Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
China Earth Power Hardware Science Technology

The Nuclear Approach To Climate Change 432

Posted by samzenpus
from the solution-to-the-problem dept.
Harperdog writes "A new roundtable at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explores the question of whether nuclear energy is the answer to climate change, particularly in developing countries where energy needs are so great. This roundtable, like the ones before it, will be translated into Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish within a week of each article's publication. Here's a summary: From desertification in China to glacier melt in Nepal to water scarcity in South Africa, climate change is beginning to make itself felt in the developing world. As developing countries search for ways to contain carbon emissions while also maximizing economic potential, a natural focus of attention is nuclear power. But nuclear energy presents its own dangers."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Nuclear Approach To Climate Change

Comments Filter:
  • and it states the bleeding obvious... Is TFA more interesting?

  • by crioca (1394491) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:55AM (#40773367)
    While renewable energy technology is the answer, nuclear energy is an excellent interim solution.
    Anyone whose concerned about safety, I want you to go and look up how many nuclear reactors are over 30, 40 years old. These antique behemoths are being run because there are many unnecessary obstacles to overcome if you want to build a new plant. Nuclear technology as well as construction and information systems have improved dramatically each decade, so how is it that people can react to modern reactors as if they have no safety advantages over their retro-ancestors?
    • by dark12222000 (1076451) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:38AM (#40773585)
      My concerns are not the original designs, or the engineers. It's the cheap profit seeking idiots who attempt to cut corners while running them. Fundamentally, Nuclear is a great idea! Unfortunately, Nuclear Power in the hands of a capitalist society which values immediate profit over the chance of blowing themselves up is actually really freaking dangerous.

      This is what we saw with Fukushima. That reactor was well designed - and the others in the region held up decently. If the plant had been kept up even close to spec - there wouldn't have been a disaster. Hell, even if after the initial issue, if they had just dumped the core, it would of been a passing mention in the newspaper. Instead, somebody who valued money over other peoples lives, decided to make a profitable decision instead of a safe one.

      It only takes one stupid idiot to ruin a good thing.
      • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:19AM (#40773819)

        This is what we saw with Fukushima. That reactor was well designed - and the others in the region held up decently. If the plant had been kept up even close to spec - there wouldn't have been a disaster. Hell, even if after the initial issue,

        The reactor was well designed to faulty assumptions that in retrospect never should have been accepted.

        if they had just dumped the core, it would of been a passing mention in the newspaper. Instead, somebody who valued money over other peoples lives, decided to make a profitable decision instead of a safe one.

        It only takes one stupid idiot to ruin a good thing.

        I'm not sure what you mean by "dump the core", but I believe the reactors all underwent a SCRAM to shut down after the quake. But even after shutdown, the reactor core continues to emit a significant amount of heat for quite some time, and when the cooling failed, there was no way to dissipate that heat.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        My concerns are not the original designs, or the engineers.

        The design was one that guaranteed meltdown if mains electrical was lost and the generators failed. The design was faulty. There are any one of 100 things that could have been done differently that would have prevented the tsunami-related issues (there are statements that the earthquake alone would have caused the meltdown, but the tsunami exacerbated the issue, I'll assume that they managed to survive at least one of the two disasters it was explicitly designed to withstand). Putting the generators insi

      • by the gnat (153162)

        It's the cheap profit seeking idiots who attempt to cut corners while running them. Fundamentally, Nuclear is a great idea! Unfortunately, Nuclear Power in the hands of a capitalist society which values immediate profit over the chance of blowing themselves up is actually really freaking dangerous.

        Unless you lived in Soviet Russia, in which case nuclear power was in the hands of a socialist society which valued... actually, I'm not sure. But Chernobyl didn't work out too well either, so perhaps we should a

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      I will add, however, that I agree with most of your point - we need to start iterating new generations of nuclear plant designs - that's the only way they will ever improve. I do think that modern designs have some significant safety advantages. But, my Hoover Dam example, if it's not obvious, is meant to point out that just because something was designed and built before 1970 doesn't mean it's necessarily dangerous, even though it has the potential to be.

      An old but well maintained structure or machine can

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      We don't need an interim solution, we need to push forward with other forms of clean energy instead. Scotland will produce 100% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020, for example. Obviously they won't be totally reliant on them, that would be foolish and having a mix is always a good idea, but the point is that it can and will be done, right now.

