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Worldwide Support For Nuclear Power Drops 324

Posted by Soulskill
from the neutrons-are-scary dept.
ProbablyJoe writes "A poll for the BBC shows that worldwide support for nuclear power has dropped significantly in the past 6 years. However, while support has dropped in most countries, the UK has defied the trend, where 37% of the public support building new reactors. Unsurprisingly, support in Japan has dropped significantly, with only 6% supporting new reactors. The U.S. remains the country with the highest public opinion of nuclear power, though support has dropped slightly. Much of the decline in approval has been attributed to the events in Fukushima earlier in the year, although a recent Slashdot poll indicated that many readers' opinions had not been affected by the events, and there was an even split between those who found the technology more or less safe since the events. With reports on the long lasting effects in Fukushima still conflicted, is nuclear power still a viable solution to the world's energy problems?"
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Worldwide Support For Nuclear Power Drops

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  • by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:48PM (#38166960)

    What do they think of nuclear power in comparison to the other options?

    I don't think anyone was ever truly a fan of nuclear power, it's still way more dangerous than hydro electric, geothermal, solar, etc. etc. But it was the best of a bad set of options.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:53PM (#38167016) Journal

      Especially since being opposed to new nuclear power stations effectively (given the lack of alternatives) means that you are in favour of old nuclear power stations, many of which are passed the end of their intended operational lifespan already. I bet 'shut down all existing nuclear power plants over the next ten years and replace them all with modern, safer, designs' wasn't one of the poll options...

      Personally, I'm opposed to nuclear power and would like to see everything powered by magic (which is non-polluting and 100% sustainable). In the absence of commercial magic power plants, I'll go with nuclear...

      • by Quila (201335) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:07PM (#38167144)

        And plants with outdated designs.

        Bring on the new designs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        The problem with nuclear power is, that even though the risk of a meltdown may be very small, the consequences if it does happen are unbearable.
        If a nuclear reactor in France or Germany should experience a meltdown, it would be a catastrophe. France and Germany are relatively small, densly populated countries. A meltdown could expose more than 10% of the countries land area to dangerous radioactive contamination. That could mean evacuating ten million people or more and leaving entire strips of land unusabl

        • by solidraven (1633185) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:28PM (#38167354)
          Risk is one thing, another is viability. Nuclear power is the only viable means to generate the power most European countries need. Due to the population density with the combined energy demand per person you need a lot of energy 24/7. Windmills are beautiful things, unless if they're in your backyard. Not to mention there are several dangers attached to those as well. There's only so much space available where you can put these windmills. Solar panels are a joke without good energy storage systems (good luck on that one with current battery and capacitor technology, and pumping water up a level difference is rather inefficient). In the end nuclear power is one of the most efficient ways to generate electricity in terms of space usage.
          And lets not forget how reliable and predictable it is. A nuclear reactor is certain to output a set amount of energy in a certain configuration no matter what. Not a single one of these "renewable" sources are capable of that. None of the current replacement suggestions are worth it.
          • by Hentes (2461350)

            Solar panels are a joke without good energy storage systems (good luck on that one with current battery and capacitor technology, and pumping water up a level difference is rather inefficient).

            Most solar plants do not use solar panels, and the storage efficiency of molten salt solar plants is over 90%.

        • That's what knocked out the backup generators.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Xenkar (580240)

          The risk of meltdown will stay the same until either all nuclear power plants are shut down OR we use the latest generation reactor designs which shut the reaction passively if there is a water pump or generator failure.

          Fukushima wouldn't have been such a big deal if they had the latest revision instead of something that should have been retired decades ago.

          Tsunami hits the diesel generator. This shuts down the generator. But instead of the reactor melting down since the water pump was unable to function, i

      • Personally, I'm opposed to nuclear power and would like to see everything powered by magic (which is non-polluting and 100% sustainable).

