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Power Earth

Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes 599

MTorrice writes "NASA researchers have compared nuclear power to fossil fuel energy sources in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution-related deaths. Using nuclear power in place of coal and gas power has prevented some 1.8 million deaths globally over the past four decades and could save millions of more lives in coming decades, concludes their study. The pair also found that nuclear energy prevents emissions of huge quantities of greenhouse gases. These estimates help make the case that policymakers should continue to rely on and expand nuclear power in place of fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, the authors say."
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Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes

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  • Long term? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:35PM (#43339497)

    I am still wanting to see a viable long term storage solution for the waste, with at least one example of a spent rod finding a final and safe resting place. Otherwise the tail risk of nuclear power is just a myth.

    • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:38PM (#43339535)

      How about like the french. We reprocess what we can, and bury what we can't. Safe and Effective.

      • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:06PM (#43339911)

        Better than the french we can use next generation feeder breeder reactors to eliminate the already minimal transportation and mechanical processing risks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

          It's too bad that the only new reactors currently under construction in the US aren't using such a design.

      • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:04PM (#43340707) Homepage

        How about like the french. We reprocess what we can, and bury what we can't. Safe and Effective.

        Why like the French? We do this in Canada, Japan does it and so does South Korea. It's not exactly "new and exciting" technology, the US is the odd-man-out like usual because of nimbys and environmentalists.

        • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by denvergeek ( 1184943 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:11PM (#43341521)

          Why must we always blame "the environmentalists"? Fuck, the US has less restrictive environmental regulation compared to Canada and Japan, and those countries have "the environmentalists" as well.

          Maybe it's because our rotten fucking system can't build anything in a cost efficient manner, without pork? Maybe some other reason?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by khallow ( 566160 )

            Why must we always blame "the environmentalists"?

            When they stop being a big part of the problems, we'll stop blaming them. Ever hear of the phrase "exporting the pollution"? That's environmentalists admitting that they chased off industry.

            Maybe it's because our rotten fucking system can't build anything in a cost efficient manner, without pork?

            That's what you get when you make industry too expensive to operate unsubsidized. Subsidies and rent seeking long predate the environmentalist movement, but it destroyed a bunch of otherwise competitive industries.

        • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @05:40PM (#43342459) Homepage Journal

          This one can't be laid at the environmentalist's feet. The ban on re-processing is purely political and appears to be specifically to make nuclear power look much less attractive than it actually is. Follow the money.

      • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:18PM (#43341605)

        You mean, like the French, who were TRYING to reprocess spent fuel, and abandoned the project? [] That was the closest that anyone came in making a commercial breeder reactor. All other programs are research programs, who are not scheduled to put out enough electricity to function as an actual commercial plant.

        Breeder reactors are a bitch to work. As far as I know, there is no successful commercial program on the horizon.

        • Breeder reactors are a bitch to work. As far as I know, there is no successful commercial program on the horizon.

          The Russians have had some luck - the BN-600 reactor has a load factor comparable to their conventional reactors. How *safe* it is I'm not sure, but the reliability's not bad for such an old design.

        • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:45PM (#43341883)

          The French reprocessing plant is this one: []

          There's a list of all of them: []

          • Sorry - that was bad wording. I should have said "to build a reactor that reprocesses its own fuel", which is a breeder reactor. Reprocessing is definitely possible, but it means that you need other types of reactors to use the change in fuel. In general, reprocessing plants take spent uranium fuel rods, and then produce plutonium, MOX, or a variety of other fuels, based on the process used. In short, it doesn't solve the problem of nuclear waste, it just changes it.

        • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

          Breeder reactors are a bitch to work. As far as I know, there is no successful commercial program on the horizon.

          Maybe if Clinton hadn't cancelled funding for the EBR2 [] in the 90s, we would have viable reprocessing reactors today and be processing existing nuclear waste.

    • by CarlosHawes ( 1256490 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:44PM (#43339607)
      The North Koreans are accepting spent fuels rods for safe and efficient displosal, no cash down and no questions asked!!!
    • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MasseKid ( 1294554 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:44PM (#43339611)
      Funny, I'm still waiting to see the long term solution for the waste of coal plants. And no, existing as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere doesn't count.
      • Re:Long term? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CarlosHawes ( 1256490 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:47PM (#43339647)
        And we haven't even discussed the impacts of extracting the coal. Have you ever seen a large strip mine with dragline in person? Wow!
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:40PM (#43340397)
          And there was a publicity photo against mining, showing a pristine rural lake, asking "would you want to ruin this landscape with a mine", only to have someone point out that it was a reclaimed mine. The irony was great, and the photo copyrighted, and the anti-mining group aggressive, so I haven't seen it since. It was used to object to the gold mine development near Iliamna. I don't remember all the specifics, but it was a reclaimed mine in Canada.
    • It's not waste (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MpVpRb ( 1423381 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:46PM (#43339631)
      I would argue that it's not waste..It's valuable raw material we don't currently use
      • Re:It's not waste (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:53PM (#43339711) Homepage Journal

        It's like saying that there are lots of valuable mining opportunities out in the asteroid belt. It's technically true but the cost involved in taking advantage of it means no-one is really interested while there are better options.

