Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Power Science

The Nuclear Power Renaissance 927

Actual Reality writes "It is ironic to me that much of the same sentiment that thwarted the nuclear power industry back in the 80's is partially responsible for reviving it. Nuclear power is very clean compared to any power source that burns fuel. The US has missed several advancements in nuclear technology. We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again stifle our progress."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Nuclear Power Renaissance

Comments Filter:
  • We need to keep the Homer Simpson's out of them and Don't cheap out on safety like M.R. Burns plant.
  • The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) * on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @08:55PM (#21357407) Homepage
    We KNOW that converting to nuclear energy would largely solve the global warming problem.  Have a nice gander people, the solution to this seemingly intractible problem is staring us in the face.

    No, nuclear isn't perfect.  But in combination with electric cars, the CO2 problem is solved.

    Then we just have to worry about the CO2 we've already put in there.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Regardless of the validity of your first two lines, your final line is absolutely correct.

      The only way to stop, and reverse global warming is mega-engineering and we, as a species, are just not capable of it.. yet.

  • by MOBE2001 ( 263700 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @08:57PM (#21357441) Homepage Journal
    The US has missed several advancements in nuclear technology.

    Well, this is good because it means that the US has the opportunity to move straight to the latest and safest state of the art nuclear power plant technology.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 )
      Well the problem is that Generation IV reactors, which will be cheaper and safer, are still in development now. This means nuclear reactors built now will be Generation III, which are still safe etc, but not as cheap or efficient or modern as Generation IV will be.
      If America, and the rest of the world, had embraced nuclear power we might have a lot more R&D invested in it, and it would be that much better.

      This topic is actually a very relevant issue in Australia at the moment, our entire nuclear fut
  • by CaptainPatent ( 1087643 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:00PM (#21357453) Journal
    When I try to explain the benefits of Nuclear power to some of my friends, many come back with the (rather cliché) horror stories of Three Mile Island and of course Chernobyl. What many don't know is the computational power to safely keep a reactor going was generally greater than what was available and the failsafes there were not entirely figured out or developed. We have had many years to develop the technology and as TFA points out:

    among the 104 reactors currently online in the United States, none have had any disasters since the infamous Three Mile Island incident in 1979.
    The technology has vastly improved, the safety measures are in place, it's time to go Nuclear.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    While I have no technical expertise, I do believe it's theoretically possible to run safe fission reactors. But we shouldn't even consider building any until we have a *completed* (very) long-term storage/disposal solution for nuclear waste. Deferring it to the next generation is not OK.
    • It's been done. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:15PM (#21358297) Homepage
      The Integral Fast Reactor [] produces a comparatively small amount of waste (the designers guess estimate than a ton per gigawatt of power per year), and the waste itself is no more radioactive than uranium ore after about two hundred years (as opposed to thousands or millions of years).

      After the project was nearly ready for production, it was torpedoed largely by John Kerry and Hazel O'Leary. This wasn't a partisan thing; two of the biggest backers were Richard Durbin and Carol Moseley Braun. It's one of the biggest wallbangers in political history that I can think of. I am at a loss as to why anyone is considering building a reactor on any other design.
  • Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by Graham Clark ( 11925 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:03PM (#21357493)
    I don't know in detail about the US situation, but in the UK what killed nuclear power was not environmental concerns but the cost. When the government privatised the nuclear power stations they had to finally admit what had until then been denied - that it was the most expensive form of generation then in widespread use. It's possible this has changed, but the dearth of new builds despite apparent government sympathy leads me to believe that it probably hasn't.
    • Re:Cost (Score:5, Informative)

      by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:18PM (#21357659) Journal

      it was the most expensive form of generation then in widespread use

      According to CBS/60 minutes []:

      Because nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, France has the cleanest air in the industrialized world, and because the price of oil is now around $60 a barrel, it has the lowest electric bills in Europe. In fact, France has so much cheap electricity, it exports it to its European neighbors. French nuclear plants supply power to parts of Germany, Italy and help light the city of London.
      ...So, the UK is importing nuclear power from France. I think that's a pretty clear indicator that nuclear power is currently fairly competitively priced.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MtViewGuy ( 197597 )
        France did something that the rest of the world should have done with nuclear power: standardize on a single complete powerplant design. By standardizing on a single complete powerplant design, they were able to train their operators and service engineers on how to safely operate the reactor at any plant in the country, and it also meant lower plant construction costs, too. Because it has so much cheap electric generation, that's why SNCF (the French National Railways) was able to build ultra-fast TGV train
      • by sonofabeach ( 1168325 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:10AM (#21359305)
        "...So, the UK is importing nuclear power from France. I think that's a pretty clear indicator that nuclear power is currently fairly competitively priced."

