but in the end cost cutting does feed in the ultimate ability to build a project. If we build anything to withstand everything it is often no longer economical to build it.
        • Ahhh so quick to blame the private enterprises.

          Aww, jealous that you couldn't blame government faster?

          Maybe you don't actually pay attention but the nuclear industry is the most heavily regulated industry in existence. An operator can't fart in the control room without authorisation from the NRC. You know all those expired leases on ancient reactors which are renewed are the result of the NRC extending the licenses, not the evil private enterprise doing their best to milk old equipment. If you want to start

      • by PJ6 (1151747)

        You know, maybe the problem isn't that there's something unsafe about nuclear power, but rather there's something unsafe about letting private industry run nuclear power

        Look at what they did with two space shuttles when cost was no issue and they paid $10K for every fastener.

        Any engineering project that gets beyond a certain size inevitably becomes a farce, because the simple laws that govern us (stupid primate behavior) begin to dominate the system. I see it all the time in both public and private sectors, always always always - that the wrong people claw themselves into management and make bad decisions.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Look at what they did with two space shuttles when cost was no issue and they paid $10K for every fastener.

          Thank you for taking the bait.

          Are you saying that nuclear energy is as complex and inherently dangerous as manned space flight? If so, then we definitely shouldn't be doing it.

          Since we don't have any data on "private industry" pioneering manned space flight, there's no way we can compare now, is there? How do you know there wouldn't have been half a dozen shuttle disasters if private industry and the

    • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:42AM (#35638440) Journal

      Replace? That's funny. The operators are going to run these plants until they fall apart, because they *can't* replace them. Then we'll have some real fun.

      Vermont Yankee, which has been the source of detected radioactive tritium leaks, has had it's NRC license extended by another 20 years last week because it provides 35% of the State of Vermont's energy, and amounts to almost 72% of Vermont's power generation.

      It is also a BWR plant like the ones in Fukishimia, built in 1972. It is currently running at 120% of it's original licensed thermal capacity under an NRC-licensed Extended Power Uprate.

      Yeah, we don't need to build new stuff - we'll just wait until the 40-year-old stuff completely falls apart and cannot be repaired.

  • Number (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xnpu (963139) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:14AM (#35637238)

    While certainly worrisome, please keep in mind:

    * Nobody has actually died from this incident yet. (Versus regular deaths in coal mines, etc.)
    * The incident can be learned from and other reactors can be improved accordingly. (Again versus the situation in many coal mines, etc. which are unlikely to see any further improvement.) In fact, many claim the risks of these particular reactors were known but not acted upon, something which can be handled with stricter rules.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      Something else to consider is that this is not a nuclear accident. This is not the result of poor design, protocol, or process.

      It is the result of a fucking 9.0 Earthquake, which is almost unimaginable in its intensity and destructive power.

      • Re:Number (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Talderas (1212466) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:36AM (#35637476)

        It's the result of a 15 meter tsunami.

        Remember, the plant weathered the quake just fine and its backup systems were running UNTIL the tsunami came along. This is really the bit that makes me facepalm over all the moratoriums on nuclear plants that are going on.

        Yes, Germany, tsunami's are a huge problem for you.

        • Oh, they said that nothing could ever happen to a western reactor, those are safe, and then something unexpected came up.
          Now you say that Germany is safe from tsunamis, but something else might happen, that is also unexpected. And then it will be a huge problem considering how densely populated Germany is.

          You see, a catastrophe is always something that was not expected. Otherwise it wouldn't be one.

      • As others have pointed out, the plant weathered the earthquake just fine. It was the tsunami that the quake generated that caused the problems, at one of the four nuclear power plants within the area of destrcuction. That and the deaths and injuries that resulted from the damage the tsunami did to other industrial facilities (chemical plants, for example) far outnumber that have resulted from the damage to nuclear plants. According to one source I read, the other nuclear plants were being used to shelter re
  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:15AM (#35637244) Homepage

    Poorly informed people, lead by sensationalist news stories, when asked leading questions, will give obvious answers.