        The problem with waste consuming thorium reactors is that no-one has a proven design for a commercial scale one, and all the research ones have had major issues. When you are looking at spending billions of private and taxpayer money on a new nuclear plant it is rather hard to justify spending billions more to make it a thorium one that might run into expensive problems, especially when demand for other forms of clean energy make them a much more attractive proposition.

    • Simple as changing from Uranium to Thorium as a fuel supply. It consumes a small amount of Uranium to keep it's reaction going (which is why it can't go boom ) and burns with 99.9 % efficiency. Most of the remaining waste only remains radioactive for 10 years while a small amount the size of a coke can per MW remains radioactive for 300 years instead of Uranium's 10,000 years. It also is hugely less possible to proliferate than Uranium at the same time. In addition Thorium is so abundant and easy to refine
      • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:12PM (#43341535) Homepage

        Okay, let's go for some information from a non-cartoon propaganda source. First of all, India's experimental 500MWe reactor will definitely not be going online this year. It has exceeded the sales pitch for time and money by a factor of 2, and still counting:

        The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is a 500MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed in Kalpakkam, India.[1] The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) is responsible for the design of this reactor. As of 2007 the reactor was expected to begin functioning in 2010.[2] As of April 2011, it was expected to be commissioned in 2012.[3]As of July 2012, it was expected to begin operations in 2013. As of February 2013, it was expected to begin operations in September 2014.[4] Total costs, originally estimated at 3500 crore (35 billion) Rupees are now estimated at 5,677 crore (56 billion) Rs. []

        Secondly, this reactor does NOT use a thorium fuel cycle. "It will make use of MOX fuel, a mixture of PuO2 and UO2." (same link above). Rather, what it does is OUTPUT processed thorium that can be used to jump-start a later, hypothetical, thorium-based reactor. In other words: The current project is just "Stage II" in India's 3-stage nuclear program, which has taken since the 1950's to even get to this point. Stage III is now hoped to be a reality maybe around 2050:

        According to replies given in Q&A in the Indian Parliament on two separate occasions, 19 August 2010 and 21 March 2012, large scale thorium deployment is only to be expected "3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of fast breeder reactors with short doubling time".[66][31] Full exploitation of India’s domestic thorium reserves will likely not occur until after the year 2050.[67] []

    • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:04PM (#43339861)

      I have yet to see a nonviable solution to storing nuclear waste. The problem is that no one wants viable, they want perfect. The standards are being set by the fearful, with the design to not really make storage safe, but to make it impossible in order to kill the industry.

    • Re:Long term? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JavaBear ( 9872 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:08PM (#43339951)

      The long term waste is a known quantity, and needs to be addressed. But it is nowhere nearly as pressing a concern as the global CO2 levels are.

      We have to bring down the CO2 emissions dramatically, and fast. Doing this through renewable energies would be nice, but it is a pipe dream at best. At least for now. We have to go nuclear, and do so on an far more aggressive scale than we are using it now, if we are to survive long enough, to be able to harness the still elusive fusion and renewable energy bonanza, the greens and the lawmakers are still clinging to.

    • Solution to that is ban NIMBY environmental lawsuits from greenpeace et al that prevent the construction of a repository. Lawsuits have kept the construction or consideration of repositories from happening for literally decades. The result has been that we can't build new plants that are built to better standards and instead we built a generation of coal power plants that caused far more environmental harm.

      Want to get real about helping the environment? Get greenpeace and similar anti-nuke fascists to back

  • by Eightbitgnosis ( 1571875 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:42PM (#43339583) Homepage
    It also take a lot of upfront cash. So as nice as it would be to have more nuclear energy; the window of opportunity is gone. Renewable energy sources will be far cheaper by the time a new nuclear plant opens
    • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:19PM (#43340137) Journal

      It only takes 20 years because of all the governmental permits, lawsuits and protests that delay the project. Implement a strict but reasonable inspection scheme for every step of the way, and without all the other bullshit it wouldn't take more than 5 years to first criticality.

    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:21PM (#43340941) Journal

      So as nice as it would be to have more nuclear energy; the window of opportunity is gone.

      China [] has 17 nuclear power reactors in operation, 28 under construction, and more about to start construction.

      Chinese nuclear capacity will be 58 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050.

      China has been able to close 71 GWe of small inefficient coal burning power plants since 2006, cutting annual coal consumption by about 82 million tonnes and annual carbon dioxide emissions by some 165 million tonnes.