        Not necessarily. People say, "let the market determine whether nuclear is cost-effective." The market in the U.S. already did decide, and it said it was not cost-effective. That's why no new plants have been built since 1974. The only reason we're building them now is because the government is heavily subsidizing it. (And, need I add, this says nothing of the cost of waste disposal which is another problem altogether...)

        The biggest cost of nuclear is the up-front capital cost of construction and working with government regulation and oversight. Therefore once you have the plants built, it is in the owner's best interest to utilize them to their maximum potential. This doesn't mean that new nuclear power is competitively priced, however.

        You will hear the nuclear industry (as well as the U.S. government) touting a 1.8/kWh figure as the cost of nuclear energy, but this figure only refers to the operating costs of nuclear and DOESN'T include the capital cost of building a nuclear reactor itself (which is the biggest part), nor does it include the cost of decommissioning a reactor when it is finally retired. This also says nothing of the fact that uranium prices have more than tripled in the last few years. If we're not going to include capital construction costs when describing the cost of nuclear energy, then why should we use a different standard for measuring energy costs for other technology such as windmills? Wind suddenly become extremely cheap (less than 1/kWh to maintain) if you exclude the capital construction cost.

        What killed nuclear in the U.S. was regulatory cost. That changed with President Bush's 2005 Energy Policy Act included several billion dollars of incentives to the nuclear industry, for instance guaranteeing that for the first six new nuclear plants constructed, the U.S. government will pay for any cost overruns (up to $2 billion). This means it's a no-brainer for the nuclear industry - they get paid even if the same kinds of regulatory delays that killed previous plants creep up for these new plants. In addition there are huge tax credits for the first eight years of operation.

        IMHO, we don't have to worry about nuclear reactor safety at all. Operationally they are very safe (even Three Mile Island basically operated as it was supposed to during a meltdown). What is less clear is whether nuclear is economically feasible, and whether we have a viable solution for storing waste. Currently the solution is to store them on-site at the reactors themselves.
  • Fusion seems like it will always be the energy of the future. In the meantime, fission seems like a reasonable solution. There's been many of saftey advances in the past 30 years, and American saftey standards are high enough to prevent something like Chernobyl from happening in this country. (Overheating a 35-year old reactor without saftey features on) A former nuclear engineer who is now my supervisor once told me: "More people have died in of Ted Kennedy's car than have died from American nuclear react
  • Troll news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vthornheart ( 745224 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:06PM (#21357533)
    While I agree it's interesting that *some* environmentalists are rallying around Nuclear power, I think we need to make a few things clear that the poster of this news article seems to have missed.

    1) Most environmentalists supporting the Nuclear option do so only because it is the lesser of two evils, the latter of which (Global Warming) was not known of or understood back when the Nuclear Power protests were going on. This isn't ironic, it's evolutionary. It's the scientific process at its finest: new data comes in, and those looking out for the best interests of everyone reevaluate their previous conclusions based on that new data. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

    2) The "We can only hope that environmental concerns will not again, stifle our progress," is a bit more blatent of an example of flamebaiting. The reason that environmental concerns occasionally "stifle our progress" is because it would be foolish for anyone NOT to think of environmental concerns. Would the poster of this article rather that environmental concerns never be taken into account in the case of new technology? It would be like a scientist intentionally ignoring a key variable in a study. You wouldn't tell a clinical group performing studies on a new (for example) vaccine to ignore if the vaccine causes heart attacks just because said vaccine is supposed to cure cancer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "the latter of which (Global Warming) was not known of or understood back when the Nuclear Power protests were going on. "

      IN unrelated news, they didn't seem to understand how nuclear power works either.

      reason that environmental concerns occasionally "stifle our progress" is because it would be foolish for anyone NOT to think of environmental concerns."

      Anti-Nuclear Environmentalists stifled our progress' because they kept fighting to shut down any nuclear plant. Even nuclear plants that use nuclear wast
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mqduck ( 232646 )

      Most environmentalists supporting the Nuclear option do so only because it is the lesser of two evils, the latter of which (Global Warming) was not known of or understood back when the Nuclear Power protests were going on. This isn't ironic
      Actually, that's kind of the definition of irony.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:11PM (#21357583) Homepage Journal
    Amazing -- every time I make this point on Slashdot, I get a swarm of deluded people flaming me. Now that there's an article on it, maybe people will begin to see that if they're really serious about things like Global Warming, switching from Coal to Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it. All other sources of non-emitting power cost about ~3x as much per kilowatt. According to the DOE ( 40% of all CO2 generated in America is produced from electricity generation.