  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@@@ovi...com> on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:16AM (#35637262) Homepage

    Wind / Solar along with NAS batteries -> http://www.ngk.co.jp/english/products/power/nas/index.html [ngk.co.jp] - really could handle our base load. Certainly the percentage that we in the US use nuclear for.

    Not only that, we should be looking at new computerized internet electric meters, and laws that would require utilities to pay fair market value for electricity produced by small private generators. Little 5KW vertical turbines everywhere. Then, just put huge battery installations where the old coal plants are, and we are on the road to green energy.

    Not today obviously, but it would grow. And new nuke plants would just not be needed. At least Uranium water/water plants. Thorium / Pebble Bed Reactors might be an option for the future.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chas (5144) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:30AM (#35637408) Homepage Journal

      Sorry, but if you think Wind/Solar can be used for baseline power, you're on drugs.

      You have NO idea exactly how huge the battery capacity you're suggesting is. Nor how expensive and high-maintenance such an array is. And if you're adverse to the environmental impact of a few tons of recyclable nuclear waste, how adverse are you to the environmental impact of a few megatons of battery medium?

      Please put some thought into what you're trying to suggest.

  • by Xenolith (538304) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:19AM (#35637288) Homepage
    We have the technology for much safer and nearly unlimited nuclear power. Only hurdle is how to deploy. What I am talking about is TWR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor) and LFTR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor). They "burn" waste from current reactors, can be shut-of nearly instantly, no water cooling, and a smaller footprint and cost. Now we have to overcome this bad publicity provided by the old technology.
    • by prefec2 (875483)

      How do you handle the nuclear waste they produce?
      What are you doing when the reactors go out of service?
      And what is the worst case scenario of that technology?

  • by Amiralul (1164423) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:20AM (#35637300) Homepage
    I find it amusing how US media is worried about Fukushima nuclear contamination of Japan and surrounding arrea, including US territories or... Europe. They seem to forgot hundreds of nuclear tests made by the US both in Pacific and continental US. I wonder which event released more radioactive material in the atmosphere, a few hundreds nuclear test or the damaged reactors from Fukushima? (and I'm not even considering detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:53AM (#35637690) Homepage Journal
      Well, part of it certainly is timing, when the US stopped doing nuclear testing in 1992, the internet was at it's infancy and there really was only one 24 hour news network. Now you can get information(even bad information) in an instant whenever you want it and the competition has gotten so cut-throat that nobody wants to miss the "big story" The end result usually is mass panic over the tiniest of problems.
  • by Chas (5144) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:25AM (#35637348) Homepage Journal

    Yup. Due to the news media's disgusting exaggeration of the event, , and the 60+ years of "all radiation = bad = kill you dead", a bunch of people who don't understand a thing about nuclear power generation from the 60's, let alone modern reactor technologies are going to browbeat the power industry into the least effectual, most expensive forms of power generation. And it'll be the power industry's fault when power prices skyrocket. It'll also be the power industry's fault when these sources of power fail at maintaining baseline power levels.

    Way to fucking go. Decision by committee of imbeciles.

  • by Rollgunner (630808) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:33AM (#35637426)
    I just got a postcard from 2211, They said to go with solar when we can... all the wind farms permanently damaged the jetstream and now the equator is 180 farenheit and the poles are -200.

    Until we get the solar thing figured out, they recommend nuclear power; just try not to use 40-year-old reactors that are built on the ocean and within 150 miles of a major faultline.
  • That will change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:38AM (#35637488)
    The minute gasoline hits $10/gallon. Crude is still on an up trend and the scary thing is this time it's not a bubble, it's a clear trend.
  • by gatkinso (15975) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:40AM (#35637536)

    I read contradictory statements regarding this topic.

    If the stuff is going to become scarce in 150-200 years or so (these estimates are at current consumption levels but do they really know for sure I doubt it) then I really don't see the point in developing another dead end infrastructure. Esp one that while can be very safe, rarely is in practice (for the usual nontechnical reasons - save money, cut corners, unwisely build in an earthquake zone, ad nauseum).