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      While renewable energy technology is the answer, nuclear energy is an excellent interim solution.

      Why does nuclear need to be an intrerim solution? With IFRs, nuclear "waste" is actually fuel which can be processed, nuclear is cheaper, and safer, than it has been before. I don't see why we should throw this tech away.

  • SOS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Same Old Sh*t

        the nuclear industry is enormously profitable (if you ignore waste disposal) and long-lived (if you ignore a thousand years of aftermath).. these f*** wait in the wings and try this again and again.. What about an accounting system that values the natural world and rewards efficiency ?!!? If we are to survive as a species, the question is not "where do we get more power" but rather what we do with the capacity we have.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Look, if you mean "shit", say "shit".

      If you mean "fuck", then say "fuck".

      It's not like you're going to get struck by lightning or the ground's going to open up and swallow you or some such nonsense.

      See? I just did it and nothing bad hap*á%æ(*&*;u***$çç~``````__NO_CARRIER__

  • by stox (131684) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:59AM (#40773391) Homepage

    A small scale nuclear war to produce a nuclear winter to offset global warming will do the trick, and possibly cut the population at the same time.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      A small scale nuclear war to produce a nuclear winter to offset global warming will do the trick, and possibly cut the population at the same time.

      I was going to suggest the same thing -- creating a nuclear winter is probably not any more risky that other ideas that have been floated around that have side effects that are just as poorly understood -- like large scale seeding of oceans with iron to encourage phytoplankton growth that will be a carbon sink.

    • The great advantage of this solution, is that it will not require agreement and action among all nations. The current attempts to agree on a plan are all failing miserably, because there are too many nations with conflicting interests involved. Now, everybody just sits back and waits for someone else to do something.

      Now if two nuke armed countries start squabbling, the rest of the world will not be able to agree on what to do about it. So the small scale nuclear war, will just happen by itself. No need

  • by zippo01 (688802) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:02AM (#40773403)
    If you took all the effort and energy spent, developing green energies, clean coal, fracking. Couple that with all the energy spent fighting each of them for what ever reason. Just think how safe and efficient 2020 nuclear power plants could be. A new nuclear plant hasn't been built in the US since what the 80's. Thats 30 YEARS. Just think of the improvements and innovations we could make or had made had we pursued it. If you really think that global warming is the end of days, then how can you not embrace nuclear? Its like vegetarians who believe in evolution. It just doesn't make since.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      As though the US is the only place in the world with reactors?

      In fact it's a US company building the next generation of reactors for China (PRC). Lots of progress has been made, but if you want to cut government spending (which is a stupid plan right now, but that's the one we're going with) building nuclear reactors isn't going to fly because they do cost a lot of money.

    • Evolution is description of how we came to be.
      Not a way to describe how we should act.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      If you took all the effort and energy spent, developing nuclear energies and weapons, cleaning up after them, clean coal, fracking, drilling for oil. Couple that with all the energy spent fighting renewables for what ever reason. Just think how safe and efficient 2020 green energy could be.

      FTFY.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:20AM (#40774317) Homepage

      PS. My mum is a vegetarian because she doesn't like meat. Some vegetarians just don't like the idea of factory farming and killing animals for food. I'm not sure how that is counter to evolution.

      • Point your mum to this research paper from a professor in the agriculture department at Oregon State University:

        http://www.morehouse.edu/facstaff/nnobis/papers/Davis-LeastHarm.htm [morehouse.edu]

        If half of the total harvested land in the US was used to produce plant products for human consumption and half was used for pasture-forage production, how many animals would die annually so that humans may eat?

        60 million ha, plant production x 15 animals/ha = 0.9 billion
        60 million ha, forage production x 7.5 animals/ha = 0.45 billion
        Total: 1.35 billion animals

        According to this model then, fewer animals (1.35 billion) would die than in the vegan model (1.8 billion). As a result, if we apply the LHP as Regan did for his vegan conclusion, it would seem that humans are morally obligated to consume a diet of vegetables and ruminant animal products.