        We need to get our hands on that blue stuff from the Captain America movie. You just run it through a doohickey and it makes more of itself. Then I'll be anti-nuclear too.

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Magic usually involves tapping directly into the lifeforce of the planet.
        Whenever attemps to use it for the industry are made, the planet dies out.

    • by ustolemyname (1301665) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:57PM (#38167048)

      You mean it's less dangerous, don't your?

      Take all the people who died from Chernobyl []. Add the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima []. Still killed fewer people than hydro power [].

      • by drobety (2429764)
        This is silly. There is more than just "number of immediate deaths": There are the long-term effects causing deaths or illnesses (not being ill also matters to a majority of people I dare to say).
        • by Quila (201335)

          Chernobyl estimates account for actual deaths, deaths that MAY have been reasonably caused by radiation exposure, and expected long-term deaths in the future. If you add in illnesses, it's still less than this one dam accident.

          That is if you exclude ideological-based estimates, such as from Greenpeace, which give ridiculous numbers.

      • by Sloppy (14984)

        Um.. um .. that was an old commie-block design! Modern first-world hydro-electric doesn't have that problem!

        Heh, I can't wait for the first solar-power screwup that results in mass casualties. Not that I want people to die, but we do need to get past the whole anecdotes-set-the-perception-of-safety that seems to plague energy planning. The best part is trying to imagine a solar power disaster. You've gotta get pretty sick in the head to come up with anything even marginally believable. The holy grail,

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <> on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:54PM (#38167736) Homepage

        That isn't a fair comparison. Hydro power had absolutely nothing to do with the failure of that dam, which was built to prevent flooding. Power generation was just a bi-product.

        You could say that high speed rail or aircraft are unsafe because there have been accidents in China. Actually both are very safe when done properly. Nuclear seems to be beyond the ability of developed nations to get entirely right, and as Chernobyl demonstrated we really don't want less developed nations using it.

    • by tomstockmail (2056752) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:16PM (#38167220)
      I don't see how nuclear power is in any way more dangerous than hydro electric. There have been significantly more people killed by hydro electric power, not to mention the massive effects it has on the environment.

      When the Banqiao Dam in China collapsed, 26,000 people died immediately. This is the worst accident in the history of hydroelectric. Chernobyl had 31-56 direct deaths and this is the worst nuclear power accident. In both cases they were from direct negligence. Banqiao continued to kill more, just like Chernobyl. Banqiao killed 145,000 additional people within a few years and Chernobyl killed/will kill ~6,000 eventually (various estimates change). Banqiao directly effected 11 million people and Chernobyl displaced the entire town, 49,400 people, and it's a mere fraction of Banqiao. The fact is the deaths from nuclear power is significantly less than hydroelectric and always will be. A nuclear power plant does not blow up like in video games such as Red Alert 2, Chernobyl was the absolute worst case scenario (for one reactor, Chernobyl would be worst if all reactors that were there blew).

      The Three Mile Island incident shows the lack of education for the public. People continue to "monitor" Three Mile Island but what they don't know or are too dense to know is that their basements have more radiation than Three Mile Island outputs.

      Oh, lets note that Chernobyl continued to operate the other reactors until 2000.

      Banqiao Dam source []
      • Thousands of coal mining deaths per year, probably a huge number more attributable to air pollution caused by coal. I couldn't find any appreciable numbers for uranium mining deaths.

        And the radiation. How much radiation has coal burning put into the environment? How does that compare to TMI, Fukushima and Chernobyl combined?

  • I hate the press. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The press will screw up the world just to get headlines. Nuclear power is incredibly safe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:49PM (#38166970)

    Nuclear accidents can make areas uninhabitable or unfarmable for many generations. It isn't a one-time event that gets cleaned up in a few days. It's something with lasting impacts on the environment and habitability of the area, over generations. In a country the size of Japan, the effects are even worse because they don't have so much land area to be throwing parts of it away like that. The exclusion zone around Fukushima is now unfarmable.