    I mean sure - that's great for us as individuals (until an earthquake strikes that is), but for once let's not foist a new set of problems on our grandchildren.

    • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:00AM (#35637792) Journal

      I decided to try to start learning about nuclear power a little over a year ago, driven mostly by concerns about waste disposal, and safety.

      One of the things I've learned is that current reactor designs only use a tiny, tiny percent of fuel potential of the Uranium - basically, about 1 percent.

      So, one option is that we keep using the current fuel cycle for another 150-200 years, then when Uranium gets scarce, we start using breeder reactors, which 'unlock' the fuel potential of the remaining 99% of the Uranium which remains in our 'spent fuel' and 'depleted uranium' tailings.

      With breeder reactor technology, after extracting 1% of the energy for about 250 years (we've already been using reactors for over 50 years, so the clock has already started), we should be able to get something like 99 * 250 years times more energy (assuming energy consumption levels remain about the same; that's a dubious assumption, but provides at least a good starting point; it also assumes the breeders can consume the full 99% of remaining U-238, which might not, in practice, actually be true - there might be some 'losses' in the process, but we should at least be able to extract a large percentage of what remains).

      So, that might be something like 20,000 more years worth of power from that Uranium.

      Then there's Thorium. Thorium is a metal which is 4 or 5 times more abundant in the earth's crust than Uranium is. Right now, Thorium is a mostly useless 'waste' product from mining operations extracting other rare-earth elements (like Neodymium which is used for very strong permanent magnets in high-tech equipment, including those little earbud speakers for your phone/mp3 player, some designs of electric wind turbines, hard drives [I think], or anything which needs very strong magnets).

      Thorium would most likely be used in a type of reactor called a LFTR (most folks pronounce that as "lifter"), which is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. A LFTR very efficiently burns the Thorium, extracting virtually 100% of the available energy, so we should have something on the order of 100,000's of years of energy supply using Thorium.

      In the end though, we'll probably be using fusion power long before those eventualities. It's hard to say for sure, but I would think that at most, we'll only be using fission reactors for another 100-200 years anyhow.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:48AM (#35637598) Homepage Journal
    Seriously? I mean we have people like Homer Simpson working to keep OUR nuclear panner plants safe, how could anything go wrong?
  • by Xelios (822510) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:54AM (#35637700)
    It's happening here in Germany too. The CDU just lost a state [bbc.co.uk] in the west (Baden-Württemberg) for the first time in 58 years, and they lost it basically to the Green Party which managed to triple their support because of what happened in Japan. Not to mention the anti-nuclear protests going on in cities across the country.

    Speaking to people around me it's clear very few people actually know anything about nuclear power, outside of what they pick up in the 6 o'clock news. Most have no idea that there's even more than one type of reactor, much less that there's some pretty significant safety differences between them. It just amazes me that in an age where nicely summarized information on any topic is just a few clicks away people don't at least invest one or two hours of their lives to educate themselves before they form an opinion on something. If someone knows even just a little about pebble bed reactors, nuclear reprocessing, molten salt reactors, safety deficiencies in the old Mark I light water reactors at Fukushima etc, and they're still against nuclear power then I can respect that. Just make an effort, that's not too much to ask is it?
    • <sarcasm>Yeah, that pebble bed reactor in Jülich worked just fine, as did the one in Hamm.</sarcasm>

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:54AM (#35637704)
    Any chance safe nuclear power has is set back when governments lie about risks or the extent of any accidents. The USSR government lied about the safety of nuclear plants and then lied to cover up the extent of Chernobyl. Residents of the Ukraine heard about the disaster from the BBC days before their own government. I heard this first hand from friends of mine who lived in Kiev at the time. The government and power company in Japan is lying through omission about the extent of the ongoing danger in Japan. They have only been forthcoming when outed by foreign media.