        His conclusions:

        1. Vegan diets are not bloodless diets. Millions of animals of the field die every year to provide products used in vegan diets.
        2. Several alternative food production models exist that may kill fewer animals than the vegan model.
        3. More research is needed to obtain accurate estimations of t

    • Its like vegetarians who believe in evolution. It just doesn't make since.

      Vegetarianism is a moral or health stance. Evolution is a scientific stance. I'm baffled why you think there is any possible contradiction between them.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      Exactly. Imagine if the only commercial planes we could fly in were De Havilland Comets? They were good planes for the day. They had some problems but figured out most of them. But anyone that has built any complicated system knows you would never build the next generation from the same way. With each generation you have a lessons learned and the next one is typically better. If we had a new generation every 20 years we would be 3-4 generation more advanced than we are now and it would be a non issue.

      As a l

  • by pablo_max (626328) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:03AM (#40773421)

    Just not the king we use. Uranium and plutonium are terrible ways to achieve nuclear power. There is relatively little power output and a large amount of waste product, which we know will kill us if we even come close to it. The only benefit is being able to create nuclear weapons.
    Thorium on the other hand produces much more power per gram and has very little waste. The waste it does produce is exceedingly less dangerous than the current 1950s style reactors.
    Plus, there is craps loads of the stuff everywhere. Time to switch. I think we have more than enough Nukes to destroy the world population many times over, so there is no need to stick to a dangerous tech just so we can make more.

    • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:21AM (#40773499)

      Thorium on the other hand produces much more power per gram and has very little waste. The waste it does produce is exceedingly less dangerous than the current 1950s style reactors.

      You forgot most important part (assuming you are referring to the molten-salt thorium reactors), there is no boom. The reactor can never go out of control. Hence there is never a nuclear cloud or fall out. And also, the reactor can be designed to be started and stopped in minutes rather than hours or days or months.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Just not the king we use. Uranium and plutonium are terrible ways to achieve nuclear power. There is relatively little power output and a large amount of waste product, which we know will kill us if we even come close to it. The only benefit is being able to create nuclear weapons.

      We could even get rid [wikipedia.org] of the "waste product"

    • by rmstar (114746) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:52AM (#40774199)

      Thorium on the other hand produces much more power per gram and has very little waste. The waste it does produce is exceedingly less dangerous than the current 1950s style reactors.

      Experience suggests that this is an oversimplification. The HTTR (High Temperature Thorium Reactor) had a few unexpected failure modes that led to some discharge of radioactive stuff into the atmosphere. The other german experimental Thorium reactor (Juellich) almost went boom because, for some nowadays not so mysterious reason, the graphite was heated way beyond what it should have. Nobody knew that back then. While nothing happened, it still is a mayor waste problem to this day.

      This leads us to another issue. The failure mode of the HTTR was not that unexpected. It was, like the Tsunami issue at Fukushima, predicted by other people and ignored by those responsible. The designers and builders of the the HTTR made a point about how they were completely sure that nothing could possibly go wrong, and whoever claimed otherwise was an idiot. Doubts were brushed aside. The moral of the story is that we cannot trust the judgement of nuclear engineers to the extent that would be necessary.

      "The design is inherently safe, nothing can go wrong" -- yeah, right.

  • Nuclear power will be a perfectly viable solution, except in all the cases it will not be. How many nuclear reactors will the western nuclear powers allow to be installed in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or Zimbabwe? How about Venezuela or Cuba? What about failed states like Somalia, or non-states like Somaliland? Not many I venture. The problems are large, overwhelmingly political, and even less likely to engender consensus than 'no-brainers' like reducing emissions as a risk-mitigation strat

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      Solution: nuke "western nuclear powers" (after evacuating Iran that "western nuclear powers" will then nuke in response).

    • Honestly, if all the sane nations get a majority of their energy from nuclear power, we can let those "fourth world" states burn all the fossil fuel they want - there will be a lot more supply available to sell to them at probably lower prices, and their consumption is not likely to be anywhere in the ballpark of what we are currently consuming.

      In the meantime, we can build safer next-gen nuclear in many more stable third-world nations to help them develop. 5 or 10 small countries burning fossil fuels would

    • Thorium doesn't produce plutonium or anything similar.