      • Well you just change the entire US regulatory system for nuclear plants, and we can start making nuclear plants like China
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:54PM (#43339723)

    Nuclear power has the lowest deaths per TWh [] of any form of energy -- and that includes things like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the latter of which had a curious focus given that far, far, far more people were injured, displaced, or killed by the actual tsunami as opposed to any radiation events, now or in the future.

    Direct deaths from fossil fuel sources -- including even naturally occurring radiation from conventional fossil fuel energy sources -- far outstrip any deaths that have ever occurred, or even will occur with even the most extreme statistical projections, from any nuclear power source, including accidents. That's right: there are more deaths from "radiation" from the byproducts of fossil fuel sources than there are from nuclear power, including accidents and waste.

    This [] is what we should be worried about:

    "Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide. Figured another way, the researchers said, China's toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population."

    There is a reason China has 30 nuclear plants under construction, while the US just approved its first new plant in 30 years.

  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:04PM (#43339859)
    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one! - Spock
  • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:06PM (#43339905) Homepage Journal

    The only way they can keep the price down is to nationalize it, and even then you have to have a very specific regulatory and business culture (like France) to make it work in abundance. Otherwise, the exclusive private club financing the construction of nuclear power plants will find ways to jack up the prices, essentially holding the ratepayers hostage once the community has made a commitment to having the new plant. IOW, nuclear literally puts too much power in too few hands to the extent that it gets abused immediately.

    The war mongers (neoconservatives) love nuclear power the most because while they promote the scamming of consumers at home, they spread fear about its development in any country that has not put itself up for sale to Wall St. or become a client state to US military contractors.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:07PM (#43339929)
    I see this sort of propagandized research as a good reason for embracing James Hansen's coming departure from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies at NASA. While I agree with the main conclusion of the paper, that nuclear power has in general saved more lives than it has lost, I think he goes about it again in a haphazard fashion, heavily biased to nuclear power production.

    For example, there is no breakdown of the data or consideration of alternative strategies. What's the break down of the various sources of deaths from fossil fuel burning? In particular, I was curious how many deaths he would attribute to elevated levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. As far as I can tell, it's not there in his research though I probably could figure it out eventually from a detailed analysis of his references.

    Here's another big question. How effective would implementing other strategies, like pollution controls on coal power plants, be? If most of those lives can be saved merely by scrubbing coal power plant exhaust, then that's not a strong argument for nuclear power (and would become another propaganda element of the paper).

    And once again, he exaggerates the risks of carbon dioxide emissions (in his "Implications" section).

    I have no problem with Hansen putting out biased research. Just don't do it with public funds.
  • One small problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:16PM (#43340073)
    The only entities that can afford to build a nuclear power plant such as Entergy, Duke, PG&E always end up doing the double whammy of cutting back on maintenance just as the plants start to age out. Then, they quickly spin off the plant ownership to a separate division, then a separate DBA, then quietly sell it or convert it to a wholly separate no-liability company just as the expensive chickens of total rebuilt or shutdown come home to roost.

    As an aside, the folks running SONGS for PG&E decided to redesign the tube bundles when they had to be replaced. They arrogantly redesigned them - without even telling the NRC, mind you - to get more [Jeremy Clarkson] Power! [/JC], but only managed to make them wear out in mere months due to so much vibration the tubes eroded each other.

    So nuclear power does make sense, if it weren't the actual short-term greedy bastards that own and run them.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:42PM (#43340413)

    I've got quite a few friends who are anti-nuclear power and they constantly site Chernobyl, 3-mile Island and Fukushima...

    The problem is that they refuse to travel to enjoy the fresh air []" in Beijing. I spent 3 weeks there in February, and let me tell you, after about 3 days there my nose was constantly congested. Within about 4 days of returning to the US, it cleared up. That air is not too fresh.

    Also on the few days when it is clear there, the Japanese complain because all the smog has blown it's way into Japan.

  • Relevant xkcd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alispguru ( 72689 ) <bane&gst,com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:44PM (#43341221) Journal

    Here []. Refined nuclear fuel has roughly a million times as much energy per gram as any chemical source. Even counting the ore and refining, you just have to move much less stuff to get your energy - 1/100 to 1/1000 as much.

  • by ivi ( 126837 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @05:31PM (#43342381)

    With increased safety levels, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (a.k.a. LFTRs) would have even better results.

    Then, take another step: Consider the Cost-Effectiveness of LFTRs, from construction to safe storage of waste, per Mega-KWH of electricity produced.

    Now, what's the best choice, out of these 3 alternatives...?

  • the obvious (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @06:57PM (#43343065) Homepage Journal

    All of this has been obvious to anyone with more than two brain cells not sold to some lobby group.

    The reasons that nuclear is so disliked is not polution, it is danger. When a coal or gas plant blows up, tough luck for anyone inside. When a nuclear plant blows up, tough luck for everyone within many miles.

    That, and the fact that we still don't know what to do with the radioactive waste.

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