    The stupid, stupid environmental prejudice against nuclear power has come back to bite us all on the ass. If we had all nuclear power plants now instead of majority coal plants, we'd have eliminated almost half the CO2 production from our country which is MUCH MUCH more than reductions mandated by agreements like the Kyoto protocols, which specify either minimal cuts (8% for Europe) or capping increases (Australia can go up by 8%).

    If you're an environmentalist, you should be for nuclear power. Either shit or get off the pot -- if you just talk about "climate change" and then live in some sordid China Syndrome fear of nuclear power, you're not just an idiot, you're a hypocrite. If you're not an environmentalist, you should also be for nuclear power, since it's cheaper than all the alternative energy sources being pursued right now, and everyone likes low power costs.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FroBugg ( 24957 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:40PM (#21358583) Homepage
      I'd love to see some numbers for this miracle cheapness you're talking about.

      Nuclear power plants cost ridiculous amounts to construct and operate. Lifetime cost per kwh, including amortized construction, fuel, maintenance, etc, for nuclear is approximately double that of a fossil fuel plant (coal or natural gas).

      If you want to address non-polluting sources of power: Hydro is actually cheaper than anything else we're using, but it's already maxed out in much of the developed world. Wind has seen tremendous growth in the last fifteen years or so, and is actually cheaper than nuclear. Solar still has a ways to go, but right now it's only about double the prices of nuclear per kwh. Geothermal has great potential, but I don't know what the costs are right now.

      This doesn't even begin to address the waste disposal problem. Every nuclear plant in the country has decades worth of waste piling up on site because we never figured out a place to put it.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:20AM (#21359835)

      Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it.

      Cost effective and nuclear power do not belong in the same sentance unless you subscribe to the idea that the Brits, Russians etc are stupid and you have a high enough clearance level to know the US costs and know they are far less than anyone expected.

      Intersting to see the little bullying insults for anyone that dares to take a different opinion to one only based on conjecture. Nuclear power should be argued on it's own merits and not on perceived personality defects of it's detractors.

      Please do not state a guess or perhaps even outright lie passed on to you third hand as a fact. Every now and again on this site I ask a nuclear troll "what is the name of this cheap plant you talk of?" and have never received an answer to that question.

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zoxed ( 676559 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:59AM (#21361163) Homepage
      > if they're really serious about things like Global Warming, switching from Coal to Nuclear power would be the only cost-efficient way to do it.

      Do you (or anyone) have any links to a complete life-cycle costing of nuclear power ? I mean everything; including the waste disposal (or storage for n thousand years, and including accident insurance (ie not subsidized/underwritten by the govt ?) I keep hearing it is cheaper, but see little evidence ?

      And ditto for a full environmental analysis, not just plant side CO2, but including the mining of the uranium, and the impact of the long term storage facilities etc.

      (FWIW my main answer to energy problems would be tackle the depend side with improved efficiency.)
  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:16PM (#21357645)

    Nuclear power is very clean compared to any power source that burns fuel.
    If you are going to toss around inexact language like "is very clean" I don't think you can afford to be picky about what it means to "burn fuel".

    As Nikky Telsa said in 1915, "No matter what we attempt to do, no matter to what fields we turn our efforts, we are dependent on power. We have to evolve means of obtaining energy from stores which are forever inexhaustible, to perfect methods which do not imply consumption and waste of any material whatever. If we use fuel to get our power, we are living on our capital and exhausting it rapidly. This method is barbarous and wantonly wasteful and will have to be stopped in the interest of coming generations."

    If it uses up a limited resource, it's "burning fuel", at least metaphorically, and therefore lame. Screw that. Let's figure out how to tap into the vast power represented by the titanic spinning mass we live on, or the even more titanic mass that shines in our skies, instead of perpetuating the cycle of digging stuff up stuff until it we use it all up. Those experiments [] with dangling wires from the shuttle are a step in the right direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shplorb ( 24647 )
      But bear in mind that less than 10% of the fuel that goes into a reactor is used up. Reprocessing enables us to separate out the "poisons" and recycle the remaining fuel. This is practiced in France and enables a tenfold reduction in the amount of waste for final disposal. The separated waste is highly radioactive and so has a much shorter half-life than if you were to just dispose of the spent fuel from the reactor - it is safe to handle with your own hands after a few hundred years.