    And just like after Chernobyl we were all assured by the nuclear proponents that "there can never be another nuclear disaster", we're being assured that now too. But there will be. It WILL happen again. If we are lucky, it won't be as bad as Fukushima. If we are unlucky, it will be much worse. The only certainty is that it will happen, and it will be because of something unprepared for that is only obvious in hindsight.

    Captcha: "Trauma".

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hmryobemag}> on Friday November 25, 2011 @03:14PM (#38167972) Journal

      The only certainty is that it will happen, and it will be because of something unprepared for that is only obvious in hindsight.

      The monstrous earthquake/tsunami combo the Fukushima reactor was hit by was "obvious in hindsight?"

      If it took a direct hit from a meteor you'd be saying the same thing I guess. There's no certainty that there will be another nuclear disaster. In fact, if no new reactors are built in Natural Disaster Central I'd bet that none of them will suffer disasters, pretty much in line with the rest of the history of nuclear power. If EPIC_STUPIDITY = 0 && BUILT_ON_NATURES_SHOOTING_RANGE=0 then NUCLEAR_DISASTER=0.

    • by Demonantis (1340557) on Friday November 25, 2011 @03:20PM (#38168064)
      Your argument is built on a straw man. Read about Bhopal, India and the issues they have been having years from the event. All the chemical refineries we rely on should be torn down by your argument as they will fail and the consequences are dire and long lasting. Not to mention the easy damage to the water table if a "normal" power plant had a release of chemical stored on site. Or even a solar manufacturing plant. Care should be taken with any sophisticated chemical process irregardless of if it is Nuclear or not. There is no logical argument a Nuclear is any more dangerous than the less regulated ones.
  • Thorium (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:50PM (#38166978)
    Maybe it's time to start rolling out Thorium reactors [].
    • by DarthVain (724186)

      My question is: Why haven't they already? Why isn't everyone building tons of these? What is wrong with it?

      • by Entropius (188861)

        I think they're not really needed, not yet. There is still plenty of uranium, it's cheap, and uranium-fission reactors are a known quantity that we know how to build and that are really pretty safe.

      • Re:Thorium (Score:5, Informative)

        by Creepy (93888) on Friday November 25, 2011 @03:41PM (#38168278) Journal

        arguments I've heard
        - never built one to scale
        rebuttal - it doesn't matter - build 1000 tiny ones instead if big ones don't work.

        - continuous reprocessing has never been tested and may be impossible
        rebuttal - you don't know unless you try, and it seems feasible.

        - they still spit out the same long half-life, long decay elements as conventional reactors
        rebuttal - most of these can be reused or salvaged for medical devices, and it burns 97% of its fuel instead of 3% or less. Also you will find almost as much naturally occurring "waste" where the Thorium came in the first place. Here is a breakdown from [] :

        Additionally, because LFTR burns all of its nuclear fuel, the majority of the waste products (83%) are safe within 10 years, and the remaining waste products (17%) need to be stored in geological isolation for only about 300 years (compared to 10,000 years or more for LWR waste). Additionally, the LFTR can be used to "burn down" waste from an LWR (nearly the entirety of the United States' nuclear waste stockpile) into the standard waste products of an LFTR, so long-term storage of nuclear waste would no longer be needed.

        read that again - can be used to "burn down" waste from an LWR - so in addition, we can get rid of a lot of the waste from the inefficient reactors we have.

        - they are really Uranium reactors and they require a seed reaction
        rebuttal - true reactors like this are Uranium - they convert Thorium to Uranium and then split, however the base fuel is still Thorium and the seed can be reused. It is also possible to continuously feed them if the equipment can filter out impurities. No physical research has been done here.

        - Thorium is uneconomic, and costs far more than Uranium
        rebuttal - Thorium is much more plentiful than Uranium, easier to mine and therefore if a market emerged, would likely drop from current ~$5000/kg to potentially $10/kg or less. That is compared to enriched Uranium, which is over $1600/kg after an expensive processing and/or reprocessing. Total cost of operations is also much less - estimated at 30-50% of a LWR.

