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Earth Power Technology

Climatologist James Hansen Defends Nuclear Energy 345

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-it-a-chance dept.
First time accepted submitter prajendran writes "James Hansen, the former director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, has been a strong defender of using nuclear energy to replace coal and renewable energy. He and three other researchers had written a letter, arguing just this. In this interview with rediff.com, an Indian news site, he was asked to address some concerns surrounding the issue, especially given the strong feelings generated by it. It may not be Hansen's best interview, but it did bring out his passionate side."
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Climatologist James Hansen Defends Nuclear Energy

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  • Re:TL;DR (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:27PM (#45634245)

    Surely you're not saying that other means of generating energy don't have similarly massive pollution concerns? Or are you really that naive as to think that nuclear waste tech is still at the same state it was in in the 1950's? Or are you still hoping that we can solve all of our problems with solar?

  • Re:TL;DR (Score:4, Informative)

    by fnj (64210) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:53PM (#45634389)

    At this point, a lot of nuclear waste sits in fuel pools because there is no long-term solution.

    A lot? Practically all of it that was ever accumulated sits there, in the US at least.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail . c om> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:56PM (#45634399) Homepage

    Meanwhile, Germany is implementing soloar and energy efficiency and is AHEAD of its targets.

    And buying nuclear power from France, Poland, and the Czech Republic. All the while, that solar energy is driving millions to make the choice between roof over head, food on table, or electricity. As prices start climbing towards of 40c/kWh.

  • by Xolotl (675282) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:05PM (#45634429) Journal
    Worse, they're buying coal power from Poland (Poland does not have any power-generating reactors ... yet). All because of shutting down their own nuclear reactors in the wake of the post-Fukushima nuclear-is-bad hysteria.
  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:21PM (#45634503) Homepage Journal

    Germany is not buying power in any significant amount from its neighbours.

    We are still exporting roughly 30% of our energy production.

    Prices for ordinary customers like me are about 17 - 18 c/kWh.

    Don't get where from you have your crazy ideas.

  • Re:TL;DR (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:10PM (#45635273) Journal

    +5 insightful

    Seriously, all of the people who freak out about the waste are just being ridiculous. So what if the stuff is dangerous for 10,000 years? We don't have to solve that problem, all we have to do is to keep it safe for a few centuries, and make sure that our descendants understand what it was that we did and what the potential issues are.

    The key thing to understand in our generation is the cost of the infrastructure to transport the spent fuel around. In the U.S this is estimated to be a 30 year project with significant costs attached to it, in and of itself. Fukushima has demonstrated the danger inherent in the spent fuel cooling pools, that is why any infrastructure project has to start with an actual location to transport it to.

    In the U.S Yucca mountain does not meet the requirements Studies of the Yucca mountain hydrology [sciencedirect.com] revealed that the passage cl-36 from atmospheric nuclear testing took less that 50 years in ground water through Yucca mountain so the reality of Yucca is it is inappropriate to contain *any* kind of radioactive products, especially the ones you are referring to. Yucca is pumice and volcanic ash, you *need* granite if you want a serious facility. Even the Swedish test facility [google.com] is better designed than Yucca and the design of the actual facility [geoprac.net] shows the U.S how it *should* be done.

  • Re:LFTR (Score:4, Informative)

    by nojayuk (567177) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:33PM (#45635851)

    Actually the core of a regular PWR or BWR and even CANDU, Magnox, AGR or even the dreaded RBMK-4 graphite moderated reactor designs don't get very radioactive thanks mostly to careful choices of the steel alloys and other materials used in their construction (no cobalt, for example). The vessels can be removed from the containment after shutdown during decommissioning within a year or two with minimal shielding or after forty or fifty years of Safstor on site they're no more radioactive than, say, granite and can be treated as low-level waste. It is common for the inside and outside of a BWR/PWR reactor vessel and its core structures to be manually inspected during refuelling outages, for example.

    The really intense radioactivity in a conventional reactor is contained in the spent fuel rods which, if undamaged, can be easily handled, transported and after a few years dry-casked for storage or shipped to a reprocessing plant to be recycled. It's done all the time in hundreds of reactors around the world during refuelling operations and has been for decades.

    The LFTR concept involves moving intensely hot radioactive fuel in a salt stream through a carbon moderator for decades with no capability to repair or even properly inspect this part of the reactor as the piping will be mindbogglingly highly radioactive even if the fuel stream is removed to permit inspection.

  • Re: common sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by weilawei (897823) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:46AM (#45637663) Homepage
    So, you'd rather that, instead of producing 5750 tons of waste per year for nuclear (let's assume that you haven't figured out what an LFTR is, and can't think about reprocessing here) per year, you'd rather use up our atmospheric oxygen to turn the coal into carbon dioxide at a far greater rate.

    Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide.

    That means we're looking at dealing with 1 billion * 2.86 short tons = 2.86 billion short tons = 5,720,000,000,000 (or 5.72 trillion) pounds of CO2 per year. My calculator suggests that's around 497,000x the mass of the potential nuclear waste, not to mention more radioactive waste actually in the atmosphere. Do you really want to discuss which of these methods is contributing more radiation to the atmosphere and whose house all these byproducts are polluting? I'm pretty sure they don't usually entomb the resultant CO2 in concrete, even if half of (less than half [wikipedia.org], actually) fly ash winds up that way.

    The energy density of coal pales in comparison [energyfromthorium.com] to thorium:

    At these prices the value of the energy produced by the thorium is an average cubic meter of the Earth’s crust in a LFTR is worth (11000 to 17000)/(220) = 50 to 77 cubic meters of anthracite coal.

    At this point, NIMBY is just mindless obstructionism. There is no scientific ground left to stand on, unless you happen to have an actual, implementable solution for long-term base power, and no, solar isn't cutting it. For that, you have toxic build and recycling processes, short life, low efficiency, the sort of thing that's okay on a small scale but hasn't shown real base-load promise due to the cost of storing energy en-masse for use during off-peak hours instead of throttling a nuclear reaction pulling energy from a very dense storage medium.

    LFTR isn't just some pie-in-the-sky. It's a tried and tested [wikipedia.org] reactor design, and we learned from our initial failures (metal embrittlement, evolution of uranium and plutionium), and we came out the other side with a new process for decommissioning. This is how science and engineering work, folks.

  • by weilawei (897823) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:03AM (#45637709) Homepage
    AC may have mocked this, but it is correct. Several instances [wikipedia.org] were discovered at Oklo, in Gabon, Africa. I'm not really sure what this has to do with practical energy generation, however.
  • Re: common sense (Score:4, Informative)

    by Megane (129182) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:48AM (#45638193) Homepage
    Not only that, but coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste. [scientificamerican.com]

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