      The problem with reproc
  • by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:28PM (#21357801)
    ...And all that process of uranium mining and refinement runs on sweet dreams and sunshine?
  • by Glasswire ( 302197 ) <glasswire AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:35PM (#21357905) Homepage
    Back in the early 80s, I thought I had the ideal solution to plutonium waste. There was only a few tons of it on earth - let's pack it up, put it in a booster stage which would be launched from the space shuttle in near earth orbit and, after a few months of slow travel would fall into the Sun where it would totally negligible. Do it every ten years or so - no waste problem. Space shuttles at that point, seemed like a damned reliable method.

    Then the Challenger disaster happened. My first thought, after the lives of the crew, was to thank god nobody implemented the solar waste proposal. I'm not sure if a few tons of plutonium distributed into a cloud by the explosion at that altitude would have wiped out life on earth as we know it, but I'm sure the consequences would not have been good.

    Glad to be wrong.
    • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:54AM (#21359641) Journal

      I'm not sure if a few tons of plutonium distributed into a cloud by the explosion at that altitude would have wiped out life on earth as we know it,
      Oh, for fuck's sake, it's radioactive material, not a RAVENING DEMON OUT TO CONSUME YOUR VERY SOUL.

      Guess what? There's already orders of magnitude more plutonium in the world, distributed naturally. Along with Uranium! And Radon! And radioactive carbon! And an endless stream of cosmic rays!

      If we'd tone down the mindless fear of OMG Radiation!, and treat the subject rationally, we may well not have the problems we do now, having switched to nuclear power a couple of decades ago. But no, people who's education on the topic of radioactivity comes from 1960s B monster movies continue to dominate the discussion.

      You know what the most likely outcome of a shuttle explosion is? A whole lot of hand wrining, a whole lot of scare mongering, and... well... not a hell of a lot much else, since most likely it ends up in deep ocean, which doesn't have as much life as you'd think (mostly around the shelves), where it would promptly sink to the bottom, what with it being a dense metal and all. Even the volatiles wouldn't be that big a deal, though you wouldn't know it from the press coverage. Any ol' oil spill is way worse, it happens in a way worse location.

      Now, that's the likely outcome. If it exploded soon enough, something might actually manage to land in Florida itself. It's still probably not the best idea. But it's not going to wipe out life on Earth. That's just mindless scaremongering. It's not anywhere near that easy with any real materials; only OMG Radiation!!1! can cause that sort of damage, and that only exists in the aforementioned movies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elwinc ( 663074 )
        Actually, most of the plutonium on earth was manufactured in breeder reactors, in the form of Pu239 (half life 24100 years). The longest lived isotope of plutonium, Pu244 has a half life of 80 million years http://http// [http]. That means all but an unmeasurable amount of original Pu244 has decayed naturally over the 5 billion years (60+ half lives!) of earth's existence. Some miniscule amounts are created during the decay of naturally occuring U235, and that's the main source of
  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:38PM (#21357931)
    How plentiful is Uranium for nuclear power? Will we find ourselves in the same dire straits tomorrow seeking vanishing uranium deposits? What is the situation?
    • by 8tim8 ( 623968 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:30PM (#21358479) Journal
      How plentiful is Uranium for nuclear power?

      This link [] is a pretty good read for that information. Current price of uranium is nowhere near the historic inflation-adjusted high ($75/pound versus $145/pound). However, the author gives some very good information on why the price will be skyrocketing soon:

      -there's a gap between production and consumption that's currently being closed by using stockpiles, i.e. old Russian nukes. Once those are used up, that gap opens up again.
      -there are many nuclear power plants coming online in the next decade or so. 28 are currently under construction, over 100 more in the next decade.
      -at current rates of demand, we'll need 900 new nuclear plants by 2050 to keep up.

      In short, it's plentiful now, but it won't be soon.
  • nuclear waste (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2ms ( 232331 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:22PM (#21358377)
    To those of you who think that nuclear may be worse than coal power because of the nuclear "waste". Just checking: you are aware of the phenomenon called radioactive half-life right? If you keep a radioactive material isolated (for example, underground geological storage), it decays until it is no longer radioactive. The most radioactive constituants go inert in only a few days. The ones that take a long time are less radioactive in proportion to how much longer they take to decay. Meanwhile, your body itself is composed of radioactive materials like carbon40. Just living, you are constantly exposed to cosmic radiation, radon, etc. in levels that are very high relative to anything you'd be exposed to from open plutonium240 or any of the other nuclear wastes that take more than a few decades to decay.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:26PM (#21358445) Journal
    Here's an interesting factoid: In the U.S. alone, pollution from coal power plants kills over 30,000 people each year []. Of course, this is just a fraction of the worldwide number, and a fraction of those suffering health ailments from coal pollution. If you look at air pollution in general, the WHO estimates 2.4 million annual deaths worldwide [].