      So, yeah, give the tech away to everyone.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      France exports nuclear power to unstable African countries. You don't have to put the reactor there to get power distributed there.
  • ... if things get too hot (are going that way both in climate and in politics), a nuclear winter could balance a bit temperatures and amount of heat generators.
  • Almost all our power generation requires water.
    If you don't have water security, you can't have power security.

    Even in the USA, we're dealing with nuclear and coal plants on the brink of shutting down,
    because the mild winter and extended drought is bringing rivers down near critical levels.

    In Africa, you need to desalinate water before you can do anything.
    And desalination creates its own set of problems (what do you do with the brine?).

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Even in the USA, we're dealing with nuclear and coal plants on the brink of shutting down,
      because the mild winter and extended drought is bringing rivers down near critical levels.

      Fortunately, most of the population lives close to the coasts where there's lots of water available.

      In Africa, you need to desalinate water before you can do anything.

      Why not use the seawater to cool your cooling fluid instead of using saltwater directly? Pump the heated waste water far offshore.

      And desalination creates its own set of problems (what do you do with the brine?).

      Why not put it back where it came from -- the ocean? Let it seep out of miles of pipe to reduce local effects of high salinity.

    • High Temp Gas Cooled Reactors do not need water cooling to attain reasonable efficiency. There are various designs approaches for this - in some, you use fuel "pebbles". There's also a concept called a molten salt reactor, which could be designed in a high-temp gas cooled configuration.

      With such reactors, you just dump your heat into the air instead of the water. This would be a good idea for Africa, US West/SW, etc.

  • It should be mentioned, fusion power is easily within reach [slashdot.org]. Check out this graph [imgur.com]. Why not make a push for it?
  • Pick One (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:00AM (#40773739) Homepage Journal

    Global Warming, Nuclear Energy, Agrarian Society

    This is news to few; heck the bumper sticker [zazzle.com] I made for myself with that saying has this in its footer metadata: "Made on 4/24/2007 1:19 PM".

    I hear Richard Branson has repeatedly tried to get appointments with Obama to talk about IFR reactors (and been rebuffed), so I probably don't need to be prosthelitizing them any longer.

  • nuff said.

  • irrational fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @05:01AM (#40774553) Homepage Journal

    yes, nuclear is the answer.

    Our culture has an irrational fear of nuclear power, much like in the early trains of steam trains, people thought they would die from asphyxiation if the train went too fast.

    Some nuclear technology is dangerous. Thorium reactors (see other comments), for example, aren't.

    But through our irrational fear, we've actually put us into a worse situation. In most western countries, we have nuclear reactors running well beyond their lifetimes, because we are too afraid to allow the construction of new, modern reactors. So instead we have old, less reliable, less safe and slowly falling apart reactors. Do you really think that's an improvement?

    Burning coal and oil and gas is what has to stop, right now. I'm with a power company that offers renewable energy right now. But if there was one that offered renewable plus nuclear, I'd sign up immediately. For some reason, there isn't. You either get totally dirty power, with nuclear and fossil, or renewable. But nobody has the balls to ask the market if maybe there are enough people like me who don't really mind nuclear, but do mind fossil.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:26AM (#40776155)

    The recent debacle in Japan and the previous disaster in Chernobyl illustrate why nuclear energy isn't a viable option for third-world economies. If first-world countries can't manage the risk of nuclear power plants effectively, third-world countries will be much less able to do so, and they'll wind up fucking themselves over much worse than Japan did if they try. The economic strains will inevitably cause them to skimp on safety and maintainance, with the result of more breakdowns and meltdowns per facility. That is, until a better, more fail-safe, lower maintainance design is developed and demonstrated in the first world.

    Then there's the issue of transporting nuclear fuel all over the place and dealing with spent fuel in a responsible manner, another thing that the first world can barely do.

  • by morgauxo (974071) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:45AM (#40776413)
    Ultimately we aren't going to fix this problem until it is way too late and something drastic is requires for us to survive. Most likely... bombing Antarctica just enough to produce a 'mild' nuclear winter. Don't worry about Antarctica's wildlife though.. they will be long since dead from the climate change anyway at that point.

    Alternatively.... those who can afford to will move to Antarctica while the rest of the continents become to hot to survive and everyone else dies. Then when it starts to become too hot even there they can bomb the now de-populated old continents. So... you see... bombing Antarctica is actually an optimistic view on the future compared to what else might happen.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

Working...