        - Thorium is bad for selling weapons grade elements to the government and charging massive reprocessing fees and kickbacks that line the back pockets of reactor owners.
        um, exactly.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Did you actually read that article? Thorium reactors are still at the research stage. A decade or so down the line when the first commercial ones are being built demand for nuclear will have dried up, with developed nations doing over to renewables and developing nations not allowed to run their own nuclear programmes anyway.

      On top of that there is little commercial demand for more safety because it costs money. That is what screwed Fukushima up and is why there is little investment in safer fuels. Historic

  • by thecrotch (2464404) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:51PM (#38166990)
    There's a problem with a 50 year old nuclear plant built on the coast in an earthquake zone, that means nuclear power is too dangerous for everywhere else! By that logic it's not worth buying a 2011 Mercedes, after all the timing chain broke in my 1961 Dodge that must mean all cars are garbage.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does the latest BBC survey really show a lack of support for nuclear?

    like all "n% of people said x" headlines there is a lot more info if you look in more detail at the results.

  • "Safe" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:56PM (#38167040) Homepage Journal

    The demands of perfect safety at all times is actually chasing better designs off the table; "no new reactors" means better designs can't be built.

    Fukushima is an example of how subtly corrupting the "public/private partnership" can be in privatizing gain while pushing risk onto the shoulders of the public.

    Mankind will turn to nuclear power because it is cleaner than the alternatives, because it is energy dense, because it is scalable, and because it is dispatchable (available when we need it). This headline reflects a temporary revulsion from the tsunami, nothing more.

  • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:01PM (#38167106)

    I am generally not in favor of nuclear power.
    But my support for new reactors is not that bad. I'd say I even support them.

    It is the old reactors still running, those cash cows running at absolute safety limit or bewlow, that I really want to disappear.

    • Don't worry; if they're running beyond safety limits they'll disappear sooner or later.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Okay, but given that we don't have Thorium reactors and it still costs tens of billions to build new nuclear power stations, run then and finally decommission them are they really the best option? Why not spend the money on renewable technology that can also be sold around the world into both existing and developing markets, and for which demand is increasing?

      As an added bonus most of the safety headaches go away, and you don't have to worry that 20 or 30 years into the plant's lifetime the operator will sk

  • by number17 (952777) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:03PM (#38167116)
    The alternatives will be there in the future, but until then we need power and a lot of it. When the oil runs out we will need more power for electric vehicles (if it goes that way). Im an environmentalist and understand the risks. The footprint of a nuke plant compared to the alternatives is huge (with the exception of nuclear fallout).
  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:07PM (#38167134)

    Safer than coal [], anyway.

    There is plenty of evidence of coal mine disasters, OK there are a few uranium mining disasters as well [], but I don't want to minimise the mortality from either if I can help it: the simple fact of the matter is, you're 4,000 times more likely to die from a coal-related power generation cause and 1,000 times more likely from oil-related power generation than you are from nuclear-related power generation []. It all carries risk, but the protocols and procedures surrounding uranium handling mitigates the risk to the point where people who actually work it tend to worry less. Fukushima was, in my opinion, unfortunate but avoidable; OK the tidal barrier was inadequate. It could have been higher and it might have diverted the tsunami but that wouldn't have helped with the ground subsidence. The location probably wasn't that well thought out, being that close to one of the deepest ocean trenches on the planet. It was probably the wrong type of reactor to have built there even if it was proved that the location was suitable for a power plant that could potentially (and as it happens, did) crack and go critical after just one good shake and a deluge of salt water. Lessons learned, we all hope, but I wouldn't like to try and assure the surviving families around the plant of that.

    • Safer than coal [], anyway.

      That article compares the radiation exposure from coal stack emissions versus radiation emissions from properly contained nuclear waste and a properly functioning nuclear power plant. It makes no comparisons with Chernovyl or Fukushima disasters. Also the data presented in that article is based on a Science article written in 1978, this is before emissions were being actively scrubbed to meet EPA clean air guidelines that were passed in the '80s.

      Can you mak

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:07PM (#38167146)
    Questions of the nature "is nuclear power safe?" seem more political than scientific. Shouldn't the question really be "is this nuclear reactor design (including its associated fueling, storage and waste handling) safe?

    Lets try to take some of the emotion and politics out of the issue. If someone asked you "are cars safe?", wouldn't you want to know which car? Different car designs offer a wide range of safety. Not just due to cost compromises, size/weight and design goals, but also due to when it was designed. Materials, technology, scientific understanding, computer modeling, etc have greatly improved our capabilities over recent decades. I wouldn't feels safe in any race car from the 1940s driving at 100 mph wearing a leather helmet, however I would feel safe doing so in many higher end passenger cars today. Maybe a recent reactor design is far more safe than say some 1960s soviet design?

    Science and engineering are making great advances in solar, wind, tidal, etc. Aren't they also making great advances in the area of nuclear?
  • by Framboise (521772) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:19PM (#38167256)

    It is rather unique in the industry that no insurance company is willing to insure nuclear power plants. The reason is most probably that when the risks are properly estimated the bill increases nuclear electricity to prohibitive, non-competitive levels.

    The result of sufficient lobbying is that everybody is believing paying cheap nuclear electricity, while in reality everybody (or the descendants) take a chance paying huge future costs. Just like Japanese now do for the next decades.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      It is rather unique in the industry that no insurance company is willing to insure nuclear power plants. The reason is most probably that when the risks are properly estimated the bill increases nuclear electricity to prohibitive, non-competitive levels.

      More likely, that the risks are impossible to quantify. Insurers could have made plenty of money insuring reactors for the last few decades, but it would only take one Homer Simpson to really ruin their day.

      • by Framboise (521772)

        Precisely, if the risks of an activity cannot be rigorously evaluated, then it should not be declared safe. Any professional certification of an activity requires evaluations. If serious evaluations are impossible then the activity cannot be certified, therefore responsible deciders should discard it.


  • The problem is, from what I know of management, funding decisions, and the psychology of long term complacency, I don't trust society with nuclear

  • I don't care if they have worldwide support. I will stick to my regular vitamin drops, thank you very much.

  • is nuclear power still a viable solution to the world's energy problems?

    There is only one "solution" to the world's energy problems - demand below renewable supply. Uranium is not a renewable resource. It may seem abundant at current rates of consumption, but the supply is finite.

  • by Doofus (43075) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:32PM (#38167392)

    No "clean" or "renewable" energy source scales the way nuclear can.

    No "clean" or "renewable" energy source can provide on-demand base-load power the way nuclear can.

    Reliability can be built into nuclear plants in ways that distributed "small" clean power cannot match.

    Safety record of nuclear power generation speaks for itself, esp. when context is provided (coal, hydro).

    Waste management is an issue that is primarily an engineering challenge, not an obstacle.

    Can designs be improved? Certainly, and much work is ongoing in this space (Toshiba, Hyperion, others).

    Over the long term, nuclear is the cleanest base-load power source we have, and it is inevitable that more nuclear power plants will be built and brought on-line worldwide.
    • How many nuclear-related fatalities have France had?

      Just wondering since 80% of their power generation is now nuclear.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:41PM (#38167532)
    as long as it's the Gov't running the plants. I don't trust private business to invest the kinds of money needed to maintain and improve safety; the profit motive is too strong and always looking for 'efficiency', e.g. corners to cut. Take a look at privately run dialysis clinics vs the gov't run ones. The Gov't run clinics have much lower rates of mortality, and the studies show it's because they don't cut corners by reusing supplies.

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman? -- Woody Allen