    This means that every few years (or less), more people die from coal than have died in the entire history of nuclear weapons and accidents, including Hiroshima (140,000), Nagasaki (80,000), and Chernobyl (4,000, although this has been argued about).
  • by DrBuzzo ( 913503 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @10:45PM (#21358649) Homepage
    There are few things more painful than watching "enviornmentalists" spill their idiocy of how nuclear destroys the world. Nuclear energy can provide gigawatts and gigawatts of electricity. The carbon produced, even by secondary effects like uranium mining is lower than almost any other means of generating electricity. The "waste" can be recycled and the only remaining material which is not usable is tiny in volume and short in half-life. It's economically doable and it's been proven safe and reliable.

    People trust their lives to reactors while living next to them for months on a sealed vessel under thousands of feet of saltwater!

    Compared to coal, even natural gas, the amount of waste and nature of it is extremely minor. Nuclear energy has had only one major incident and that was in an inherently unsafe reactor which was improperly built and operated. There are always concerns, and reactors do need redundant active and passive safety features, but I will glady live nextdoor to one.

    The fact is renewable won't cut it. They just can't get the job done. Generating the terawats of energy the US and other countries need will never be possible from wind or solar. And we've run out of rivers to dam.

    Power generation accounts for 33% of CO2 emissions. Moving to plug-in hybrids and electric-centric transportation will only increase that. It's nuclear or coal. There's not enough methane around and wins and solar can't cut it. Nuclear or coal. We need nuclear before things get any worse.

    Admittedly I am a bit biased but then again, I do like the earth and I breathe air, so that's kinda a vested interest. But I researched the whole thing quite a bit and I can only come to the conclusion that nuclear is the best bet for replacing carbon-based energy. And this is why "environmentalists" or as I call them, members of the eco-stupid movement hate me so.
  • Balance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 213219 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:04PM (#21358835) Journal
    Way back when, in the '70's and into the early '80's, I was fairly active in the anti-nuke community. In a way, my feelings have mellowed since then although I still have serious reservations about disposing of things that will still be dangerous ten thousand years from now. I never intended to become involved, but then some fedral officials decided that my backyard may just possibly make a good site to dispose of this waste. The area that they were looking at was about 90% swamp. It was a stupid idea and everyone knew it. Looking back, I think it was in the list only because it was so stupid that the place they really wanted (Yucca Mountain) would appear to be the only reasonable place that could be found. The whole siting process was far more political than any sort of science.

    At the time, I took the time to educate myself on a wide variety of things, everything from the way that granite fractures to the way that radioactive waste affects various metals and minerals. Pretty wild stuff. There is no such thing as perfectly safe, perfectly secure long term high level radioactive waste storage. Dormant volcanos occasionally come back to life. Granite (even without stressors) cracks. Concrete exposed to the heat from radioactive decay disintigrates. Stainless steel stresses from expansion and contraction and slowly weakens. It also is subject to (very slow) corosion.

    The only practical method of disposal is passive storage where the waste is protected by layer upon later of different kinds of shielding. In practicality, the waste is placed in casks designed to hold in most of the radiation, these casks are then placed in a sort of glass-lined tomb which is burried deeply inside a granite cave inside of a mountain. When the tomb reaches capacity it is outfitted with monitoring gear and is filled with concrete and sealed. It is then "monitored" from outside the repository, if any problems are detected they will then take corrective action. Only problem is how do you do that? What happens if the detection equipment breaks down, how do you fix it?

    I still have all these questions and I still wrestle with why would we make something that makes waste that is so dangerous? This is a real question that deserves a real answer and nobody seems to have a real answer.

    Still, millions of tons of coal ash isn't harmless and there isn't enough oil to go around forever. The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. We can't dam enough rivers and every year we get hungrier and hungrier for energy.

    There are hundreds of ways to generate electricty (or more simply perhaps, to make energy). Every method has advantages and disadvantages. Most are hard to scale up to provide meaningful meagawatts.

