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Power United States Hardware

Could the US Phase Out Nuclear Power? 657

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-mutants dept.
mdsolar writes "In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, [German Chancellor] Merkel announced that her country would close all of its 17 existing reactors by 2022. Other nations, including Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, have announced plans to pare back nuclear power, but none have gone as far as Germany, the world's fourth-largest economy. Merkel vows to replace nuclear power with alternatives that do not increase greenhouse gases or shackle the economic growth. Could the US do the same? An increasing number of reports suggest it is not beyond the realm of possibility, and Germany could provide a road map."
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Could the US Phase Out Nuclear Power?

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  • Re:FUD article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:14PM (#36377896)

    No, I just needed to see "mdsolar writes" to know this submission is just pure FUD.

  • by loshwomp (468955) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:16PM (#36377952)

    ...and the coal industry would be thrilled.

  • Re:Longer Answer: (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:21PM (#36378024)

    You mean, like Spain does? Oh, wait, Spain exports energy to France, and last year over half of its energy production was from renewable resources.

    http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2011/06/07/ciencia/1307459605.html

  • Re:Longer Answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by nharmon (97591) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:37PM (#36378334) Homepage

    Spain does not export energy to France. It imports energy from France, and exports energy to Portugal, Morocco, and Andorra.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/28/spain-renewables-energy-electricity-france [guardian.co.uk]

  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:42PM (#36378410)

    You mean, like Spain does? Oh, wait, Spain exports energy to France, and last year over half of its energy production was from renewable resources.

    Actually, Spain imported 2% of its energy from France, and gets 20% of its domestic power from nuclear plants:

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

    -- Terry

  • Bogus. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mike Van Pelt (32582) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:03PM (#36378736)
    Power reactors do not produce plutonium for bombs. A power reactor fuel cycle produces plutonium that contains a substantial percentage of the isotopes Pu240 and Pu242. These are fine for reactor fuel, but they have a high spontaneous fission rate, which makes them very bad for bombs. (Hint: Neither India nor Pakistan used plutonium from their power reactors to make their bombs -- they both went to the great trouble and expense of building special-purpose breeder reactors. Ask yourself why.)
  • by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:06PM (#36378766)
    This is yet another FUD article on nuclear power [slashdot.org] submitted by mdsolar [slashdot.org]. I personally have nothing against publicizing the dangers of nuclear power, but this should be done in a fair way. User mdsolar has repeatedly posted FUD articles on nuclear power and frequently gets them through because of the mass volume of his submissions and the lack of attention paid by the moderators to specific users' agendas.

    mdsolar, reveal yourself. What is your viable plan for generating electricity once you have wiped all the reactors off the map? How do you plan on dealing with the decommissioning and waste? Could you try easing up and submitting articles not chock-full of such alarmist banter? Are you a BP employee?
  • Re:Short Answer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ill_Omen (215625) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:11PM (#36378848)

    The question is not whether it's worse than standing next to a bunch of bananas. The question is whether it's worse than an alternative source of energy. Assuming the demand for power stays constant (and it's certainly not going down), shutting down a nuclear power plant requires additional power to be generated elsewhere.

    Clearly, a nuclear power plant is less safe than an open field. But is it worse than a coal plant, or a natural gas plant, or the equivalent solar or windmill farm? And by what metrics are we measuring 'safety'? How do you compare the (fairly unlikely) danger of a radiation leak at a nuclear plant to the effects of toxic rain, deforestation, and other byproducts of coal?

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:14PM (#36378890)

    The problem is that a big disaster in a nuclear power plant affects a wide area and is broadcasted around the world, so people are afraid of it, while coal and other methods kill people all the time, but only in small numbers at once, so nobody cares.

    It's the same as with planes vs cars for transport. People die in car accidents every day, but since the numbers are small nobody cares. On the other hand, if a plane crashes somewhere, half the world knows about it since a lot of people die at once.

  • Re:Short Answer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7 @ c o rnell.edu> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:16PM (#36378904) Homepage

    Um, no, it's not. Show one example of a civilian nuclear reactor in the United States being used for weapons production. Also note that we're one of the few countries that does NOT reprocess their spent nuclear fuels, with proliferation fears being the primary reason why.

    By their nature, the type of reactors used in the USA are not very suitable for producing weapons materials. They are difficult to refuel frequently, so the plutonium produced is contaminated with Pu-240 (bad for weapons). So reactors used for weapons production tend to be designed for frequent refueling to reduce the Pu-240 content. This generally results in various graphite-moderated designs. To my knowledge, the USA never used weapons reactors for civilian power generation. The UK may have (Magnox reactors), and the Soviets most assuredly did. (The graphite-moderated water-cooled reactor at Chernobyl was perfect for weapons production - it could even be refueled while operational.)

    At this point, many countries are actually dismantling weapons and using the plutonium to fuel reactors (MOX fuel), or in the case of HEU weapons- diluting it to produce reactor LEU. See Megatons for Megawatts - many of our civilian reactors are fueled by dismantled Russian bombs.

  • Re:Longer Answer: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Xonea (637183) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:16PM (#36378910)
    Yap. And according to the same CIA World factbook it exported... 61.7 billion kWh (2008 est.) - all in all a surplus of about 20 billion kWh.
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2043.html?countryName=Germany&countryCode=gm&regionCode=eu&#gm [cia.gov]
  • Re:Longer Answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:17PM (#36379712) Homepage

    It most definitely was that.
    There were State elections in Baden Wuertemburg several weeks ago, the CDU have *always* ruled there - often with over 50% of the votes.

    The Ecology Party (Gruenen) won the election and are going into coalition with the SPD. The FDP (the CDU's partners at State and national level) did not get any seats at all. Merkel panicked.

    There were some major reasons why the CDU lost their majority - mostly CDU initiatives which had gone expensively south, although Fukushima will also have been a factor. The CDU decided they had lost touch with their electorate (true) and it was all down to Fukushima (debatable).

    There are several State elections this year. One has been held since that nuclear decision. The CDU came in third, their worst result anywhere since the war. The FDP did not pick up any seats there either.

  • A couple things (Score:4, Informative)

    by sean.peters (568334) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:23PM (#36379784) Homepage

    A couple comments on this.

    • mdsolar may well have an axe to grind... but that doesn't automatically mean that any source he submits ought to be dismissed out of hand. The Christian Science Monitor is a pretty well-regarded newspaper - not exactly birdcage lining material. So although skepticism is always warranted, let's not throw out this particular article because the contributor has posted questionable ones before.
    • The issue with nuclear power isn't safety, it's economics. The real reason no nuclear plants have been built in the US in recent years: investors can't be found... because the nuclear construction industry is absolutely legendary for cost overruns. Nuclear power is quite risky, not in the safety sense, but economically. A popular response this is "that's because there's too much regulation of the nuclear industry". My answer to that: you want to reduce the regulatory burden on the nuclear industry? Ok, NOW you've got a safety problem. It's true that nuclear plants are, by and large, quite safe. The reason they're safe is because they're heavily, heavily regulated. If they weren't, does anyone honestly believe they wouldn't cut corners on safety?
    • All that being said: if we're going to massively replace parts of our electrical generation system, for God's sake don't mess with the nuclear plants. Go for the low-hanging fruit - coal fired plants. These things are way, way more damaging to the environment (both from their own emissions and the devastation caused by coal mining) than nuclear ever thought of being. Closing down zero emission nuclear plants while leaving massively polluting coal plants in operation is just tremendously dumb.

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