    I like nuclear power. I think it is safer than belching radioactivity into the air from burning coal. However, nuclear power has a long track record of official deception and lies that will make it harder to have a reasonable discussion about moving ahead with safe and zero carbon nuclear options in the future.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:06AM (#35637900)
    Without new reactors, the old ones will be kept in service for longer. So instead of having new installations - complete with all the design improvements and safety features that have been invented in the past few decades, the old reactors from the 70s and 80s will have to be kept running for longer - well past their original design life.

    The alternative is to switch them off, and go back to using oil and gas from foreign sources and coal fired stations. While people *think* nuclear is unsafe, coal mining is *proven* to be unsafe. Just consider the number of miners killed every year.

    Somehow, public opinion has managed to come up with the worst possible solution, by not thinking through the consequences of the soundbite press and media and knee-jerk decisions it promotes.

  • by Grand Facade (35180) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:12AM (#35637976)

    I am in favor of making the people that run them directly responsible for the consequences. They can't be allowed to profit and then go "aw gee what happened?".

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:18AM (#35638076) Journal

    I think that opponents of nuclear power create a bit of a paradox by opposing *new* nuclear power plants:

    By opposing the construction of new nuclear power plants, whose designs benefit from decades of experience gained with older designs, knowledge about their failure modes, ways to improve cooling with passive cooling systems, etc, you effectively act to keep older, less safe nuclear power plants in operation longer.

    So, would you rather be living near a newer, safer plant, or an older, slightly less safe (but still, mostly safe - it took a massive earthquake and tsunami to take out those old Mk 1's in Fukushima) plant?

    That said, I certainly think we should (and I'm positive we will) do extensive investigation and analysis of the problems at Fukushima Daiichi, find what lessons can be learned from that, and apply those lessons to both existing, and new reactors.

    But it's worth repeating: opposing new nuclear will likely have the effect of keeping older nuclear online longer than it would if there were new nuclear plants built to replace the old ones.

  • by panda (10044) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:21AM (#35638124) Homepage Journal

    I hate to state the bleeding obvious, but it seems that I must.

    Why would you want more nuclear power? There is only so much uranium to be mined. It really doesn't matter how long estimates say the uranium reserves will last, there is still only so much to be had, and then what? Eventually, we'll run out of uranium, just as we'll eventually run out of oil and coal. Sure, we'll have more some day, if you care to wait millions or billions of years. Frankly, I don't have the time.

    The best source of power beats us on the head every day, the Sun. We should be seriously investing in solar, wind, and tidal for power generation. These sources are not likely to run out for the lifetime of the planet, and that's a damned site better than relying on finite resources that take millions of years to replenish.

    NOTE: There are more ways to use solar power than just photovoltaic cells.

  • Not the nuclear reactors....

    Here in the USA, we've been relatively isolated from most natural disasters, and most man-made disasters.

    Think about it: How disrupted would your life be if planes were bombing the crap out of your country, and there was random gunfire in the streets all the time?

    On the west coast, there's more of a building code, but let's face it. If New York City were hit by a 9.0 earthquake, nuclear reactors would be the last thing we'd be worried about. Loss of life would be in the millions if the quake hit during the day. There's not a single skyscraper in Manhattan built to withstand that kind of shock. Try an imagine 9/11, but laying waste to the entire island. There's what, 20 million in Manhattan during the day? You're looking at at least 10 million dead. From the quake.

    Then if there's a Tsunami to follow, there could be another 10 million (at least) killed from that. Because DC, Baltimore, Phildelphia Newark, and Boston would also be affected. The Northeast has a lot of major cities within a close proximity, and absolutely no building code regarding quake management.

    And yet Americans are worried about the reactor? Ignorance truly is bliss. Americans have NO CLUE about what's really going to kill them. We are a fortunate lot to live in a politically and geologically stable environment. But neither of those conditions are going to last forever.

  • by notnAP (846325) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:31PM (#35640952)

    If we're going to start making decisions on what kind of energy plant we build based on hos much radiation it throws off, doesn't that mean we'll stop building coal burning plants [scientificamerican.com]?

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