    Nuclear power is one of those things that scales up. It is in a sense "clean" -- simply because its waste per KWH is so damned low. We have learned how to reprocess, reduce, and recycle radioactive waste but we have not made it safe. The waste that remains is still very dangerous.

    The Pebble Bed reactor seems to answer for the short-term at least for many of the safety issues inside of the nuclear power plant. It also reduces the waste generated (not in weight, but in reactivity). In some ways it is even easier to dispose of. Spent pebbles can be used to generate moderate heat allowing them to be used commercially in other applications long after they have been retired from generating electricty.

    I said earlier that my views have mellowed a bit. Today I think that nuclear power probably has a place. I think that I would much rather see new plants with new, safer, and more efficient technologies be built than see forty year old plants with stresses components be recertified to operate many years beyond their original designers intention. If this is allowed to continue to happen the infrastructure will fail, people will die. We can not afford this. It is better to replace than patch and fix.

    We still need to solve the disposal problem. Perhaps we can make the waste into radioactive micro capsules and imbed them in our highways as autonomyous vehicle guides? Maybe we could use the coal ash to vitrify the capsules?
  • by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:44AM (#21359549)
    We could have clear nuclear power by using breeder reactors []: efficient usage of fuel and little left-over radioactivity. However, the kind of nuclear power plants we have right now are incredibly wasteful of the nuclear fuel (only a few percent of the energy are extracted), and they leave a highly radioactive and dangerous nuclear waste that we have no way of disposing of. The irresponsibility of burning coal pales in comparison to the irresponsibility of burning nuclear fuel in the kinds of reactors we have today.

    Why don't we have breeder reactors? Mostly because of US concerns about proliferation. Breeder reactors can theoretically be used for turning non-weapons grade uranium into weapons-grade plutonium. It would really be practical, but there you have it anyway.

    So, the write-up for this article is extremely biased. Nuclear technology, as we have it right now, is not "clean"; rather, it leaves us with a huge unsolved waste disposal problem. Until people start building breeder reactors or other types of reactors that use nuclear fuel efficiently and leave little high-level waste, nuclear power is environmentally unacceptable.

    Overall, however, it is still not clear why you would even want nuclear power. Wind, solar, water, geothermal, and ocean power are abundant and can satisfy our energy needs many times over.
  • Lets talk PUCHA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @10:59AM (#21363999) Journal

    It is ironic to me that much of the same sentiment that thwarted the nuclear power industry back in the 80's is partially responsible for reviving it.
    But only very very partially, the reality is far from that.

    The Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA) was, somewhat covertly, repealed in the 2005 Energy Bill and passed by the senate in July 2005. PUCHA was put into law in 1935 to stop a re-occurance of the 1929 stock market crash, because during the '20's utility companies became cash cows for energy tycoons who set up complex holding companies to milk income from ratepayers (like ma and pa Tilley) to fuel speculative investment. The stock market crash of 1929 destroyed the holding companies, devastated ratepayers and investors alike. PUCHA was designed to outlaw these structures and protect the American economy from a repeat of the circumstances that led to the events of 1929.

    With limited oversight under the new laws the scene is set for consortium's to form those structures again, and how can any regulatory body, with limited staff have the capability to understand - much less control - the books of a huge conglomerate? Of course, it's the oil companies that are best positioned to benefit from the change in these laws. Anyone care to imagine what the future of renewable energy will be like if the Oil companies have a monopoly on energy utilities as well. It would make MicroSoft's monopoly look innocuous by comparison as the NRC will not allow challenges based on the need for the electricity or disposal of the waste.

    Public participation or intevention is excluded because the reactor design is "approved", the procuring company get's half a billion dollars worth of subsidies even if they do nothing and a 1.8 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit if they do, truly a lose lose situation for all American taxpayers. The reality is if the Nuclear power industry was forced to cover it's own liability it would cease to exist and the hope of it operating without subsidies is totally unrealistic.

    So who are you subsidising?

    One is the Nustart Consortium [] consists of Excelon, Etergy, Constellation Energy Group, Duke Energy Group, EDF International, Electricite de France (as Florida Power and Light) Progress Energy, Southern, Tenessee Valley Authority, GE and Westinghouse.

    For a country built upon the principles of economic pragmatism and unadulterated capitalism, how have such dubious investment's been forced upon it with barely a whisper of debate? It's clearly contrary to the interests of both sides of the political spectrum, so how can America, of all countries, continue to justify this form of corporate welfare?

    For more information, have a look at this article []. ~

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal